The number of Australians fishing the oceans has fallen from around 9 million a decade ago to around 4.2 million today, a decline of 1.5 million in just a decade.
That’s a big deal for the nation’s seafood industry.
The Australian Fisheries Management Authority estimates that in 2020 there will be 1.7 million Australians employed in the seafood industry, down from 2.2 people in 2011.
But the number of anglers has been declining as well, with an estimated 790,000 fewer people fishing the waters in 2020 than in 2011, according to the Fisheries Management Agency.
“There’s been a lot of changes in the fishery,” said Gary Anderson, the chief executive of the Fishermen’s Union of Australia.
“We’re now in a position where we are a bit of a catch-and-release fishery.”
What’s behind the decline?
A combination of factors has led to the industry’s decline.
A decade ago, the Australian Seafood Industry Association (ASIA) was a major player in the Australian fisheries.
It provided the industry with its own commercial quotas and was responsible for monitoring and regulating the industry.
But in recent years, ASIA has come under scrutiny for its involvement in the sale of seafood.
In 2014, ASIAA was fined $11 million for breaching the Australian Government’s Seafood Prohibition Act.
In the same year, a former ASIADA president was found to have illegally influenced the conduct of an independent review into the industry, and was fined a further $20 million.
The regulator has also had to take action against some of the largest fish companies in the world, including the United States’ Tyson Foods, which owns the majority of Australia’s salmon stocks.
“It’s hard to say exactly why it’s taken so long to recover,” Mr Anderson said.
“Maybe the major thing is there are just a lot fewer people who want to work in this industry.”
There’s also been a decline in the number and sophistication of fishing methods.
“The number of species that are commercially available, especially fish stocks, is now declining, so we’ve been seeing a decrease in the size of fish stocks,” Mr Morrison said.