Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Are fisheries important?

World Fisheries Day (21 November) is celebrated throughout the world by fishing communities. Dr Chris Barlow, Fisheries Research Program Manager with the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), provides a few fisheries facts about Australia and nearby countries. Images in this post were extracted from ACIAR's Fisheries Program project profiles 2012 summary.

Fisheries is one program of work within ACIAR. Why fisheries? After all, when most of us in Australia think of fisheries, we think of recreational fishersthose brave souls who spend countless hours by the sea, rivers and lakes, catching (but most often not catchingat least that is my experience) fish.
A big Bass caught in Papua New Guinea
Sure, we have some commercial fisheries too, but their economic importance in Australia is much less than livestock and cropping. 

Fish trading in Cambodia
So why a Fisheries Program within ACIAR?
Two reasons.  Firstly, because fish and fisheries are enormously important as food and a source of livelihood for many millions of people in our neighbouring countries. In many cases fisheries are relatively more important than agriculture is in Australia. Secondly, because Australia has world-class expertise in research and management of capture fisheries and aquaculture (fish farming), which we can use overseas to directly benefit both developing countries and Australia.

Let's have a look at a few facts about fisheries in Australia and a couple of selected nearby regions or countries.

  • Fisheries production from capture fisheries and aquaculture in Australia is around 240,000 tonnes per annum. 
  • Our catch of fish from the oceans is about 165,000 tonnes per annum. On a global scale, we rank only 52nd in the world (despite the fact that we have the third-largest exclusive economic zone in the world).
  • Total value is about $2,200 million per year, of which about 60% (about $1,300 million) is from capture fisheries and 40% from aquaculture. 
  • By way of comparison, the beef cattle industry, which is our largest single agricultural commodity, produced around 2.1 million tonnes in 2010, valued at $7,300 million. 
  • Fishing and aquaculture industries in Australia employ about 16,000 people.
  • Australians eat about 15 kg of fish/person/year (and about 33 kg of beef/person/year).
  • Australians spend about $2,200 million per year on recreational fishing.
  • On a national scale, fisheries comprise a comparatively small part of the large and diverse Australian economyonly 0.17% of Gross Domestic Production (GDP).  The most recent gross value of farm productionall commoditiesin Australia was about $50,000 million (3.8% of GDP).
Dr Brett Glencross examines a barramundi
Western and central Pacific Ocean countries:
  • Fish is extremely important for food security for Pacific peoplesfish provide 5090% of animal protein consumed in the various Pacific countries, and national fish consumption is 34 times the global average of 17 kg per person a year.
  • Nearly 50% of households in coastal communities derive their first or second incomes from fishing activities. 
  • The amount of tuna caught each year in the western and central Pacific is about 2.5 million tonnes (that is more than the beef cattle production in Australia), valued at $4,200 million.
  • In Papua New Guinea, the tuna catch is 478,000 tonnes, valued at $478 million.  The tuna catch is about 1.53.0% of GDP. 
  • In the Solomon Islands, the tuna catch is about 56,000 tonnes, worth $88 million, which in 2007 was 3% of GDP.
  • In a small atoll nation such as the Marshall Islands, where there are limited opportunities for other economic activities, the tuna industry was 21% of GDP in 2007. 
Developing inland aquaculture in the Solomon Islands
Lower Mekong countries:
  • The river fishery in the lower Mekong (in Lao PDR, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam) produces around 2 million tonnes of fish per year (about 1011 times greater than Australia's total fisheries and aquaculture production).  It is about 2% of the total world marine and freshwater catch. 
  • First sale value is $2,0004,000 million per year. 
  • Fish provide 5080% of the animal protein consumed in the Mekong region of these countries.
  •  Consumption ranges from 29 kg/person/year in Lao PDR to 37 kg per person a year in Cambodia. 
A Cambodian fisherman (photograph courtesy of Adelia Ribier)
How does Australian fisheries expertise contribute overseas?
As previously mentioned, Australia has world-class expertise in research and management of fisheries and aquaculture.  Such expertise resides within CSIRO, Universities and government research agencies.  In addition, we have many private companies with excellent technical skills and business acumen in all aspects of fisheries and aquaculture.

As part of Australia's overseas development assistance program, we use the skills of these people and institutions to conduct research with partner agencies in nearby countries, with the ultimate aims of improving fisheries and aquaculture for better livelihoods and poverty reduction. We work in marine and freshwater fisheries and all forms of aquaculture. In all of this work, there are direct and indirect benefits to Australia, such as increased knowledge and skills of our scientists, market intelligence, new techniques and opportunities identified.

Oyster cultivation in Vietnam
Author: Dr Chris Barlow, Fisheries Research Program Manager, ACIAR

Further information

A full description of current projects, plus some great photos, can be found in ACIAR's Fisheries Program project profiles 2012 summary.

Watch a 10-minute video on sea cucumber processing in the Pacific


  1. Interesting to see how Australian tonnage data compares.

  2. Thanks for publishing about the post Fishing Lake. Very good article and Simple but I have enjoyed this post. Thanks admin for for sharing this info.

  3. Loved the photo of Dr Brett with the fish!


Thanks for taking the time to comment!

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.