Bill Passey: Why We Need a National Peak Body for the Seafood Industry

Written by Bill Passey, Australia Bay Seafoods & National Seafood Industry Icon 2015

Bill Passey

I am strongly supportive of a national peak body for our seafood industry.

This is not just about setting up a new seafood industry group; it is about achieving unity that is long overdue within our industry. I have been witness to this for 54 years.  We currently have representation through State/Territory bodies that do a great job. Obviously they will continue and their collective ideas will form the backbone of a national body that will unite these jurisdictions to give us national representation.

For many decades it has been horrible to see the lack of recognition being given to the seafood industry by Canberra. Trade agreements have been achieved and the Government goes on about the many industries that will benefit, but never once have they mentioned the seafood industry. I honestly don’t think that they knew we existed on many occasions.

High on the list of priorities for the new national peak body should be developing a strategy to increase the amount of Australian sustainably produced seafood, both wild caught and farmed.

Australia produces less than 0.2% of the world’s seafood production yet it is home to the world’s third largest fishing zone. We also have the world’s largest marine parks. I understand and appreciate the precautionary principle used to manage Australian fish stocks but these figures show this is not precautionary. It is over the top.

Our fisheries management arrangements are amongst the world’s best, although most of us can see where things could be improved.

Australia certainly has some much underutilized seafood resources. This is caused by a number of factors:

  • A lack of funding to fisheries managers;
  • The exaggerated use of the precautionary principle when making fisheries management decisions; and
  • A shortage of fishermen.

The fact is that politicians and fisheries managers’ long term visions are blurred because they are trying to keep everyone happy with short term policies.

The biggest boost to job creation the Australian seafood industry could get is the removal of the labeling exemption given to restaurants and takeaways that allows them to sell imported fish and not inform their customer where the fish came from. Without a national peak body, we have all but lost this argument to a group of people who have convinced the government that a box of chalk will outweigh the cost to the seafood industry.

My long term vision reaches 50 years into the future and focuses on food security for this nation. We need to increase wild catch and fish farm production. We cannot keep relying on the 70% of current fish imports.

My fear and warning is that one day in the future the world population will increase to the point that governments will restrict fish exports so that they can feed their own people. We are going to look silly trying to eat marine parks.

It is about time Canberra knows that a seafood industry exists in Australia and a national peak body is certainly the only way forward. How long has it been since you have seen a TV advertisement promoting Australian fish? This is one of many things industry unity will bring us.