Tuesday, 27 November 2012
Agriculture, Resources, Fisheries and Forestry Committee; Report
On behalf of the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Resources, Fisheries and Forestry, I present the committee's report, entitled Netting the benefits:inquiry into the role of science for the future of fisheries and aquaculture, together with minutes of the proceedings and evidence received by the committee.
In accordance with standing order 39(f) the report was made a parliamentary paper.
by leave—Today I am pleased to present the committee's report on the inquiry into the role of science for the future of fisheries and aquaculture. Australia is at the cutting edge of global initiatives to meet the needs of a growing international population. Our nation's efforts in developing innovative solutions, particularly in the sphere of sustainable fisheries management, is world renowned.
Australia's scientific capabilities in this area are led ably by a range of key organisations such as the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, the CSIRO and the Australian Institute of Marine Science.
Each of these organisations use the skills and experience of highly qualified professionals, committed to ensuring long-term growth and sustainable development in an industry that, like many others, has been affected by climatic and economic factors.
The world's population is growing and new ways need to be found to supply more food to feed everybody. Seafood is an excellent source of protein, and therefore needs to be a core part of future food supply.
Our belief is that the diligent work of scientists, coupled with strong investment in science, will provide the solutions needed to deliver better quality food to more people than ever before.
Commencing in March this year, the committee's inquiry focused on the science of fisheries management; aquaculture research and development; biosecurity challenges; and related governance arrangements. A total of 50 submissions were received and extensive public hearings were held. These enabled the committee to discuss key issues with numerous researchers, field experts, industry representatives, environmental groups and state and federal fisheries managers.
The committee travelled to Perth, Hobart and Townsville to conduct site inspections to see firsthand the research projects currently underway. In particular, aquaculture is rapidly moving forward with the help of science, such as identifying new species well suited to aquaculture and finding new cost-effective varieties of fish feed.
The committee found that, although Australia's fisheries management is highly regarded globally, there are some gaps in our knowledge, leading to incorrect interpretations, which has been used against the commercial fishing industry.
Additionally, responsibilities in Australia for fisheries management and aquaculture are complex. This is because fish do not respect state and federal boundaries—they swim across these divides and sometimes over vast areas of ocean—creating the shared responsibility for both the fish and their habitats.
Alongside day-to-day management of fisheries, there is a sizeable research and development effort taking place—with its own complexities and administrative arrangements. This effort, however, needs to be complemented with improved and standardised national reporting of fishing and aquaculture statistics.
Resolving governance and policy issues was another key concern of stakeholders, in particular the duplication and tensions between fisheries legislation and environmental legislation.
Notably, high-profile issues including the establishment of new marine protected areas and the arrival of the supertrawler Abel Tasman arose during the inquiry.
Understandably, there was plenty of debate and discussion during the inquiry regarding the role science plays in fisheries and aquaculture and the level of precaution that the law requires to be followed when decisions are made.
The committee has made 22 recommendations overall. Firstly, the committee has recommended development of a national regional policy statement on fisheries, aquaculture and recreational fishing, which should include: (1) an overall statement of strategic intent (national fisheries policy statement) to drive future direction; (2) a new guideline on precaution; and (3) research, development and extension work program. The report also calls for day-to-day fisheries management to remain free from political direction. For too long, too many state ministers for fisheries have been making decisions about quotas within their domains.
Secondly, the committee has recommended that there be comprehensive national data collection and reporting in four key areas: (1) the level of investment in fisheries and aquaculture research, development and extension; (2) the status of wild fisheries stocks and ecosystems; (3) recreational fishing; and (4) fisheries and aquaculture industry activity statistics.
During the inquiry the Australian Bureau of Agricultural Research and Economics, ABARES, informed the committee of their intention to produce a report during 2012 similar to the annual State of the forests report. The committee supports this approach.
Thirdly, the committee made recommendations relating to specific issues or industry sectors, which briefly include:
I am hopeful that governments around Australia will give favourable consideration to the report's recommendations. The committee looks forward to following the outcomes that result from this inquiry.
I wish to thank my committee, particularly my Deputy Chair, Alby Schultz, for his dedication, time and effort in helping us get this report done, and my Tasmanian colleague Geoff Lyons, who assisted on many occasions. All those in the committee played their part, doing their utmost to ensure that the inquiry was able to take place in a timely manner. I thank also the committee secretariat—Thomas Gregory, David Brunoro and Nathan Fewkes—who have worked tirelessly to finalise this report in this final week of parliament.
I believe this is a landmark inquiry in light of the discussions on fishing this year and I look forward to an early response by government.
I commend the report to the House.
by leave—I just want to make that point about the report that has just been bought into the House by member for Lyons—the chair of the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Resources, Fisheries and Forestry—that this report is a very significant report in terms of the fishing industry in Australia. It identifies 22 recommendations. I can only hope, as deputy chair of this committee, that after the good work that has gone into this report it is not left lying on the shelf collecting dust like many reports have done in the past.
It is a classic example of a very definitive inquiry by a group of dedicated people about our fishing industry, and it illustrates the sustainable management practices of all fishers—if I can use the politically correct term rather than fishermen—around Australia, whether they be recreational fishermen or professional fishermen. Our practices are the envy of the rest of the world. There has been significant evidence taken that illustrates that we need to improve on our practices, and more importantly, we need to correlate what is happening on a state-by-state and territory-by-territory basis, so that we can continue to demonstrate to the rest of the world that we are good at sustainable yield and we are good at fishing practices.
I commend the chairman for the wonderful work that he has done and I commend the committee members for the significant individual and collective contribution that they have made to the report. I commend the report to the House.