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Address to the second meeting of the Australian Fisheries Council, Adelaide

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Australian Fisheries Council

Second_ Meeting, Adelaide, September 21, 1970

Address by the Chairman, Hono J.D. Anthony, M.P .

Minister for Primary Industry


I welcome you to this second meeting of the Australian

Fisheries Council and I have pleasure in declaring the meeting open.

Most of you attended the first meeting of the Council in

Darwin in June of last year and some of you have been at previous meetings

of State and Commonwealth Ministers responsible for fisheries held prior

to the establishment of the Australian Fisheries Council.

I extend a special welcome to Mr. Casey, the recently-appointed Minister for Agriculture in South Australia at whose invitation

we are meeting in Adelaide today ° Although it is his first attendance at a Fisheries Council meeting he is no stranger to many of use

It is also pleasing to see here today the Chief Secretary

for Victoria, Sir Arthur Rylah, who was unable to attend our first

meeting in Darwin°

It is fitting that South Australia is the venue for this

year°s meeting because there are developments taking place in this

State°s fisheries which are of considerable interest to other areas in

Australia. I refer in particular to the valuable prawning industry

which has been established here, This fishery, which is concentrated

mainly in Spencer Gulf, began a little over two years ago and looks like

rivalling some of the State's long-established fisheries. I am told that,

on present indications, the annual catch is expected to exceed two million

pounds and exports alone in 1969-70 were worth more than $1 million, Existing prawning grounds in South Australia, however, are not as extensive

as those which occur off the coasts of Queensland and the Northern Territory


- hence the number of boats fishing has been strictly limited to protect

the fishery since its inception. The success of this and other management

regulations introduced will be watched with interest.

The need to protect and intelligently exploit not only

fisheries but all marine resources is a world-wide problem that is growing

in importance in this technological age. In recent years there has been growing recognition internationally of the right of a coastal state to

control the exploitation of natural resources of the seabed and sub-soil,

not only of the territorial sea, but of areas beyond it and adjacent to it.

As you are nc doubt aware the Commonwealth Government in

April of this year took steps to protect certain living resources of the

Australian continental shelf. Under provisions of the Continental Shelf

(Living Natural Resources) Act, controlled areas have been established in

Victoria for oysters and abalone; in Tasmania for sea urchins, abalone

and bailer shells; in Western Australia for beche-de-mer, pearl shell9

razor fish, abalone, trochus -ind green snail and in the Northern Territory

and the Ashmore and Cartier Islands for sponges, bech-de-mer and all

sedentary molluscs. In Queensland, controlled areas have been established for

all corals, sea urchins, beche-de-mer and all kinds of sedentary molluscs.

The effects of the controlled areas are, firstly, that the

dbmmercial taking, from the listed areas of continental shelf, of any of

the sedentary organisms mentioned can be undertaken only under the authority

of a Commonwealth licence. Secondly, conservation measures may be introduced

to protect any of the species concerned from over-exploitation. Those so

far introduced include minimum sizes for pearl shell, trochus and green

snail, a complete prohibition on the taking of those species and of beche-de-mer by trawling or dredging, and a prohibition of their removal from the

continental shelf unless they are dead.

This last prohibition has been introduced to control the removal

of live shell for purposes of pearl clture 9 for which special permits will be issued to approved operators. These measures have exactly the same

effect as those formerly in operation under the Pearl Fisheries A ct, which

has now been repealed.

At the request of the Queensland Government, a complete

prohibition had been placed on the taking of triton shells and helmet

shells (which prey on the crown-of-thorns starfish) and giant clams from

the continental shelf adjacent to Queensland, including the Great Barrier

Reef o

These conservation measures apply to all persons,Australian or

foreign, whether taking the sedentary organisms concerned for commercial or

other purposes. The Continental Shelf (Living Natural Resources) Act

requires foreigners to be licensed, but the Government has decided that

no licences will be issued to foreign boats or their crews.

As this is the first meetingof Fisheries Ministers since the

Standing Committee's discussion in February on the question of responsibility

as between the Commonwealth and States for control of fisheries in the

Territorial sea, I shall make a very brief reference to that matter ° You will be aware that since the Standing Committee discussion there has been

introduced into the House of Representatives a Bill known as the Territorial

Sea and Continental Shelf Bill. I merely want to make it quite clear

that there is nothing in that Bill that effects the continued operation of

State fisheries laws within the three-mile limits. However, I think I

should mention that, as you are no doubt aware, any court decision which

may be given as a result of a challenge to the Territorial Sea and Continental

Shelf legislation could have implications in respect of fisheries jurisdiction.


In Darwin last year I outlined steps that the Government had taken to extend to Australian fishermen the maximum possible protection against

foreign operators. These included the establishment of a 12-mile declared

fishing zone around Australia and the closing of Australian ports to

foreign fishing vessels except in cases of emergency and in certain other

circumstances. These measures appear to be working satisfactorily as

evidenced by the decline in the number of foreign fishing vessels which

entered ports in Australia and the Territory of Papua and New G uinea in 19690

At the same time there was a sharp increase in the number of reports of sightings of foreign fishing vessels, but this does not

necessarily mean that there is growing pressure on the fishery resources

off our shores by foreign nations0 On the contrary, the majority of the

ships reported belonged to Australian-Japanese joint fishing ventures

and were operating under Australian-Japanese agreements.

To protect the interests of Australian fishermen in the

exclusive 12-mile zone, the Government has assigned the defence services'

the task of patrolling certain areas. During the past year one foreign

fishing vessel was arrested twice while fishing inside the 12-mile zone

in the Great Barrier Reef and a number of reported sightings of foreign

ships were investigated.

The great length of the Australian coastline makes patrolling a

most Complax.operation, but the Government is studying the problem closely

with a view to working out a plan to give the maximum protection to


You will remember that in Darwin last year I announced that

the Government had agreed to the establishment of a Commonwealth Fishing

Industry Trust Account. In September 1969 legislation was passed by

Parliament setting up a Trust Fund and a Fishing.Industry Research Committee

to advise me on expenditure from the Fund. Under the scheme each State will

set up its own Trust Fund to receive the industry contribution, which will

be allocated by the State Government for fisheries work within the State.


The Commonwealth Government this financial year plans to appropriate 1500,000

to provide matching funds to support approved programmes of research, education,

extension and development of the Australian fishing industry.

So far three States - Victoria, Tasmania and Western Australia -have. established Trust Funds and I hope that it will not be long before the

remaining States follow suit so that we can press ahead with research and

development programmes for the general benefit of Australian fisheries.

The first meeting of the Fishing Industry Research Committee

will be held this week, when the Committee will formulate procedures for

seeking-,and examining applications for finance from the Trust Account.

This committee comprises a representative of my Department who

will be chairman, and one representative each of CSIRO, the Fisheries

Council and the Australian Fishing Industry Council.

Another important announcement made in Darwin last year was that

the Commonwealth was about to launch a major research programme on prawns

in northern Australia. The first stage of this programme by the CSIRO

Division of Fisheries and Oceanography is now well under way. It involves

an investigation into what types of prawns stocks are available in commercial

quantities, where they are available, and when they are available. Field

laboratories have been established at Karumba and Weipa in the Gulf of

Carpentaria and at Nickol Bay in Western Australia. Information gathered by

these stations is being sent to the operational centre for the project

at Cronulla, near Sydney.

Results of the investigation could have a significant bearing

on the future development of the northern Australian prawn fishery which,

in 19697O, played a leading role in helping to keep our seafood exports

at a record level of $42,1 million. This result was achieved in the face

of a substantial decline in the quantity and value of rock lobster exports

which for years have been the backbone of our overseas trade in marine products



The continued progress of fisheries should be a source of

considerable satisfaction. The annual value of production is now about

$55 million, which represents 0.22 per cent of Australia's gross national

product. This appears small at first glance, but compares more than

favourably with that of the United States where the value of fisheries

production is Oo05 per cent of G.N.P. and the United Kingdom, where it

is o0 ik6 per cent of G.N.P.

Like many of Australia°s primary industries, the fishing

industry relies heavily on exports for its prosperity.:_ However, unlike

other primary industries, there are few problems associated with the

marketing of our seafoods on woria markets0 demand for products

such as lobster tails, prawns, abalone and scallops remains high and

prices are firm.

Unfortunately, the picture in fisheries which supply our home

markets is not so bright. Fish production in recent years has not kept

pace with the increase in population with a result that we continue to

rely heavily on imports to meet demand ° This situation is likely to continue until such time as more research can be undertaken into the

extent of stocks of the more popular eating fish and perhaps until new

techniques can be developed.

Another promising line of investigation being considered is

fish farming, or aquaculture, and it is pleasing to note that New South

Wales is about to embark on a comprehensive programme of brackish water

fisheries research at its recently completed station at Port Stephens,

where initially the culture of prawns will b undertaken,

Increasing attention is also being paid in Australia to

problems of pollution of the marine environment. Victoria has already

established an Institute for Environmental Research and has named it after

our colleague, Sir Arthur kylaho Work to be undertaken there will cover

all aspects of the environmental system, of which the ocean is but one

inter-acting part.

In the course of this address it has not been possible to

cover all the developments that have taken place in the Australian

fishing industry since last we met, or to discuss all the problems

being faced. However, I have endeavoured to include some of the major

events and topics. During the day, no doubt, you will have an opportunity

to discuss them in more detail.