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Initial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on Australian fisheries production, research organisations and assessment: shocks, responses and implications for decision support and resilience

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Ogier, E. M., Smith, D. C., Breen, S., Gardner, C., Gaughan, D. J., Gorfine, H. K., Hobday, A. J., Moltschaniwskyj, N., Murphy, R., Saunders, T., Steer, M. and Woodhams, J. (2023) Initial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on Australian fisheries production, research organisations and assessment: shocks, responses and implications for decision support and resilience. Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries, 33 (2). pp. 513-534. ISSN 1573-5184


Article Link: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11160-023-09760-z


Australia’s fisheries have experience in responding individually to specific shocks to stock levels (for example, marine heatwaves, floods) and markets (for example, global financial crisis, food safety access barriers). The COVID-19 pandemic was, however, novel in triggering a series of systemic shocks and disruptions to the activities and operating conditions for all Australia’s commercial fisheries sectors including those of the research agencies that provide the information needed for their sustainable management. While these disruptions have a single root cause—the public health impacts and containment responses to the COVID-19 pandemic—their transmission and effects have been varied. We examine both the impacts on Australian fisheries triggered by measures introduced by governments both internationally and domestically in response to the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, and the countermeasures introduced to support continuity in fisheries and aquaculture production and supply chains. Impacts on fisheries production are identified by comparing annual and monthly catch data for Australia’s commercial fisheries in 2020 with averages for the last 4–5 years. We combine this with a survey of the short-term disruption to and impacts on research organisations engaged in fisheries monitoring and assessment and the adaptive measures they deployed. The dominant impact identified was triggered by containment measures both within Australia and in export receiving countries which led to loss of export markets and domestic dine-in markets for live or fresh seafood. The most heavily impact fisheries included lobster and abalone (exported live) and specific finfishes (exported fresh or sold live domestically), which experienced short-term reductions in both production and price. At the same time, improved prices and demand for seafood sold into domestic retail channels were observed. The impacts observed were both a function of the disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the countermeasures and support programs introduced by various national and state-level governments across Australia to at least partly mitigate negative impacts on harvesting activities and supply chains. These included protecting fisheries activities from specific restrictive COVID-19 containment measures, pro-actively re-establishing freight links, supporting quota roll-overs, and introducing wage and businesses support packages. Fisheries research organisations were impacted to various degrees, largely determined by the extent to which their field monitoring activities were protected from specific restrictive COVID-19 containment measures by their state-level governments. Responses of these organisations included reducing fisheries dependent and independent data collection as required while developing strategies to continue to provide assessment services, including opportunistic innovations to harvest data from new data sources. Observed short run impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak has emphasised both the vulnerability of fisheries dependent on export markets, live or fresh markets, and long supply chains and the resilience of fisheries research programs. We suggest that further and more comprehensive analysis over a longer time period of the long-run impacts of subsequent waves of variants, extended pandemic containment measures, autonomous and planned adaptive responses would be beneficial for the development of more effective counter measures for when the next major external shock affects Australian fisheries.

Item Type:Article
Corporate Creators:Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland
Business groups:Animal Science
Subjects:Aquaculture and Fisheries
Aquaculture and Fisheries > Fisheries > Fishery resources
Aquaculture and Fisheries > Fisheries > Fishery conservation
Aquaculture and Fisheries > Fisheries > Fishery management. Fishery policy
Aquaculture and Fisheries > Fisheries > Fishery research
Live Archive:05 Jul 2023 06:00
Last Modified:05 Jul 2023 06:00

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