Published: 5 September 2023 Updated: 18 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.

Revenue investment iconFRDC will invest $44.9 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.

10 Shared Strategic Investment Opportunities model

Ten Shared Strategic Investment Opportunities

FRDC’s previous (2022-23) Annual Operational Plan identified ten strategic shared opportunities, that were scoped and refined with input from stakeholders across fishing and aquaculture, summarised below.

There has been significant progress made against each of these areas. During 2023-24 there will be particular focus on advancing four of these including:

  • 3 (equitable sharing and security of access),
  • 5 (increase opportunities for Indigenous communities),
  • 7 (laying foundations for successful digital transformation) and
  • 8 (enhance national sustainability reporting)

3. Investigate opportunities to optimise equitable sharing and security of access to Australia’s aquatic resources.

Australia’s marine environment is becoming increasingly crowded, as Australia’s marine parks estate continues to evolve, our national energy mix continues to shift, offshore renewables are integrating and infrastructure including fossil fuel structures, ports, desalination plants and rocket launch sites, enter new phases in their lifecycles. These activities have potential to overlap or displace existing fishing and aquaculture activities, creating 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. 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, FRDC is also considering the development of a coordination program to assist in the prioritisation of R&D in this area

Security of ocean access is not an issue unique to Australia. Through project 2022-201 ‘International Travel Bursary - Elspeth Macdonald's (Scottish Fishermen's Federation CEO) shared her experiences with spatial management and the renewable energy sector’. Through this bursary, FRDC provided travel support for Elspeth to travel to Australia in July to share the Scottish experience on wind farms and marine reserves.

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

In June 2023, FRDC, in partnership with the Land and Sea Aboriginal Corporation Tasmania, Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation, and University of Tasmania (represented by Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies) signed a Memorandum of Understanding - Research to Rights: Supporting cultural fisheries for Aboriginal Tasmanians. FRDC funded projects in this area include 2022-036: Approaches for incorporating Indigenous Rights, practices and catch into resource sharing and harvest strategy frameworks, based on international experiences, and 2022-076: Integrating indigenous fishing: extending adoption pathways to policy and management.

FRDC was a Tier 1 partner in the recent unsuccessful Economic Participation of Indigenous Communities CRC bid (EPIC CRC), augmenting existing work through our Indigenous Reference Group (IRG), including with Indigenous Land and Sea Council (ILSC). As this bid was unsuccessful for the second time, alternative avenues for support are being pursued for this initiative.

7. Bring together a collective to lay the foundations for successful digital transformation

FRDC is investing in a number of initiatives to improve the discoverability and sharing of fisheries and aquaculture data.

Australian AgriFood Data Exchange (FRDC 2022-197)

The Australian AgriFood Data Exchange (AADX) is now referred to as the Australian Agricultural Data Exchange. It was initiated and is overseen by members of the agrifood industry to enable participants to share, reuse and merge data from disparate systems in a secure environment on a permissioned basis.

In 2022, specific industry experiments provided a proof of concept of use of the exchange (see FRDC 2020-126 for details of the Western Rock Lobster use case). Following the finalisation of the industry experiments, a business case was developed for future funding, governance and build of the platform.

In June 2023, the AADX received funding under the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) National Agriculture Traceability Grants Program – Regulatory Technology Research and Insights Grant Round. This investment, coupled with investment from the Research and Development Corporations, will fund the build to establish the platform, with planning for procurement now underway.

Increasing food security through liberation of fishing and aquaculture data (FRDC 2022-176)

This project seeks to develop a national fisheries and aquaculture data ingestion and storage system (Activity 1), ensuring that information derived from fisheries and aquaculture activities is findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable (FAIR).

The ingestion and storage system will be bolstered by a complementary data catalogue (detailing the data sets available on the platform) (Activity 2) and analytical tools (able to gain insights without moving data outside the storage platform) (Activity 6).

The platform will be underpinned by appropriate data standards and metadata, informed by the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) and Food Agility CRC’s Data Code Certification (Activity 3) and a robust governance framework (Activity 4).

Use of the system will be tested through three case studies, supporting capacity and capability improvement of the sector (Activity 5). Case study participants include Spencer Gulf and West Coast Prawn Fisherman’s Association, Australian Council of Prawn Fisheries, South Australian Research and Development Institute, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (WA), Abacus Fisheries and the University of Tasmania

This project received investment from the Australian Research Data Commons (ARDC). The ARDC is funded by the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS).

For more information on FRDC Digital Initiatives, for both current projects and proposed projects contact

8. Explore opportunities to enhance national sustainability reporting.

Improved Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) reporting delivers a variety of benefits, including access to capital through the finance sector, access to new markets, cost reductions, and improved staff attraction and retention.

FRDC has worked with CSIRO and the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies to secure a $1m project under the Sustainability Traceability Grants Program that will serve to enhance Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) reporting for fishing and aquaculture. The new project will build on previous projects including HealthCheck (2016-060), Status of Australian Fish Stocks (2015-034) and Whichfish (2019-087), and link to other existing projects including AIA’s Know & Show your Carbon Footprint to improve tracking and reporting of performance in key areas across fishing and aquaculture. Further, FRDC is investing in natural capital accounting, including working with the Task Force on Nature-Related Financial Disclosures (TFND).

Three new R&D application options

FRDC has made a number of important changes to how we invest in R&D that will take effect 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 investment 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)
  1. Implementing a new investment approach with Research Advisory Committees (RACs) through tactical investments that have immediate adoption pathway.
  2. 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 provides resources for conducting trials and/or demonstrating emerging solutions - matching contributions dollar for dollar.

Three new R&D application options model

Seeking funding from the FRDC

The June 2023 competitive Call for Investment Opportunities closed on 30 July 2023. Approximately 30 applications were submitted through FishNet seeking to address a named priority from the Call. These requests for funds are being evaluated by external reviewers and the FRDC Research and Development Investment team, with consideration of the attractiveness and feasibility of the proposed activities. Applicants can expect to be informed on the outcomes of their application evaluation soon.

To support the Call, FRDC hosted a webinar on 17 July on the FRDC’s funding model, investment, and prioritisation process as well as the current Call for Investment Opportunities and the priorities within it. The webinar was well attended by 115 researchers from around the country. A variety of questions were asked including what budget is apportioned to each priority, how are priorities developed and can applications be submitted even if they are not addressing a nominated priority. Future webinars are planned to discuss the recent new investment processes with a focus on the ‘Development’ side of R&D.

The recording of the webinar as well as Q&A from the session will be made available on the FRDC website.

The June Call for Investment Opportunities, requests for investments 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 as soon as possible.

Future funding opportunities

FRDC and its partners are in the process of organising the next round of priority setting meetings with the jurisdictional Research Advisory Committees, Industry Partnership Agreement bodies, and Coordination Programs. These advisory structures will meet to identify the next round of investment priorities for a Call for Investment Opportunities to be prepared for November. Please monitor this page for updates.

FRDC encourages all stakeholders that have seeking to address RD&E issues or opportunities to share them with the relevant Extension Officers in your jurisdiction. The FRDC’s Extension Officers are a key pathway for getting priorities to the relevant Research Advisory Committees. You can find the contact details of the relevant Extension Officers for each jurisdiction here.

A new way to report on project progress and extend R&D

FRDC is in the process of trialling a new approach to project progress reporting. These presentation style progress reports are seen as an opportunity for PIs to provide a ‘point in time’ progress report to end-users and relevant stakeholders, so they can have a better understanding of the project and its outputs, and possible inputs into how to improve the extension and adoption of the R&D.

The process currently involves the researcher providing a presentation on the project based on:

  • a PowerPoint template that outlines the project, its objectives, progress against those objectives,
  • outputs achieved to date,
  • any challenges to the projects’ execution, and
  • any changes that may be required.

FRDC is keen to engage with providers to understand how amenable specific projects are to this enhanced approach. However, we also acknowledge that many projects already run workshops or steering committee meetings that provide project updates, so we might value add to these too.

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

Following on from the launch of the National Social and Economic Survey of Recreational Fishers, jointly conducted by ABARES, the University of Canberra and the Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation, in February, the state based reports can be found on the FRDC website.

Indigenous Reference Group

FRDC has long recognised Indigenous Australians involved in fishing and aquaculture as key stakeholders for our investment in research. FRDC’s investments in these sectors has been driven through the Indigenous Reference Group (IRG) for over a decade, and has been our main mechanism for obtaining and prioritising Indigenous fishing and aquaculture R&D. As with other coordination programs, the IRG has been facilitated by an FRDC management project, that provides funding for administrative elements of bringing the group together and providing resourcing to participate and contribute to other relevant activities to provide information and advice to FRDC.

The FRDC Board requested an external review be conducted on the impact of the IRG and how well end-user priorities have been addressed or considered in FRDC’s investments. This report is being finalised and will soon be released, however importantly, one of the preliminary findings was that the IRG and FRDC’s investments in Indigenous fishing and aquaculture, have been effective at addressed the needs of Indigenous stakeholders and increased the understanding of these needs by fishery managers.

In considering this information, the FRDC Board approved a 12-month project to undertake consultation and a redesign of FRDC’s investment in fishing and aquaculture for Indigenous stakeholders. Mr Stan Lui will be leading this process, taking over the reins from outgoing IRG Executive Officer Dr Chris Calogeras. This project will seek to address some specific areas including building communication and extension activities to on ground stakeholders, ensuring stronger linkages and alignment with other agencies investing in the same or similar space and working with previous IRG members to incorporate recommendations from the external review. A key outcome that the FRDC Board has requested is that the operations of FRDC and its consultative structures should focus on ‘mainstreaming’ Indigenous considerations and benefits in all research projects thereby reducing the need to have a separate program and projects with an Indigenous focus.

In the meantime, the IRG will continue to operate on a business-as-usual basis regarding calling for research projects, reviewing project reports and providing advice to FRDC and researchers on addressing areas related to Indigenous fishing and aquaculture.

Sincere thanks to Chris – the inaugural IRG Executive Officer, for his significant contribution to the IRG since its inception in 2012. Chris has been instrumental in getting this program of work to where it is, building the structure of the IRG and developing extensive networks, reach and understanding of the great work this group has done. FRDC acknowledges and thanks Chris for all his hard work and support over many years.

Thank you also to the members of the IRG that have given their time and expertise to this area of work, many of whom have done this over many years. Whatever the next iteration of this program looks like, FRDC hopes past members will remain a key component of the network into the future, bringing impactful research ideas into the system and feeding back out outputs from research to improve opportunities for Indigenous Australians in fishing and aquaculture.

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. Seven new species will be included in this edition:

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

Work on the 6th edition is proceeding well; contracts have been exchanged with all participating agencies and institutions, and jurisdictional authors are currently drafting species reports.

The 2023 Ocean Business Leaders' Summit White Paper

Ocean Decade Australia released the white paper in July 2023, as the primary output of the Ocean Business Leaders Summit held in March earlier this year. The white paper was designed as an input to the Australian Government’s Sustainable Ocean Plan, being developed by the Department of Climate Change, Energy, Environment and Water.

Key themes of the white paper include:

  • Recognition of Australia’s wealth of research expertise and innovation
  • Cohesive and holistic governance – enabling policy reforms, standardised reporting frameworks, consistency across jurisdictional policy
  • Finance – leveraging financial partnership, existing learnings from carbon markets, establishing principles for ocean finance
  • Ocean economy as a vehicle to support decarbonisation of APAC economies
  • Integrating cultural heritage into business and governance reforms

The white paper does a good job of balancing the diverse voices that provided input with ambitious intent, and tangible recommended actions.

Stakeholder Engagement

Over 1200 Australian and international delegates attended the World Aquaculture Society (WAS) Conference 2023 in Darwin in late-May/early-June. The Directors of Fisheries and Aquaculture from Tas, Vic, NSW and NT all attended, with very productive talks being held with the jurisdictions on a range of matters with a focus on how to grow the sector. The trade show had over 100 exhibitors and clearly, the growth of technology support companies has become one of the great success stories in Australia. FRDC science was on display in almost every session – even more pleasing was the number of presenters who referred to FRDC extension products to inform their audience. A good example of this was Hamish McDonagh-Aiken in his presentation on climate finance disclosures showed a screen shot of FRDC’s climate research web page. Diversity in participants, and in particular the strong presence of Asian, Indigenous, Women and South Pacific Islanders added significant value to the presentations. Women in Seafood Australasia (WISA) had a very strong presence, launching their new Turn the Tide program and hosting a workshop at the conference.

FRDC assisted to deliver the Storm Bay Open House in Hobart on 8 July 2023 with scientists and staff from CSIRO Environment, UTAS IMAS and FRDC participating. Over 115 people attended the event which provided a free, public forum for Tasmanians to ask questions and speak to researchers about Atlantic Salmon aquaculture science.

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry the Hon. Murray Watt jointly launched project 2022-116 the ‘Cracking the code on captive breeding of Macquarie Perch (Macquaria australasica)’, a multi-jurisdictional collaborative research project aimed at re-establishing the wild population of this endangered species. The project will examine nutrition, hormones to assist in stimulating breeding, the timing of breeding and other factors to understand how to consistently produce fingerlings for stocking to boost the ongoing work to save Macquarie Perch. The announcement was made in conjunction with Victorian Minister for Outdoor Recreation office, with support from VFA and recreational fishing groups.

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Indicative dates



22–23 Nov 2023



14–15 Feb 2024

Port Lincoln


17–18 April 2024



12–13 June 2024

Launceston/Beauty Point


14–15 August 2024



20–21 November 2024


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New South Wales

Completed (22/8/23)

Port Stephens


Completed (31/8/23)




Online meeting

Western Australia



South Australia


 West Beach, Adelaide

Northern Territory









Events Calendar


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7-8 September 2023

Shellfish Futures Conference (Smithton, Tasmania)

11-14 September 2023

2023 Nuffield National Conference (Perth, WA)

11-13 September 2023

Social Science Community for the Great Barrier Reef Symposium 2023

11-13 September 2023

Seafood Expo Asia (Singapore)

12th September 2023

Australian Rural Women’s Awar (Canberra, ACT)d

25-27 September 2023

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


2-6 October 2023

Asia Pacific Marine Biotec Conference 2023: Transforming marine bio-resources into next-generation blue bio-industry (Adelaide, SA)

9-13th Oct 2023

7th International Otolith Symposium (Viña del Mar, Chile)

11-12 Oct 2023

Digital Agrifood Summit (Wagga Wagga, NSW)

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


15-17 November 2023

The 11th Annual World Congress of Ocean (WCO-2023) (Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan)

20-21st November 2023

Circularity 2023 (Melbourne, VIC)

20-24 Nov 2023

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

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