HEALTHY OCEANS, HEALTHY INDUSTRY
Australia’s researchers and fishers responded early to understand prawns and to investigate ways to reduce environmental impacts. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) acknowledges Australia’s wild prawn industry as a sustainability role model for the world.
To keep up with demand, the main management aim of harvest fisheries in previous decades was to maximise sustainable yields of the target species. Relatively little attention was paid to minimising the effects of fishing on the broader ecosystem. Prawn fishing worldwide is responsible for 1/3 of global bycatch – species that aren’t intended to be caught. Overfishing can also cause collapse of fish stocks.
“Up until the end of 1948 outside (of the river and bay) prawning was not carried on at all. We weren’t aware of the stocks that were available at sea. We knew the rivers were the nurseries for the younger prawns, but nobody knew that they went to sea to spawn, to complete the life cycle.”
Evans Paddon, 3rd generation prawn fisherman, Evans Head NSW
Australia’s present day prawn fishing industry is a partnership of science, industry self-regulation, management and legislation. Fisheries aim to ensure that all species, communities and habitats are not impacted in a way that compromises their long-term viability. This is in turn beneficial to prawn fishing sustainability.
Minimise Ecological Impacts
There are three main ways that Australia minimises the broader ecological impacts of prawn fishing:
A sustainable prawn fishery is evidence of a healthy environment.
Prawns are also affected by external influences disrupting the health of their growing areas. Prawn fishers are the first to notice problems. The industry is not only active in ensuring its environmental footprint is light but advocating that others also protect the oceanic environment.
“We also had a very substantial prawn fishery (in Wollongong) up until fifteen years ago (1975) and it just doesn’t exist any more now because all we can find is muck from the steelworks on the bottom in the area where that was. The steelworks was developed over the lagoon which was seen as the primary spawning site and primary habitat for the juveniles and that fishery just simply does not exist.”
Denis Brown, fisherman, NSW.
“Fisherman rely very heavily on a healthy functioning ecosystem. If the stock is low they take less fish. If the stock is high they get to take a few more fish. What we believe is that a healthy ecosystem equals a healthy fishery.”
Simon Clark, Executive Officer, Spencer Gulf and West Coast Prawn Fishing Association