Jonas Woolford: A Note from the USI Forum Co-Chair

Written by United Seafood Industries Forum Co-Chair Jonas Woolford of Wildcatch Fisheries SA

Jonas Woolford

I was comforted and encouraged to see a room full of progressive and innovative business leaders engage and commit to developing an Australian Seafood Industry Peak Body. Debate was robust and at times even heated, the elephant in the room of funding had a stampede early on, but it was concluded that without knowing what you’re about, what your purpose is, what your direction is, you can throw good money at a venture and it’ll be wasted.

It was a challenging forum to co-chair and I thank Stuart Richey for helping and taking the lead. Everyone in the room came with something to contribute and varying perspectives, but with an opinion that something needs to happen. There were about two dozen who were able to make it on those dates 30 & 31st March in Adelaide- 40 had been invited it total. The invitees were such that a broad cross-section of the industry was covered: wild harvest, aquaculture, processing, wholesaling, retailing, importing, exporting, owner operator, large employer, geographical spread, gender and age mix.

The thing we all had in common is that we are operating a business, a business in the seafood industry. This is something that is lost from time to time. We get so caught up in dealing with regulators about sustainability, environmental, resource access and sharing, safety and employment etc., that it is overlooked that we are trying to run a business and stay afloat when there are all of these cumulative pressures.

Many of these issues are of common interest, with some being of national interest, which should- and can only- be addressed at the national level. Working through and identifying those issues that affect our businesses with the groups that are already formed to address them so as to make the most of collaboration, integration or consolidation, will be the next step.

Those in attendance chose a task force to develop what a united Australian seafood industry peak body made up of wild harvest, aquaculture and post-harvest might look like, and how it might be funded. It is guided by a terms of reference and the group will meet regularly, update via the United Seafood Industries website and report back to the larger group in three months. Martin Exel of Austral fisheries is the chair, and the website identifies who else has taken on the task to make this happen.

It will be a busy three months working with the team at Inovact, and I know that they are well briefed in this area. Many of you reading this will have already spoken with Brian and his team and had input. Being able to have your say and be involved is something that will continue, and something that I encourage. The first stop is the website, so sign up to the emailing list and stay engaged. We have an opportunity to make this project a reality, and get it right for the benefit of all our seafood businesses.

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