We always want to touch the Earth lighter today than we did yesterday. Less boats, more targeted fishing, bycatch reduction devices, turtle exclusion devices.

- Alex Kailis, MG Kailis 2019

Australia’s wild prawn fisheries have much to celebrate about their environmental performance on the global stage but it’s an endless pursuit of new technology to further improve. The industry relies on external expertise to identify where to focus its improvement efforts.

“I think the long history of research the CSIRO has been doing with prawn fisheries around Australia means that we can have difficult conversations and that’s helped improve the condition of some habitats and some species. It has required sacrifice from fishers in some cases but that is because they wanted to have long term sustainability.”
Dr Alistair Hobday
Senior Principal Research Scientist, CSIRO, 2019
“All food production has environmental costs, including greenhouse gases, nutrient release, water use, antibiotic use, soil erosion, and biodiversity loss. The biodiversity loss through capture fisheries is much lower than through crops or livestock because fisheries depend on sustainably harvesting a natural ecosystem, whereas crops and almost all livestock depend on transforming a natural ecosystem to an artificial production system with most native biodiversity lost. Capture fisheries use little freshwater, no antibiotics, and very little, if any, toxic compounds. Greenhouse gas emissions depend greatly on the kind of fishery.”
Professor Ray Hilborn
School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington, 2019

Who decides if there are enough prawns?

Australia independently assesses fish stocks under the United Nation’s Fish Stocks Implementation Agreement to establish the Sustainable Australian Fish Stock status.  Only 1% of Australia’s commercial prawn species were classified as Depleting in 2020, some small volume species were undefined. 99% of the assessed prawn species catch was classified Sustainable.

Who decides if the fishery is healthy?

The environmental performance of fisheries must meet obligations under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) and achieve the Global Seafood Sustainability Initiative standard.  Their management is regulated at state or territory level.  An assessment against the EPBC Act underpins a Wildlife Trade Operation permit that is needed by each fishery before they can export.  Each major prawn fishery currently has achieved a Wildlife Trade Operation permit.  Where there are conditions in place, fisheries are working towards resolving them through research and development programs.

Does anyone else provide extra confidence?

Global marine stewardship certification entity, Marine Stewardship Council, has assessed and certified five Australian fisheries who opted for additional sustainability credentials; Northern Prawn, Shark Bay, Exmouth, Spencer Gulf.

“We’re the first ones to put up our hand if something’s not right – needs to change and we need to do something about it.”

– Ash Lukin, Spencer Gulf fisherman, 2019

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