BACKWARDS TO THE FUTURE

1985-1993

1. A Sea Fisheries Department Again.

Just over a century after the first Department of Fisheries was established under William Saville-Kent the researchers and managers faced another change of administrative structure. History seemed to be repeating itself as the promise, if not yet the actual flesh, of Atlantic salmon seemed within the grasp of the Department. However the decision of the Liberal Government led by Robin Gray to disband the TFDA and transfer the fisheries inspectors to Tasmania Police was paradigm shift. It was a step in a different direction, the first public acknowledgment by a Tasmanian Government that nurturing existing fisheries was to take precedence over development. Since Saville-Kent's day fisheries development enticed Tasmanian Governments to spend money on fisheries and for all but twenty years of the next century the fisheries inspector was the core of the organisation. Now in the 1980s a moratorium would freeze the number of commercial fishing vessels and a review of all licensing was to begin. Notwithstanding the promotion of aquaculture, the regulation of all kinds of fishing to guarantee a sustainable future had undisputed policy primacy.

The new administrative structure was said to be in tune with this philosophy. Whilst some in the new Department welcomed the belated recognition of the need to devote more resources to management, others wanted to maintain development as the prime objective. All the staff felt that O'Kelly had undervalued their contributions and the Government's response was to confirm his judgement, although that was perhaps unintentional. A number of skilled staff left to use their developmental skills in the private sector.

The new Department began work in February 1985 with both its morale and staff resources sadly depleted. The Government appointed Marc Wilson, formerly a research officer under Trevor Dix, as Director. The new Minister, Roger Groom, justified the choice of such an inexperienced officer on two grounds. Firstly Groom decided that, irrespective of their ability, no one associated with administration or direction of the former organisation could be considered. Secondly the new Director had to have "a commercial outlook" and not be constrained with the perceived conservatism of traditional public servants. In the light of subsequent events in Wilson's career it became obvious that the latter reason was not shared by all other members of the Government and proved to be grievously in error.

Marc Wilson had come under favourable notice in the Premiers Office during the attempt to establish Fishing Enterprises of Tasmania Pty. Ltd. Ltd;. as the vehicle to channel the benefits of deep-water trawl fishery into the economy of Tasmania. He therefore began his new role with the full backing of his Minister and powerful endorsement of the Premier's Office. Wilson was immensely ambitious and determined to play a major part in commercial development of fisheries. He saw opportunities for this in the new trawl fisheries, the fishmeal plant at Triabunna and particularly in the new salmon culture industry. These opportunities clearly existed but to successfully exploit them within the constraints of the public sector probably required the dexterity and judgement of a much more experienced Director. Administrative inexperience, and a degree of impetuosity that is rarely condoned in the public service, eventually proved fatal to his career and the ultimate existence of the Department.

2. Relations with the Industry - creating TFIC

The tendency of the PFAT to disintegrate was a problem for the TFDA and Wilson's first initiative was to resolve this problem and so improve liaison with the industry. On taking up the post he had been given four 'recommendations', one of which was "to adopt a more supportive role in the resolution of (the industry's) organisational problems." The chosen strategy was to promote the trend towards specialised fishery groups and lift the professionalism of the consultation process. At the time it seemed impossible for the port based PFAT to continue in the face of vigorous independent action by the associations representing abalone divers, scallop fishermen and north-western lobster fishermen in particular. Yet the strategy was bound to deeply offend the stalwarts of the 40 year old Association. Government agreement had been obtained to generously fund the new body through a levy on all fishermen and marine farmers collected as part of the licence fee. This money was an irresistible attraction to most of the industry and, when combined with the unpopularity of the southern dominance of the PFAT, was enough to engineer the change. The displacement of the PFAT from its official position as industry representative by the Tasmanian Fishing Industry Council was just as significant a change as the transfer of enforcement to the Police.

Launceston was chosen as the venue for change and an industry wide conference was held in the Albert Hall under the chairmanship of Sir Raymond Ferrall. The Tasmanian Fishing Industry Council was formed with representatives to come from scallop, rock lobster, abalone, shark, scale fish, marine farming and processing sectors. The plan assumed that the PFAT would be replaced by the TFIC but the Association had enough support to demand, and get, a seat on the Council to represent issues of an industry wide nature not related to specific fisheries. To address the administrative and organisational weakness of the PFAT the Department convinced the Minister, and later the Cabinet, that all fishermen should be levied to finance the Council. Governments from both Parties had rejected this strategy on several earlier occasions on the grounds that it constituted 'compulsory unionism'. However on this occasion there was little debate despite the Government's vigorous public defence of the primacy of the market. To apply a levy directly would have meant an amendment to the Fisheries Act and consequently an examination of the proposal by Parliament; to avoid this the funds were raised through licence fees. The fee for a basic fisherman's licence was increased by a flat amount calculated to fund the TFIC budget; it became known as the TFIC levy'. (The money had to be transferred to TFIC by way of a grant.) The major item in the Council's budget was the cost of a full time executive officer.

The Department had established industry liaison committees some years before to discuss issues relevant to each of the fishery sectors. These sectors would now be represented by an industry organisation to be known as a commodity group, each group would have a place in the Council. In practice most of the commodity groups already existed either as "industry branches" in the PFAT - scallops, rock lobster and trawling for example, or as separate associations - eg. abalone divers, and oyster farmers. Wayne Baker, a prominent figure in both the PFAT, and earlier in the rival Master Fisherman's Association, became the inaugural chairman and was Dale Bryan appointed as a salaried executive officer. The appointment of Bryan, at the time the chairman of the Queensland fisherman's body, was a controversial choice. Many argued that the new body needed a competent administrator in this role to weld the independently minded constituents into the kind of smoothly functioning body found in Western Australia and South Australia. Others disliked a 'foreigner' with virtually no knowledge of the Sate or its fishing industry in the position. Soon after TFIC was formed a national industry-government conference was held in Canberra to consider the future relationship between industry and government. Acting on the recommendation of that meeting the Commonwealth Minister, John Kerin, reformed the national body and both Baker and Bryan were appointed to it. Thus from its inception TFIC was closely linked to the national consultative body fostered by, and identified with, the Australian Fisheries Service. Since 1970 the PFAT had treated the Commonwealth fisheries agency with considerable suspicion based on, what they saw, a continuous campaign to centralise control over fisheries. The new alliance between the TFIC leaders and Canberra was seen by PFAT stalwarts, and some others, as threatening Tasmanian interests; thus breathing life into the remnants of old Association into that most thought would quickly die.

3. Changes in Inspection

The loss of the inspectors was severe blow to the new Department. Despite the professed objective of improving the Department's liaison with industry this change stripped it of both its liaison staff and much of its intelligence gathering capacity. The desire of some inspectors for the better pay and conditions of police officers, and for others to be cloaked in the powers of police to deal with "unscrupulous fishermen" had been strongly put to Brendan O'Kelly. O'Kelly, when Chairman of the TFDA, and his successor Ron Mackay, were particularly uncomfortable when faced with any issue involving fisheries law enforcement. It was therefore easy for him to reject the strongly held views of the professional officers to retain the inspectors in the Department; particularly when he was given the encouragement of both the Minister for Police and his Commissioner. The benefit to Tasmania Police was to bolster the justification of the water police unit that needed new equipment and was being closely scrutinised by the trimmers of government expenditure. So fisheries inspection returned to the police force after a break of almost fifty years. For the officers concerned the change brought mixed results, quite a number found the police culture, and the consequent change of life style for them and their families, too much of a change. Gradually over the next few years the irreplaceable pool of experience and skill built up since 1965 was lost.

The separation of fisheries enforcement from the fisheries managers was now a feature of administration in several States. The Northern Territory had earlier transferred responsibility for fisheries enforcement to the Police, and NSW and Victoria had made inspectors responsible to regional administrative centres and not to the Director of Fisheries. The loss of contact with the industry must be, and was replaced with specialist liaison officers but loss of sensitivity in regulating fishing is irreplaceable. The cost of fisheries inspection and extension rose, without any obvious signs that a better service was provided. A longer term comparison of the results of both systems will reveal the merits of each.

After spearheading the replacement of the TFDA with the Sea Fisheries Department Roger Groom played a rather minor role in fisheries. This was a result of his very heavy workload in other portfolios rather than a lack of interest in the industry or his Department. He was replaced by a lawyer, Ray Groom, formerly a junior Minister in the Federal Government and most recently an adviser in the Premier's office during the first Gray government. Despite a distinguished reputation as a Victorian Football League player, the new Minister's style was far more cautious than that background might suggest. Wilson's growing appetite to be an entrepreneur did not sit easily with Groom's conservatism. The first sign of this unease was the unexpected announcement of a new post of Deputy Director of Fisheries and the appointment of an experienced public sector accountant to the post. In the prevailing climate of vigorous staff cuts this move might have warranted more attention from the Director than it appeared to get. Paul Crew brought to the Department extensive experience at senior levels in public sector finance and the leadership, integrity that would be expected of the commander of the Army Reserve in Tasmania. Had the former Minister recognised that it was the lack of such qualities that destroyed the TFDA and were desperately needed by its successor, then the later return to the stultifying confines of the Department of Primary Industry might have been avoided.

As the Department came into being the immediate policy issue was how to convert the potential of a salmon industry into reality without the flexibility afforded by the TFDA. Roger Groom, and later his successor, was determined that the newly created Tasmanian Development Authority should not wrest responsibility for fisheries development from the Department. Although the decision did not rest easily alongside the public justifications for ending the TFDA, it was much welcomed by the new Director. In order to develop the salmon culture industry the Government established a somewhat complex joint venture company with Noraqua, a Norwegian company, and local salmon farmers. Wilson was the Government Director and enjoyed this opportunity to participate more widely in the business world. The early days of this industry saw frenetic activity, fuelled by expectations of high profits and infected with some of dubious practices that so besmirched Australian business during this period. As the reality of the industry's future began to emerge it was agreed to restructure the original arrangements. In the process of this restructuring a crisis arose over the sale of Government shares in the venture, Wilson was accused of acting without Government approval and forced to resign. Not since William Saville-Kent almost exactly a century before had such an event befallen Tasmanian fisheries. The last Chairman of the TFDA and the first Director of the Department both forced from office in quick succession.

4. Development

The work and achievements of the Department and the development of the industry during the six years after 1984 began well. The success of the salmon industry has (see later) and the culture of various shellfish continued to expand. Despite the publicity surrounding aquaculture it was the traditional fisheries that contributed much of the growth that made the Tasmanian fishing industry one of the few star performers in the economy during the decade. The fish meal industry based on jack mackerel was reborn and this was a major contributor to a 300% in landings in the two years after 1984-5. The value of fish production exceeded dairying for the first time in 1985-6 and approached the value of livestock production during the next year.

The industry had sustained a real rate of growth far in excess of any other resource or agriculturally based industry. Between 1985-6 and the next year the increase in the value of production was 66%. By 1987-8 the annual value of production of seafood reached $100 million for the first time. The abalone and lobster fisheries were the driving force but other sectors were now growing fast. The Port of Hobart was again bustling as the new deep water trawlers found operating bases at the previously vacant quays established for the long gone export apple industry. Support industries in engineering, net making, and plastic fabrication sprang up to service trawling, aquaculture and purse seining.

A 30% increase in the value of the lobster catch in 1984-5 was very good news for the working fisherman and did much to defuse the impact of the enforced levy on fishermen. The catch for that year of 2,245 tonnes was also a record. In the following years catches declined but stabilised at between 1700 and 1900 tonnes. Continuing strong demand maintained the upward trend in prices reached $24 per kg. in the winter of 1990. The author has established that annual fishing effort in this fishery is directly proportional to average price (adjusted for inflation) paid to fishermen during the season. By 1990 half the catch was exported live, double that of just three years earlier. The traditional export product, whole cooked lobsters, now accounted for just 6% of the market. The market perception of the well being of this industry is reflected in the price paid for the right to use a licensed pot. This index remained around $4,000 throughout the 1980s in stark contrast to the situation in the abalone fishery. Due to changes in management of some fisheries by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority rock lobster fishermen gradually lost their ability to diversify into other fisheries; this further detracted from their situation.

The value of abalone entitlements began another jump in value in 1985 as the management was changed from limited entry to individual transferable quotas (ITQ). Each of the 125 divers was initially allocated 28 units and for the first year each unit authorised the holder to take 1,100 kg. The value of each quota unit was gradually reduced in the years up to 1988 but still some licence holders feared for the future of their investment and pressured the Government to make further cuts. The Government agreed and set the quota unit at 600 kg for 1989 that allowed an annual catch of just over 2000 tonnes.

The new management scheme for abalone fishing provided a better opportunity for the community to gather a reasonable share of resource rent. The one hundred and twenty-five divers were now sharing a fishery in which the gross value of landings approached $40 million. In 1985-6 their total contribution by way of licence fees was less than 1% of the total landed value of the catch, so, in 1987, licence fees were substantially increased. Despite their very substantial incomes some divers strongly resented this impost and mounted a legal challenge. A former President of the Abalone Divers Association launched an action in the High Court challenging both the new charge and the right of the Tasmanian Government to manage the fishery. As part of the action required the court to examine the basis of the Offshore Constitutional Settlement (OCS), in respect of fisheries, it was a major case for both State and Commonwealth Governments. After lengthy hearings the Full Court unanimously found in favour of the Tasmanian Government on both counts. The Court clarified the legal basis of fishing and the fishing licence in modern times and endorsed the OCS. By this action they removed the doubts that had plagued fisheries management in Australia for twenty years.

In 1990 the Government commissioned a review of the abalone licence system. The review had two principle objectives - to secure the maximum collection of resource rent and to give some certainty to those investing in the right to hold a licence. The Committee chaired by Tony Harrison and made up of high level economic and finance advisers put forward a range of options all of which would have returned a far sum to consolidated revenue. The outcome was a separation of the right to fish for abalone and the right to hold a number of quota units. The former to be held by natural persons only but the latter could be held by companies. A formal register of third party interests was established in 1992. The price of abalone continued to rise from $17 a kg in 1991 to reach $50 in 1993, and the total value of the rights to participate in the fishery had reached $700 million; an average of $5 million for each of the 125 participating divers. After establishing an expert committee to review the question of abalone resource rent the Minister Llewellyn declined the opportunity to make substantial changes. His Government decided to charge an effective royalty of $1.30 a kg. linked to a very modest escalation formula. Failure to institute a meaningful royalty in 1991 was graphically demonstrated two years later when the difference between the cost of harvesting a kg of abalone and the beach price reached $40 and the royalty had increased by only 7 cents!

In February 1985 Challenger discovered virgin stocks of deep-sea trevalla on the Cascade Plateau, east of Tasman Island, and although these grounds were on the edge of the operational range of even large vessels, very large catches were made. This was the third major discovery of this vessel although not as important as the Bass Strait scallop grounds and the orange roughy it again demonstrated her value and utility. The first season of the new jack mackerel fishery yielded 6,000 tonnes of fish. Catches fluctuated as expected reaching almost 42,000 tonnes in 1986-7 and nearly 38,000 tonnes the next year but unfavourable oceanographic conditions resulted in a catch of less than 9,000 tonnes the following year. Catches of these small pelagic species naturally rise and fall but the industry was well established by 1990.

The transformation of the Port of Hobart from an expanse of empty quays abandoned by the apple ships of the 1950s and 60s to a bustling trawling centre in the 1980s was remarkable. The lure of orange roughy and a range of other species with exotic visages produced a fleet of sophisticated new trawlers to the city. The faith of Brendan O'Kelly in trawling and the expectation of Ron Mackay that the same deep water trawl species that were fished in new Zealand lived around Tasmania finally bore fruit. The seeds sown by the TFDA in encouraging Peter Rockliff to build the Petuna Endeavour and refitting the Challenger to undertake deep water trawl surveys began to return dividends in the last half of the 1980s. Thirty-seven factories were licensed to process trawl fish in 1992. The inshore trawl fishery that O'Kelly saw as the likely major fishery continues as a small but valuable adjunct to the deep-water fishery. It provides erratic supplies of very popular species such as flounder and flathead. In 1990 the inshore trawlers and Danish seiners landed over 300 tonnes of fish.

By 1988 the Fisheries Act was almost fifty years old; it was much amended and the Sea Fisheries Regulations were complex and out dated. The management of fisheries and aquaculture practised in 1990 bore little relationship to that of pre-war years and the provisions of the statute had to be twisted and forced to accommodate new practices. A series of challenges to powers of the Minister to limit licences and allow the transfer of abalone entitlements had arisen because the Act had not been amended to clarify the powers in the 1970's. The value of entitlements to a limited licence had grown to the extent that a lawyer was appointed to the management section. An entirely new Act was urgently needed and Tony Harrison was given the task. As a result of his work a discussion paper was published in October 1990 setting out in detail the proposed objectives of a new Act, its structure, provisions and administration. Although it contained sweeping reforms including changes to the long fought over distinction between inland and sea fisheries it was readily accepted by both Government and industry. Although O'Kelly was the last in a long line to recommend that the administration of inland and sea fisheries should be amalgamated, the Minister, David Llewellyn, decided that the proposals should not go that far. The Paper proposed changes to remove the worst of the anomalies that has arisen since some ambiguous amendments in 1963, and adept enough to withstand a frenzied attack from the extremists amongst the anglers. The Minister planned to introduce a Bill to implement the proposals in early 1991.

The recommendations of the O'Kelly review forced the Department to begin with three divisions although there was virtually no staff for the Assistant Director (Development) to work with. The high reputation of the research division built up under Dix had resulted in a steady inflow of external funding absolving the Government from the real cost of research, but as a consequence much of the skilled staff was employed on a temporary basis. Within a very short time all but one of the experienced scientists had left the Taroona laboratory. Dr. Trevor Dix resigned and Colin Sumner briefly took charge of development necessitating a new research director. Dr. Simon Stanley, a Scot with experience in salmon culture, was later appointed to fill the post. Sumner soon followed Dix into the aquaculture business.

5. Research

As Brendan O'Kelly was completing his review of the TFDA the Taroona Laboratory was part way through one of its major projects. The experimental area had been converted to a quarantined salmon hatchery to receive the Atlantic Salmon eggs from NSW. Almost half the eggs were successfully reared and over the next year the practical reality of salmon culture was demonstrated with 10,000 fish in cages off Bruny Island. By mid 1985 the joint venture sea farm at Dover was underway as was a new hatchery at Wayatinah. The confidence and professionalism of the venture inspired others to invest. Interest was so great that the Government had to call a halt to applications for new farms in just two years. Salmon (and trout) farming provided income and jobs in rural areas in rearing the fish, processing and packaging, and in associated industries. The quality of the packing and marketing salmon also lifted the quality of other Tasmanian seafood. With two products Tasmanian salmon and King Island cream the State had its long sort after image for high quality food.

Since 1987 SALTAS has confined its activities to hatchery production of salmonid smolts and research and extension work for the industry. It retains a monopoly on the production of Atlantic Salmon smolt until 1995 under the terms of the Salt-Water Salmonid Culture Act of 1985. Annual production of salmon grew steadily and reached 3000 tonnes in 1991-2 but ocean trout production has stabilised at 400 tonnes. The number of active farms seems to have settled down to just over twenty and the industry concentrates on exporting its fish fresh to Japan where it attracts a premium price. The predictions of the Norwegian expert, Dr. Harald Skervold, have been borne out by the achievements of Tasmanian salmon farmers. By 1992 up to 4.3 kg of salmon per smolt was attained by some farmers and salmon grow from 80 gm to market size (3.4 - 4.5 kg) after just 12 to 15 months in sea cages. Providing worldwide marketing difficulties are solved production is projected to reach 8,000 tonnes by 1999. In 1991-2 farm gate prices were between $12 and $15 per kg. The industry provides some 350 full time jobs in coastal and rural areas where other employment opportunities are limited.

With the salmon development well established the Department embarked on two new aquaculture ventures. It formed another joint venture to study the feasibility of reseeding scallop beds. The harvesting of natural scallop resources had continued to be a highly volatile industry. After good catches between 1980 and 1984 production steadily declined and by 1991 only 26 Tasmanian vessels were fishing and these all operated in the Central Zone of Bass Strait. Scallop fishing in Tasmanian waters ceased in 1987. During the 1980s the Japanese had revolutionised the scallop industry in that country by large scale reseeding of scallop fishing grounds. The Overseas Fisheries Co-operation Foundation of Japan agreed to provide the expertise and some equipment to test the technique in Tasmania. Much like the SALTAS joint venture the scallop structure was tripartite with local participation through aquaculturists and former scallop fishermen keen to diversify. The Department established a unit to be led by John Thomson to conduct the trials and OFCF sent experts and equipment. The objective was to rehabilitate areas that were formerly fished for scallops and to smooth out some of the notorious fluctuations in supply. The trials in Oyster Bay and inside Maria Island involved considerable logistical difficulties as very large numbers of scallops were involved. Even after the early promise had faded, scallop enhancement was given every chance to succeed through the wholehearted support of David Llewellyn, when he was Minister. Although the project showed promise it failed to deliver the promises made by its proponents. The Government ended its contributions when the five-year agreement with OFCF ended in September 1992. Forty-five of Tasmania's marine farms were licensed to grow scallops and a small number continue to produce; about a tonne of scallop meat was being harvested each week in early 1992.

Oyster farming was another industry greatly assisted by the TFDA that did not fully realise its potential until the Authority had been abandoned. Much research, monitoring and management by the Department of Fisheries was required to lift production from less than 1 million dozen in 1985-6 to almost 3 million dozen in 1990-91. Mussel farming produced 200 tonnes in the same year. Over 1000 hectares of oyster farms spread amongst 93 leases contribute to the harvest. Further expansion is likely now that spat is assured through hatcheries and quality maintained through the management program.

The culture of striped trumpeter program was promoted by researchers as having similar potential to salmon farming. Courting the TDA they rashly promised quick success if additional funds were provided. But the results were also disappointing and the culture of this fish proved much more difficult than Dr Stanley had believed. Basic knowledge of the biology of the species needed painstaking research and results could not be accelerated. The failure of these projects to live up to expectations has been a great disappointment.

Although the high profile aquaculture projects attracted much attention very high quality research of great value to the industry was conducted by the Fisheries Division that was led by Kim Evans after June 1988. Evans proved to be a fine leader and he gathered and built a highly regarded team of young scientists. Howell Williams was responsible for jack mackerel, Jeremy Lyle for trawl fish, Will Zaccharin, scallops, Warwick Nash, abalone, and Robert Kennedy, rock lobster. The hallmarks of this group were their internal cohesiveness and commitment to a sustaining the fisheries near maximum levels of production. This was no easy task in the case of both scallops and jack mackerel where stocks fluctuated wildly and orange roughy that grew very slowly. Formal management plans were revised or created for all of these fisheries. Whilst primarily managed by the Commonwealth the Department played a major role in trawl fish research and stock assessment. The astute Lyle was particularly successful in marshalling the resources of the trawl fishermen in studying the stocks.

6. Management

The management philosophy of the Department of Sea Fisheries was firmly based on the principles of limited entry for the high value fisheries for abalone and rock lobster and maximising the opportunity for fishermen to participate in the other fisheries. The principle was developed over many years of fishing and owes little to modern policy makers. With the seasonal nature of the lobster-scallop-shark complex of fisheries it made good common sense to move from one to the other during the year and to stay longer in one when the season was poor in another. The practice was deeply entrenched in the culture of Tasmanian fishermen and latterly bolstered by biological and economic research. This fostering of diversified/multi method fishing continued to cause conflict with the Commonwealth and Victoria both of that were wedded to universal limited entry and specialisation for fishermen. Developing integrated management plans for important shared fisheries like lobster, Bass Strait scallops and shark is made much more difficult by this policy schism. The Commonwealth practice is to establish management advisory committees (MACs) as a forum for their officers to consult with those from the States and representatives of the industry in each State. A task force, usually preceded the establishment of a MAC, which monitors the fishery and the effectiveness of the management plan, with similar membership to develop the management plan. The task force evolved into the MAC when the Plan was adopted. Tasmania was represented on such task forces/MACs for Bass Strait scallops, shark, tuna, jack mackerel and South-East trawl during the 1980's. Considerable resources were consumed in these seemingly endless searches for an agreement that satisfied all parties. Industry representatives could not satisfy their constituencies if they were to concede to plans that restricted catches or appeared to benefit fishermen from other States. The managers held out for plans that had a real chance of reaching the stated objectives; but the managers were not unmindful of the aspirations of their own industry.

The futile search for an effective management plan for shark is an indicative example. Earlier chapters have referred to the campaign by A M Olsen of CSIRO to regulate the fishing for school shark and the impact of the discovery of high levels of mercury in its flesh. The then Department of Fisheries and Wildlife in Victoria was generously funded by FIRTA to continue the work of Olsen, especially in gummy shark. Terry Walker was cast as Olsen's successor and for more than decade he had slowly accumulated data which he believed confirmed Olsen's concerns. The Commonwealth Government accepted his conclusions and made strict regulation of the fishery a high priority. A senior officer of AFS was appointed as chairman of a task force to develop a management plan. For more than a dozen meetings at centres all over south eastern Australia the task force sought agreement. As the meetings proceeded with an ever changing cast of industry representatives it became apparent that the research findings and fishermen's observations would not coincide. Eventually the Government officers agreed to a plan at the insistence of the fishermen even though it was most unlikely to restrict catches or fishing effort. The plan introduced a two stage limited entry scheme which gave existing fishermen valuable fishing rights. The number of nets carried on some boats were reduced but hook fishing was not regulated. Fishermen invested capital in buying up rights to use more nets, fishing effort increased and catch per unit of fishing effort continued to fall. Walker and a consultative group of scientists called for more cuts and this triggered fury amongst fishermen just settling in the last management proposals. Computer models were developed to simulate the fishery and support the call for more cuts but still the controversy flourished. Late in 1991 an independent jury of scientists was appointed to review the situation; they found the school shark stocks to be in a parlous situation and in danger of "commercial extinction" within a few years. However in regard to gummy sharks they concluded that a number of regional stocks made up the fishery and some of these maybe overfished. This conclusion finally allowed the fishermen's observations and the scientific findings to coincide and perhaps lay the foundation for a meaningful management plan. The Department's management and research staff are increasingly committed to this process as the Commonwealth expanded its management activities.

The limited entry policies in place in the 1990's were the product of a gradual process of evolution and refinement covering 30 years. The complexity and sophistication demands much skill and commitment but the management of these fisheries was now as good as that found anywhere in the world. Whilst most of the world's fisheries are effectively unmanaged, some of the Tasmanian examples are models of excellence. As the century draws to a close Australia and New Zealand are gradually being recognised as the places where the practice of fisheries management has been mastered. Unfortunately for much of Europe and North America the theory and research have not been converted into practice and tragically the once great fisheries of England and maritime Canada are but a sad memory. In the third world the situation very few countries know how many men and boats are engaged in the fisheries and can but guess at the level of catches and dream of the state of the stocks.

In addition to the traditional commitment to Tasmanian fisheries abalone, rock lobster and scallops, inshore trawling, and recreational fishing were intensely studied and management plans developed. The impact of a number of exotic species, believed to have come from the ballast water of woodchip carriers, also caused concerns. The investment in aquaculture and the competition for sites also posed management problems. Ray Brown and Ian Woodward brought order and predicability to both shellfish and salmonid farming that was most welcome to the industry. Their system of regulating and monitoring growing areas gave the industry the security to support its quality image. At a time when the much larger and more venerable oyster industry in New South Wales was suffering dreadfully from its poor public health image the Tasmanians were able to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the US Food and Drug Administration allowing the importation of fresh oysters into USA. This international endorsement of shellfish health standards was granted to Tasmania alone and much envied by other States.

7. Remarried to Agriculture.

After a period of rebuilding and reform from directed by Crew and his Deputy, Tony Harrison, the Department had recovered its confidence and morale. It now had a logical structure consisting of two Divisions - Fisheries and Marine Farming supported by service units. Licensing, and statistical facilities had been substantially upgraded and a large integrated computer system was under develop to analyse and integrate licence and monitoring data. Research and management were coordinated and administrative efficiency was at an all time high. Good relations had been built with TFIC and a new joint publication, Fishing Today, was produced. The younger staff promoted to fill the vacancies grasped their opportunity and planned for the future. After the earlier problems the future again looked bright.

As the 1989 election approached the Labor spokesman for fisheries, David Llewellyn, promised to reverse the Liberal Government's changes and return the inspectors to the Department. Llewellyn was also shadow Minister for Police and planned to allow the Police to keep the staffing numbers, acquired by the transfer in 1984, when responsibility for fisheries inspection reverted to the Department. Such a strategy would satisfy both constituencies. Despite polling a record low vote Labor gained government through an uneasy alliance with five Green MPs. Without considering Llewellyn's proposal the new Government adopted macro reforms using the then standard Labor structure for public administration of eighteen departments. In the process the Sea Fisheries Department disappeared; in what seemed to the staff to be the worst of all possible outcomes fisheries administration went back into the Department of Primary Industry. Inland Fisheries were scheduled to be incorporated as well but through astute lobbying by angling groups they managed to escape. The administrative mistakes of Mackay and Wilson gave those who would preserve the positive parts of the reforms of 1977 no chance of withstanding the doctrinal reformers of the new Labor Government and fisheries and agriculture were re-married, against the wishes of both parties. Financial administrative, and 'ministerial' efficiency was the justification for the amalgamation but no savings were made, and the bureaucracy of the old Department of Agriculture put paid to any administrative progress. Communication between Minister and Department set new records for inefficiency.

In the twelve years that had elapsed since they were separated the fisheries organisation had consolidated a culture, and developed a style, diametrically different to those of Agriculture, so the "merger" was bound to be uncomfortable. The nature size and conservatism of the agriculture staff made it unrealistic to expect any significant alteration to their organisational culture, although many individuals desperately sought reform. Minister Llewellyn carefully observed the formalities of the new structure but in his administration of the fisheries portfolio he worked directly with the Sea Fisheries Division whenever possible. Whilst this preserved some much welcomed independence it created stresses at the executive level. Aquaculture research has much in common with the traditional role of the Department of Agriculture and the staff engaged in this work expected advantages to come from close integration with agriculture; Simon Stanley' worked hard to developed links with the Animal Production Division.

The industry was universally dismayed at the downgrading of fisheries administration. Morale amongst the staff of the former Department slumped and the Government's redundancy program provided an attractive opportunity for some to leave. Tony Harrison left to take up an international assignment with the University of Maryland and later joined the Fisheries Division of FAO. Paul Crew left soon afterward to become Director Fisheries in New South Wales. TFIC and the PFAT lobbied both political parties to acknowledge that the merger with agriculture had been a mistake and to restore the Department. The Independent Commission of Review of Tasmanian Public Sector Finances also decided to examine the question and ultimately found that the establishment of an Authority on the model of Queensland was desirable. Despite the change of Government neither the Commissions recommendation nor the industry's wishes bore fruit.

A study of fisheries administration in Tasmania over the past fifty years clearly demonstrates that progress demands the combination of a committed Minister and a competent public servant capable of providing technical advice and able to convert the political initiatives into real events. This productive confluence has been all too rare and promising spurts of development have spluttered out when one of a successful pair departs. Tom D'Alton and John Reynolds, aided by CSIRO made an ideal combination, when Roy Scott teamed with effective Ministers progress was again achieved. A great opportunity was lost when a potential winning combination of David Llewellyn and Paul Crew was frustrated by a thoughtless reorganisation of Departments.

The Green accord with Labor passed without influencing fisheries management or development. At times when a pro-conservation push for or against a fisheries initiative might have been expected nothing eventuated. Dr. Bates expressed interest from time to time in some management matters but did not seem to alter the course of the Labor Ministers. It was surprising that Greens did not actively support the movement to retain more of the resource rent from the abalone fishery for community use but fisheries seemed to be a peculiarly unattractive natural resource so far as the Green politicians were concerned. It has been of immense benefit to the Tasmanian fishing industry that fisheries has rarely been a battleground for party politics. The almost seamless transition from Liberal to Labor-Green control at the end of the 1980s is but another example. Almost without exceptions Ministers for Fisheries have had cordial, and often sympathetic relationships, with their predecessors.

8. Epilogue

By 1993, led by the returns from the abalone fishery, Tasmania had moved up to third amongst the States in the annual landed value of the catch, ahead of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. From a total figure of $140 million, abalone contributed more than a third. Salmon and oyster farming are major industries with an assured future and Tasmania has regained its reputation for high quality gourmet seafoods. Fisheries is relatively more important to the State than at any time this century.

The history of Tasmanian fisheries demonstrates above all that the industry needs a framework of policy certainty in which to operate. The Tasmanian public demands that the framework recognise that the fisheries resources must be used responsibly to the benefit of all and that future generations have the opportunity to enjoy the same benefits. The role of the fisherman is to fish. The role of fisheries department is to provide an understanding of the resource and the impact of fishing, to prepare management proposals and to apply management plans. It is the role of the Minister to set the management objectives and to ensure they are achieved, but above all the Minister must lead. Positive leadership within a climate of policy certainty is essential in managing the exploitation of natural resources and this should be supplied by the Minister. Through the past 150 years the industry has fulfilled its role with distinction, for long periods there was no effective fisheries organisation, but, when adequately resourced, Tasmanians have proved capable of undertaking fisheries research, managing fisheries and fostering development at least as well as anywhere in the world. A comparison of the state of Tasmanian fisheries with those around the world gives incontrovertible proof of their success. With the exception of scallops all of the commercial fish stocks are still at or near a state where they can produce maximum sustainable yields. The men and women employed in fisheries are better rewarded than at almost any other time and the supply of seafood available to Tasmanians is wider, more plentiful and of better quality than ever before.

The industry and people have also benefited from some outstanding Ministers for Fisheries and dedication and skill of many men and women who have worked to better understand the nature of the resources, to monitor and regulate fishing within sustainable bounds and to initiate and implement the laws to develop and protect the industry. These roles beckon future dedicated and talented Tasmanians.

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