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Wednesday, 28 November 2012
Page: 13822

Mr SCHULTZ (Hume) (10:02): It is indeed an honour and a pleasure for me to stand here in the Federation Chamber to talk about the report Netting the benefits, which is the culmination of a very significant inquiry on fisheries across and around this great nation of ours. The report quite appropriately refers to the fact that production from Australian commercial fisheries and aquaculture is small by comparison with other countries. The economic value of each sector is approximately $1.3 billion and $.9 billion per year respectively. Separately, the economic value of the recreational fishing sector is exceedingly difficult to quantify. It is very important to our great nation, with some estimates placing it between $4 billion and $5 billion annually. The Australian Fishing Trade Association's submission, which was part of the evidence taken in this wonderful report, suggests that the figure could be as high as $10 billion per year through direct expenditure associated with the activity of going fishing. As a recreational fisherman, I can attest to that. One of the great things about our wonderful country is that we as Australians have for decades been able to take our children down to the coast or into our river systems and participate in recreational fishing.

Sadly, some of the problems associated with our freshwater species has been as a result of introduced species such as carp. What we are trying to do scientifically to destroy that incursion of those pests such as carp and other tropical species has been centred around not only getting them out of the system and moving them away from endangering our native species but, more importantly, getting a byproduct from them that has been able to be used to fertilise food in other areas. That is what is happening with the Charlie Carp Fertiliser that uses the carp taken out of our system.

The report talked about the geographic size of Australian waters. It talked about wild fishery production being particularly low. The Fisheries Research and Development Corporation in its contribution to the committee summarised the situation when it said:

Australia's exclusive economic zone is the third-largest in the world, covering one-and-a-third times the area of Australia's land mass. However, the quantum of Australia's commercial wild catch ranks 60th in the world, representing only 0.2 per cent of world tonnage but 2 per cent by value. The size of catch of one species in some countries exceeds that of Australia's total production.

That is a classic example of the responsible way in which Australians, once again in an industry, look towards sustainable yields for harvesting. I do not think in the past that we have been given due credit for that. We certainly have not given due credit for that to the industry itself.

I mentioned this morning one of the classic examples of the industry understanding that its targeting of a particular species—in this case the kingfish, with the kingfish traps—was placing an enormous pressure on that species. To its credit, the government of the day took action on that. To its credit also, the industry complied with what was being asked of it and cut out the kingfish traps. We saw the kingfish species multiply rapidly in a very short period of time. That is indicative of the sensible and cooperative way in which commercial and recreational fishermen have approached a resource that we need to keep for future generations of Australians.

The committee also talked about the aquaculture sector. Australia's aquaculture sector has grown significantly in the past three decades, corresponding with a worldwide trend, noted by the CSIRO in its evidence when it said:

Seafood is a major contributor to global food security with the aquaculture sector continuing to be the fastest-growing animal food producing sector in the world. Aquaculture currently accounts for nearly half (46%) of the world's food fish consumption, compared with 33.8% in 2000.

So there has been a very significant contribution by scientists in the area of aquaculture. I make the point, which I also made earlier today, that there is an enormous potential, given the way in which our scientists have approached that particular part of the fishing industry, for Australia to export that expertise into those countries whose fish stocks are under enormous pressure.

The Tasmanian salmon aquaculture process, for example, is now the most valuable of all Australia's seafood sectors, with a farm gate value of $370 million. It just goes to show you that you do not have to be big to make a significant contribution to your country, as has been proven by the Taswegians. I compliment Tasmanians for that contribution.

The industry is based on a genetically healthy population of founder breeding stocks introduced from Canada in the mid-1960s. It mirrors a TV program that I watched the other night on the harvesting of tuna and the wonderful way in which the industry works to harvest and grow tuna, and supply an export market that is putting very severe demands and pressures on the tuna population around the world. We can also say that on the crustacean side of things, where the West Australians in particular have embarked upon a very serious breeding program for lobster. That has created a very significant export business for the industry there.

I go back to the point in relation to government's propensity to declare marine parks which is very concerning. We all want to protect our biodiversity and we all want to protect the environment, particularly in our oceans because they are under some pressure. But we have to be very, very careful that we do not go into an overkill process and wipe out a very lucrative business and, more importantly, one of the recreational pastimes Australians take for granted. Recreational fishing is a very common activity in Australia with potentially large impacts on the environment and economic activity, and recreational fishers recognise that. It is no coincidence that people like me are recreational fishermen. I practise the catch-and-release process that most recreational fishermen practise—I would say about 99 per cent of them.

During evidence-taking the committee learnt that recreational fishers—I do not like the term 'fishers' although that is the politically correct term we use today; I am a fisherman not a fisher, but unfortunately that is the environment we live in today—were becoming increasingly sophisticated in their approach. I know that because I am one of them. We use modern technology to locate fish and increase our vessel range. This poses a challenge for how recreational fishing is governed, but the technology can also be an opportunity to gather additional information on recreational fishing impacts. For example, fishing groups could encourage individual members to report information using phone applications or website based interfaces to capture data in real-time. That is actually happening in the process of recreational fishermen reporting to the companies that are putting out fishing magazines. It is also a very good source for scientists to tap into.

The recreational fishing industry is governed by a combination of state, territory and national environment legislation. The powers within the Fisheries Management Act have not been used to actively manage recreational fishing in Commonwealth waters to the extent where it is done professionally. That is one of the points that is part of the recommendations in the committee's report. There are also different standards and rules for licensing and data collection arrangements between Australian jurisdictions. Nothing has changed; we saw this in relation to the pest animal report. We go about independently doing things without talking to one another about how our expertise and our experiences can benefit the environment and biodiversity as a whole. Once again we have picked that up in the fishing industry, and I compliment the committee on doing so.

The committee believes that recreational fishing impacts on catches should be better understood and its contribution to the economy more accurately estimated. The last comprehensive national survey of recreational fishing was in the early 2000s. The committee has therefore recommended regular reporting on recreational fishing statistics, which I have alluded to, and this is one among a number of areas of national reporting the committee believes should be addressed, with several related recommendations made throughout this report. I compliment the chair for steering the committee in that direction. It is a very, very important part of protecting our fisheries and he needs to be complimented on that. Separately, COAG should discuss standardising recreational fishing licensing and rules should be agreed within a framework for data collection on recreational fishing activities to assist with national reporting—another very significant and pertinent recommendation by the committee.

In addition the current review of Commonwealth fisheries management legislation should consider whether the Fisheries Management Act needs to be revised to facilitate the Australian governments engaging more readily in regulation and data collection of recreational fishing in Commonwealth waters, a recommendation which precisely mirrors a recommendation we made, once again, in the pest animal report. They should not be put on shelves and left to collect dust like they have been doing for decades now. There is an enormous amount of science; there is an enormous amount of input from all levels of the Australian society into these reports, and this report is no exception. I commend it to the fishing industry; I commend it to Australians who have a genuine desire to protect our biodiversity within our waters, whether that be in the ocean or the inland rivers that cover this great country of ours. I thank the Parliament for the opportunity to say a few words about this particular responsible report: Netting the benefits.