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Thursday, 17 October 1996
Page: 4443

Senator CALVERT(5.12 p.m.) —by leave—This is a very important report. It refers to one of the most important resources in this country, our fishing resources. We all know that, over time, this resource has been depleted. I am pleased to see that the board of the statutory corporation set up in 1991 is doing a very efficient and able job in rectifying some of the mistakes of the past.

I note from this very good report that during 1995-96 the FRDC planned, funded and managed 240 projects worth $29.2 million. It sets out the corporation's mission, which is to increase the economic and social benefits for the fishing industry and the people of Australia through planned investments in research and development and an ecologically sustainable framework.

The chairman's overview explains the role that the board played during the year. I note with interest that 64 final reports on research and development projects were received. The results of those projects, when adopted, will continue the sustainable development of the fishing industry to the benefit of all stakeholders.

I note, too, the commencement of a project aimed at promoting the need for quality assurance in fishing—SeaQual—which is a joint initiative between the Australian Seafood Industry Council, the Commonwealth Department of Primary Industries and the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation. And I also note with interest that one member of the board of directors is Mr Peter Shelley, who just happens to be the Managing Director of Tassal Ltd, a large Tasmanian salmon producer. I thought I had better mention that, given the importance of the salmon industry in Tasmania, an industry that is doubling in value every five years.

Senator Conroy —Have you got shares in it?

Senator CALVERT —No, I have not.

Senator Bob Collins —And it is a superb product.

Senator CALVERT —It is the best salmon in the world and that is acknowledged by the Japanese, who are very particular with their product. I am very pleased to see that we have people of the calibre of Peter Shelley on this board. One of their goals is to manage the R&D funds. I am pleased to say that our federal government has increased funding for fisheries research in Tasmania by some $600,000 this year. Tasmania is going to receive $3.8 million in funding from the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation this financial year.

Whilst I acknowledge that the federal government has been cutting back in some areas, in this case the government has announced that it will retain the current funding arrangements for the FRDC, because we recognise that continued research is at the heart of sustainable fisheries management. I know most of us realise just how important our fishing industry is.

I note in the report that in 1995-96 the FRDC received $12.9 million in Commonwealth and industry funding for fisheries research. In my own state, fishing is a very vital part of our economy. It is worth more than $215 million per year. Along with mining and forestry, it is one of our major income earners, with ever increasing reliance on aquaculture. In this report, we have dozens of projects that are highlighting aquaculture and the very important southern bluefin tuna industry. That is one of the industries that has been overfished, and it is a very valuable industry.

I note that the CSIRO is going to receive something like $539,000 over three years to develop an index of the abundance of the southern bluefin tuna so that we do not fall into the trap, as has happened in the past, for instance with the orange roughy industry, of fishermen depleting the industry. We are spending something like $258,000 over three years in tagging, developing and monitoring the southern shark fishery, which is very important because we export a lot of flake to Victoria, where my colleague, Senator Cooney, no doubt enjoys it every Friday. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.