Published: 6 April 2023 Updated: 5 September 2023
Table of contents

Annual Operational Plan 2023-24

FRDC’s Annual Operational Plan (AOP) 2023-24 details how FRDC will deliver on the fourth year of the R&D Plan 2020-25 and contribute to the 2030 vision of a:

collaborative, vibrant fishing and aquaculture, creating diverse benefits from aquatic resources and celebrated by the community.

FRDC will invest $44.93 million in 2023-24 in research, development, and extension (RD&E). In doing this, we will seek to balance our focus on tackling shared national and jurisdictional strategic opportunities, whilst also helping partners to respond to today’s more pressing needs.

List of the Ten Shared Strategic Opportunities


  1. Activate program to improve resilience of fishing and aquaculture to a changing climate

    At the end of 2022, FRDC published a special ‘call for climate resilience projects’ which closed in February and the resultant 12 applications are currently being assessed. The intention is to deliver a program of investment that aims to help build resilience to a changing climate. Projects already underway include:

    • Research led by Seafood Industry Australia (SIA) in partnership with Austral Fisheries to establish proof of concept for alternative fuel solutions. The project team and FRDC staff met with AMSA towards the end of 2022 to clarify regulatory process to allow trial of vessels utilising ‘greener’ means of propulsion.
    • Project 2021-104 “Applying the fisheries climate adaptation handbook to Australia's state fisheries” has commenced.
  2. Activate program to aid transitioning of fishing and aquaculture into a circular economy

    • FRDC recently finalised its investment into project 2021-133 “Circular Economy Program 2022-2025” that has been designed to deliver a range of initiatives that will educate and engage stakeholders and communities in the circular economy transition activities.
    • Project 2020-078 “Circular Economy Opportunities for Fisheries and Aquaculture in Australia” has been finalised and provided a foundation for a larger circular economy program.
  3. Investigate opportunities to optimise equitable sharing and security of access to Australia’s aquatic resources

    Australia’s current national strategy for decarbonisation assumes 82% renewable energy in Australia’s energy grids by 2030 and to achieve a target of 43% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions relative to 2005 levels by 2030.

    Interest in marine space is increasing through:

    • Marine spatial planning including the Australian Government’s commitment to protect ‘30% of land and oceans by 2030’.
    • Increasing development of renewable energy, with offshore renewable energy (ORE)
    • Development of the coastal solar salt sector for energy storage
    • Proposed, existing and decommissioning fossil fuel activities
    • Coastal infrastructure such as ports and industrial developments such as desalination plants
    • Native Title claims
    • Increasing development of aquaculture opportunities
    • Proposed rocket launch sites

    These activities have the potential to overlap or displace existing fishing and aquaculture activities and is a key driver of growing tension within several jurisdictions. There is a need to understand the likely cumulative impact of these and other uses in an expanding blue economy on fishing and aquaculture to help inform evidence-based decision-making on trade-offs.

    FRDC is investigating mechanisms to provide input and assist collaboration on spatial squeeze concerns for fishing and aquaculture. Given the mounting issues in WA the FRDC has invested in 2022-104 “Review and quantify the cumulative effects of expanding industrial coastal developments and emerging offshore renewable energy on the fishing industry in WA” with the Western Australian Fishing Industry Council (WAFIC). In consultation with stakeholders the FRDC is also considering the development of a coordination program to assist in the prioritisation of R&D in this area.

  4. Understand and respond to threats and opportunities presented by alternative proteins

    In the November Call for Investment Opportunities, FRDC published a priority scope seeking to understand potential risks and opportunities associated alternative proteins to Australian fishing and aquaculture sectors and enterprises throughout the supply chain. The Call closed in February and the resultant 4 applications are currently being assessed. It is intended that the resultant project will provide recommends on how fishing and aquaculture might re-position to embrace benefits associated with alternative proteins and respond to associated risks.

  5. Partner to increase opportunities for Indigenous communities in fisheries and aquaculture

    FRDC is a Tier 1 partner in the recent Economic Participation of Indigenous Communities CRC bid (EPIC CRC), which augments existing work through our Indigenous Reference Group (IRG), including with Indigenous Land and Sea Council (ILSC).

    The Bid was submitted on 7 March 2023, and outcomes are expected to be announced in December 2023.

  6. Collaborate across agriculture, fisheries, and forestry to target shared strategic issues

    FRDC is part of Agricultural Innovation Australia (AIA) that was established by Australia’s 15 Rural Research and Development Corporations (RDCs) in October 2020, to facilitate joint investment and collaboration in agricultural issues of national importance. 

    Initiatives and investments

    • Agri-Climate Outlooks aims to deliver enhanced seasonal outlook services to support better decision making.
    • Know & Show Your Carbon Footprint aims to deliver a digital solution that enables fishers, farmers and foresters to estimate their enterprise’s carbon footprint.
    • Initial consultation has commenced to inform development of a ‘Climate Atlas’.
  7. Bring together a collective to lay foundations for successful digital transformation

    FRDC is partnering in the Australian Agrifood Data Exchange to develop an interconnected data highway for sharing, re-using, and combining data. The Australian Agrifood Data Exchange is finalising the current phase where it will culminate in a business case to establish a trusted data exchange for industry by industry. The next step will be to release a minimal viable product (MVP) data exchange in the calendar year 2023. Related activities include:

    • FRDC has been successful in being funded through the Australian Research Data Commons ‘Food Security Data’ challenge – project 2022-176 ‘Increasing food security through liberation of fishing and aquaculture data’.
    • Working with jurisdictions, statistical working group and sectors to progress digitisation and data sharing - i.e. SAFS and Digitising Western Rock Lobster.
  8. Explore opportunities to enhance national sustainability reporting

    FRDC is currently reviewing the range of projects that have informed sustainability reporting. This includes: SAFS, WhichFish (2019-087), HealthCheck (2016-060) and work that is being undertaken by the other Rural Research and Development Corporations on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Reporting. This includes ensuring the reporting meets the Australian Government’s requirements for reporting on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Further, FRDC is investing in natural capital accounting, including working with the Task Force on Nature-Related Financial Disclosures (TFND).

  9. Initiate expanded program to build capability and capacity across fishing and aquaculture

    Attracting and retaining a capable and effective workforce is a priority FRDC will address by:

    Determining workforce, capability, and capacity needs: knowing what we have and what we need to enable planning and navigating change

    • Project 2022-034 Profiling and tracking change in Australia's seafood workforce will assess the current data framework, make recommendations for improving it and develop a baseline dataset and connecting with the diversity of employment.
    • In the November R&D investment call, FRDC sought applications to develop a fishing and aquaculture workforce capability framework to identify current and future capability needs.

    Attracting and retaining great people

  10. Deployment of regional network to facilitate greater R&D adoption

    The FRDC’s Extension Officer Network has successfully completed its first year of operations. The network is moving to the next phase of operation that involves:

    • Working with end users and R&D providers with recently approved as well as completed R&D investments to maximise adoption of knowledge generated and have outputs in an ‘adoption ready’ form
    • Continuing to create collaboration by connecting stakeholders and researchers for possible future impact
    • Extending the reach of their engagement to stakeholders not typically involved in FRDC structures or processes
    • Continuing to broaden the building of trusted stakeholder relationships including with many FRDC Principal Investigators
    • Executing extension activities (outside of projects and programs) based on the needs of stakeholders – i.e. marine literacy
    • Defining and supporting strategic extension challenges and enhancing this throughout 2023
    • Continuing to work closely with FRDC’s Research Advisory Committees
    • Increasing development of renewable energy, with offshore renewable energy

    FRDC is investigating mechanisms to provide input and assist collaboration on spatial squeeze concerns for fishing and aquaculture. Given the immediate issues in WA, FRDC has invested in 2022-104 ‘Review and quantify the cumulative effects of expanding industrial coastal developments and emerging offshore renewable energy on the fishing industry in WA’ with the Western Australian Fishing Industry Council.

    In the November Call for Investment Opportunities, FRDC published a priority scope seeking to understand potential risks and opportunities associated alternative proteins to Australian fishing and aquaculture sectors and enterprises throughout the supply chain. The Call closed in February and the resultant 4 applications are currently being assessed. It is intended that the resultant project will provide recommendations on how fishing and aquaculture might re-position to embrace benefits associated with alternative proteins and respond to associated risks.

Three new R&D application options

A number of important changes to how FRDC invests in R&D will take place in the 2023-24 financial year. These new options are:

  1. Incentivise co-investment ($2 IPA: $1 public good) from Industry Partnership Agreements into:
    • national strategic opportunities as highlighted in the AOP
    • exploration of diversification opportunities that help build resilience (such as investigation of alternative aquaculture species or different harvest methods)
  2. Implementing a new investment approach with Research Advisory Committees (RACs) through tactical investments that have immediate adoption pathway.
  3. Creating a focus on the development aspect of R&D through:
    • Investment to promote adoption of and transition to new technology
    • Investment (including capital investment) to provide resources for conducting trials and/or demonstrating emerging solutions - matching contributions dollar for dollar.

November 2022 Stakeholder Planning Workshop Action Update

Since our Stakeholder Planning Workshop in November, we have implemented a number of initiatives identified by participants.

What we heard

What we’re doing

How can we continue to build capacity of RAC members to help them excel in their role?

Investing to help build capability of our advisory committees in use of impact pathway thinking to identify priorities

Can FRDC provide more information on investments against contributions?

New reporting process back to advisory committees clarifying their return on investment

How might we increase cooperation between IPAs?

New investment approach to incentivise co-investment on shared national opportunities

We need ways to fast-track shorter, agile and staged investments

Adoption of alternative application types to reduce transaction time and costs, new milestone template to speed up project delivery, and a new tactical investment approach

Can we investigate digital approaches to help communicate the intent of priorities

Holding webinars to explain the intent of priorities within our call for investment opportunities

Can FRDC scope development of dedicated dashboards to give our partners a 'window in' to FRDC's systems?

Trial underway with Western Rock Lobster before wider implementation

FRDC needs to increase awareness of the services currently available

FRDC’s Extension Officer Network and Communications Team are working to increase the profile of our service offerings and explain how they help.

Can FRDC invest to help fishing and aquaculture pursue better outcomes through Integrated Ocean Management?

See ‘Investigate opportunities to optimise equitable sharing and security of access to Australia’s aquatic resources’ section above

How to implement an enhanced Sustainability Framework for fishing and aquaculture?

Action committed under 2023-24 AOP

How can FRDC stakeholders gain maximum value from historical R&D investments?

FRDC Extension Officer Network developing synthesis of historical R&D in key areas based on emerging stakeholder needs

Call for Investment Opportunities update

The November 2022 competitive Call for Investment Opportunities closed on 15 February, with 40 applications received. These requests for funds are being evaluated by external reviewers and the FRDC Research and Development Investment team. Applicants can expect to be informed on the outcomes of their application evaluation soon.

The Research Advisory Committees, Industry Partnership Agreement bodies and Coordination Programs are currently identifying the next round of investment priorities for a Call for investment opportunities to be prepared for May. Please monitor this page for updates.

New NMSC reports guide future of Australian marine science

The National Marine Science Committee (NMSC) launched three new reports outlining future priorities for marine science in Australia on 2 March 2023. These reports are the result of collaboration between NMSC members and the marine science community and represent a comprehensive overview of their latest findings. The reports cover a range of topics, from marine conservation and biodiversity to fisheries management and sustainable aquaculture. They provide valuable insights and recommendations for policymakers, industry leaders, and researchers working in the field of marine science. These reports are available on

The NMSC is a committee made up of representatives from Australia’s federal and state government marine science agencies, academia and industry. Its purpose is to provide leadership and coordination for marine science in Australia, and to advise on matters related to the marine environment and resources.

FRDC Key Investments:

Addressing concerns with declining species

Recently FRDC has been engaged in partnerships to address the declines in key species in several states and territories to identify pathways to recover these resources.

  • FRDC is working with SARDI and PIRSA and other key stakeholders to develop a program of work to address the recovery of Snapper in South Australia.
  • The FRDC has recently funded 2021-111 ‘Addressing uncertainties in the assessment and management of Queensland east coast Spanish Mackerel’
  • FRDC continues to work with CSIRO and AFMA regarding research to assist in understanding Southeast declining species. This includes progressing a program of work through projects 2022-091 ‘The Southeast Australian Marine Ecosystem Survey: untangling the effects of climate change and fisheries’, 2022-032 ‘Biological parameters for stock assessments in South Eastern Australia – an information and capacity uplift’, and 2022- 047 ‘Developing and validating novel methods to estimate age and size-at-maturity in South Eastern Australian fisheries’
  • FRDC is in discussion with stakeholders in WA regarding species of concern including WA Dhufish and Snapper in the West Coast Demersal Fishery
  • Discussion is also occurring in Tasmania regarding Sand Flathead
  • Other species of concern have been highlighted through recent Research Advisory Committees and will likely see further investment in addressing R&D gaps and recovery strategies.

National Social and Economic Recreational Fishing Survey

The National Social and Economic Survey of Recreational Fishers, jointly conducted by ABARES, the University of Canberra and the Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation, was released on Tuesday 21 February at the World Recreational Fishing Conference. This is the first national survey of its type in over 20 years.

Key results:

  • A total of 4.2 million or one in five adult Australians were estimated to participate in recreational fishing each year.
  • The number of recreational fishers has increased since 2000 as the population has also increased, however the proportion of fishers has remained relatively stable overall, Australians were estimated to spend 28 million days fishing each year. While most recreational fishers go fishing fewer than five days a year, a small proportion fish more than 52 days a year.
  • Recreational fishing was estimated to contribute over 100,000 jobs and over $11 billion per year (including direct and indirect contributions) to the Australian economy (GDP contribution).
  • The survey results also showed that most Australians have a positive outlook on recreational fishing, with 79% of Australian adults considering recreational fishing to be an acceptable activity.
  • FRDC invests in this type of research to ensure scientific evidence underpins sustainable management of our aquatic resources for the benefit of all Australians - whether it’s for commercial or recreational purposes.

Outbreak Guidelines

As part of project 2021-061: Development of a guideline to investigate and understand disease outbreaks of unknown cause, the Outbreak Guidelines booklet was developed to use in the event of a disease outbreak in aquatic animals including finfish, molluscs and crustaceans. The information collected when using the Outbreak Guidelines will provide the evidence required to conduct an epidemiological investigation. This will aid in understanding if the disease event is an outbreak, what may be causing the disease, what controls to apply and ideally, how to prevent future outbreaks.

Status of Australian Fish Stocks Report

The 6th edition of the Status of Australian Fish Stocks (SAFS) report is due for completion towards the end of 2023. Eight new species will be included in this edition:

  • Painted Sweetlips, Diagramma pictum
  • Redspot Emperor, Lethrinus lentjan
  • Scalloped Hammerhead, Sphyrna lewini
  • Redbait, Emmelichtyhys nitidus
  • Striped Marlin, Kajikia audax
  • Western Yellowfin Bream, Acanthopagrus morrisoni
  • Sandfish, Holothuria scabra
  • Shortspined Sea Urchin, Heliocidaris erythrogramma

Addressing Sawfish abundance and survival

The FRDC has partnered with the National Environmental Science Program (NESP) to assess the population abundance of threatened Sawfish, and understand the post release survival of Sawfish captured incidentally in commercial fisheries through project 2022-068 ‘Multi-fishery collaboration to assess population abundances and post release survival of threatened Sawfish captured in commercial fishing operations in Northern Australia’.

The 2023 Ocean Business Leaders' Summit

The Ocean Business Leaders’ Summit hosted by Ocean Decade Australia was attended by approximately 250 aquatic stakeholders, including producers, conservationists, policy makers, researchers, entrepreneurs, investors, science communicators, retailers, consultants, and other service providers.

The event was highly successful if measured by the diversity and calibre of participants and presenters in attendance. The program integrated presentations, panel discussions and working sessions broken into ocean finance, ocean health, ocean energy and ocean food, that were designed to support increased collaboration to achieve 'the ocean we want' (Ocean Decade vision). Scheduling of the program to allow time for adequate discussion and debate would be required for future summits.

Seaweed Election Commitment Update

As part of the 2022-23 October Budget FRDC will manage an $8 million commitment from the Federal Government to support development of the seaweed industry. The funding is for research to accelerate the commercialisation of seaweed as an emission reducing stock feed supplement. The funding and activities are being led by the Australian Sustainable Seaweed Alliance (ASSA) blueprint document and FRDC will be managing this in partnership with ASSA and the Federal Government. More information on FRDC’s Seaweed R&D activities are located at Seaweed Aquaculture in Australia.

SafeFish – Success for inorganic arsenic

The SafeFish team was successful in ensuring seafood is excluded from the World Trade Organisation notification ‘EU Sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) Notification 566 - Maximum Levels of Inorganic Arsenic in Foods’. This is expected to come into force in March 2023.

FRDC Submissions to Governments

FRDC plays an important role in delivering science to meet the needs of government and industry. FRDC has recently provided submissions to:

These submissions are on the FRDC website

End of Financial Year

As part of FRDC’s funding agreement, it has an eligible expenditure target that it needs to meet. This equates to 1% of the Average Gross Value of Production. If this target is not met, the federal governments’ investment in FRDC is reduced for the year following years.

Given the end of financial year is approaching, FRDC has been following up on overdue reporting to meet its eligible expenditure target. The team have been contacting principal investigators and heads of research agencies to get overdue reporting in, so that expenditure can be processed.

FRDC Communications

To subscribe to FRDC’s communication streams visit

FRDC Board calendar


Indicative dates



2-5 Apr 2023



14–15 Jun 2023



22-23 Aug 2023



22–23 Nov 2023



21–22 Feb 2024


Events Calendar


Event name

Website Information

1-2 May 2023

Primary Industries Education Foundation Australia (PIEFA) Conference

5-7 May

Narooma Oyster Festival

12-13th May 2023

Taste of Seafood Festival Swansea (NSW)

16-18 May 2023

Blue Economy Cooperative Research Centre Participants Workshop (Fremantle, WA)

29 May – 1 June 2023

World Aquaculture conference (Darwin, NT)

1-2 June 2023

NZ Fishing Federation Conference (Blenheim, NZ)

20-24 June 2023

Electric and Hybrid Marine World Expo

2 - 7 July 2023

Australian Marine Sciences Association (AMSA)

3 - 7 July 2023

FRDC - 6th Australasian Scientific Conference on Aquatic Animal Health and Biosecurity (Cairns, QLD)

19-20 July 2023

International conference on Blue Economy and Blue Growth

25-26 July 2023

2023 Trans-Tasman Rock Lobster Conference (Adelaide, SA)

Direct questions to:
Kyriakos Toumazos, South Australian Northern Zone Rock Lobster Fishermen’s Association Exec. Officer at:

3-5 August 2023

2023 Australian Fishing Trade Association (AFTA) Tackle Show (Gold Coast, QLD)

16-17 August 2023

NZ Seafood Conference + NZ Aquaculture conference (Wellington, NZ)

12th September 2023

Australian Rural Women’s Award

25-27 September 2023

International Association of Fish Inspectors (IAFI) World Seafood Congress ‘Catching the Wave of the Blue Bio-economy’ Portugal 

11-12 October 2023

Aahumoana O Aotearoa (Aquaculture for New Zealand) 2023 Conference (Nelson, NZ)

22-27 Oct 2023

International Conference and workshop on lobster biology and management (Fremantle, WA) Catching the Wave of the Blue Bio-economy

20-24 Nov 2023

Indo-Pacific Fish conference + annual conference of the Australian Society for Fish Biology (ASFB) (Auckland, NZ)


3-9 March 2024

2024 World Fisheries Congress (Seattle, USA)

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