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Wednesday, 28 March 1984
Page: 821


Senator ARCHER —by leave-With considerable pleasure I commend the Fishing Industry Research Committee on its report for the year. Fishing represents one of the areas we are looking at for future development of Australian industry. The Research Committee has done very good work. It would be inappropriate if I did not commend the Committee's Chairman, Dr Bain, and all the people who are associated with it and who have been involved in the various projects that were carried on during the year. I would also like to mention Fred Connell, whose name appears so regularly in fishing matters, and Dr Jeffrey of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. The contributions made by these people to ensure that research in the fishing industry continues is enormous.

Funding for 1982-83 ran into something over $2m. Several aspects of the fishing industry are very important at this stage. They are stock preservation and improvement, the efficiency and cost effectiveness of the industry and the merchandising and promotion of the product. At present there is great conjecture about the stocks of fish in the various waters around Australia. Currently the two problem areas appear to be the south-east trawl area and the scallop fisheries between Victoria and Tasmania. This problem is nothing new because we know the various stresses and strains that the lobster, southern blue fin tuna, prawn and abalone fisheries have been under in terms of management. At this stage all I would like to urge is that the greatest care and control be ensured before we go headlong into decisions to over-fish some of these existing and remaining areas.

I am a great believer in history. I believe everybody should study the history of these sorts of things. One need only look back to the 1928 debacle when the industry throughout Australia collapsed because of over-fishing. I do not want to see it happen again. I urge that we bear this in mind. At present changes are contemplated for the south-eastern trawl fishery. I have read every piece of information I can get, I have talked to every fisherman that I know and I have studied every possibility that I can see and there are enormous differences between the quantity of fish that some people are assuming exist and the sort of fishing that any research and any practical fisherman are able to demonstrate. It would be an absolute disaster if our keenness and enthusiasm for new industries were such that we over-fished a very fragile area and wound up with no fish in a very short time.

The sorts of controls that are also being contemplated for the scallop fishery between Victoria and Tasmania have to be agreed upon. There has been a great influx of boats and effort. It would concern me very greatly if, again, by over- fishing we got into trouble in this area in the next year or so. Last year there was probably a four-fold increase in effort in quite a fragile fishery. In the coming season it may increase by, say, 50 per cent. It is my opinion that the waters and the stock will simply not carry it. If they carry it for one year they may not carry it much beyond. We would then go through a very dull patch while waiting for a very slow recovery. I trust that the Fishing Industry Research Committee will be able to take these things into account and get the co -operation of the Federal Government, the State governments involved, all the industries and the industry fishermen. I certainly hope that next year we will be able to say that we have overcome some of these potential difficulties.