Day 1

Session 2 - Global Industry Update; Chaired by Greg Finn


Wild-Catch and Processors – The Flow on Effect; Mark Webster & Tonis Focas, Abalone Association of Australasia Inc

The fortunes of the wild-catch abalone industry and its associated processing sector have been inextricably linked since the inception of the abalone fishery.  From the formative products of dried, canned and frozen abalone right up to the live abalone revolution that transformed Tasmania’s blacklip industry from around the start of the millennium. Over many years, innovation driven by processors has functioned to steadily increase beach prices and thus quota prices. 
The Abalone Association of Australasia (AAA) was founded in 1998. Membership now encompasses over 85% of the Australian and New Zealand processors and volumes processed annually. Additionally, the AAA has a solid membership of consultants and industry service providers that support processing and exporting. The AAA has for many years actively embraced the growing aquaculture industry and encourages and welcomes them as members.
This Trans-Tasman forum provides a platform for post-harvest stakeholders to collaborate on key local and international issues including trade and market access issues. The decline in wild-catch abalone volumes and the associated difficult economic conditions for many processors has made collaboration all the more important in order to do business efficiently and effectively in an increasingly complex domestic and international operating environment.
Continued innovation is the key to processor survival with significant declines in quota volumes. 

Dealing with Current & Future Global Trade & Market Access Issues; Jayne Gallagher & Alison Turnbull

Maintaining and improving access to current markets while opening up new opportunities is critical for the future viability of the Australian abalone industry. The International trade environment is complex with many multilateral and bilateral agreements influencing the level of access in the key abalone markets of China, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore.  Despite these agreements, trade disruptions can and do occur – often without warning and sometimes causing significant financial impact throughout the supply chain.  It is important therefore to understand the risks and to engage effectively with government officials and ministers to ensure that markets remain open and that any future trade agreements benefit the abalone industry.  Equally important is having the capacity to quickly deal with disruptions and changes.  On the food safety side this is particularly important – it takes a significant investment to build a market but it can disappear overnight if your product is responsible for a trade breach, or causing a foodborne illness/outbreak.
Abalone Council Australia invests, in partnership with the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, in SafeFish and the Seafood Trade Advisory Group to manage technical and non-technical trade and market access issues.  
This presentation will detail what Safefish and Seafood Trade Advisory Group do, who is involved, how priorities are set, what the current priority trade and market issues are and what is being done to try to resolve them, what is planned or the future and how to get involved.  Using sulphites in canned abalone as a case study we will describe how SafeFish and the STAG can, and will, work together through the Fight Food Waste CRC to try to resolve this significant abalone market access issue for China

Describing the NZ Industry/ NZ Government approach that we took when looking and talking to the Chinese and Japanese models of aquaculture and enhancement of abalone stocks; Mark Geytenbeek, Fisheries NZ

A presentation based on an Industry and Government fact finding tour of China and Japan. Illustrating the Chinese model of high intensity farms contrasting this to the Japanese model of enhancement of wild fisheries (Federal Government run hatcheries etc. and the Regional fisheries co-ops/ families who use local control and harvest control rules).

Based on what we observed in Japan and commenting on the potential of Japanese in-bound International Tourism model that is show casing the traditional abalone Ama divers. Using the example of the provincial Mie Prefecture Government who are developing an Ama destination through their Tourism Development board. Inviting discussion on aspects of this model and its potential relevance to New Zealand and Tasmania.... especially in respect to the growing Asian in-bound Tourism market.


Session 3 - Resource Productivity; Chaired by Kane Williams


Habitat Loss: Aftermath of the Kaikoura Earthquake; Dr Tom McCowan, Science Officer PIC NZ

At 12:02am on the 14th of November 2016 a 7.8Mw earthquake struck near Kaikoura, causing coastal uplift of up to 5m along a 100km stretch of coastline. One of the most obvious impacts of the uplift was the huge paua mortality, and the massive loss of critical paua habitat along vast stretches of the coastline. Initial estimates were that 21% of previously fished areas were lost with the uplift. The immediate management response was the emergency closure of the paua fishery in affected areas.  The paua fishery in the closed area spans two paua quota management areas, accounting for approximately 16% of the catch in PAU7 (Marlborough) and 50% from PAU3 (Kaikoura). These catch reductions have since been formalised by a TACC reduction in PAU3 of 50% and ongoing shelving in PAU7 of 12%. 
Over the past two years we have conducted dive surveys in the affected area to monitor the abundance of spawning biomass and emergent paua. This work is complimented by intertidal surveys conducted by the University of Canterbury monitoring juvenile abundance and ‘post-earthquake’ recruits. To date we have observed notable variation in paua abundance and individual population recovery along the coastline. This is attributable to the extent of coastal uplift, the prior status of the fishery, and ongoing environmental changes. These early findings, supported by ongoing monitoring, will help inform decisions about when and at what level paua fishing may resume, and the management scales that should be implemented. We are currently developing a ‘Fisheries Plan’ that outlines a strategy for how the fishery could be re-opened and managed. After finalisation and discussion with all stakeholders, we hope this will form the basis for a re-opening plan in the near future.

Rebuilding the Western Zone Victorian Abalone Fishery Following 90% Disease Mortality; Craig Fox, Dr Keith Sainsbury, Kate Simpson & Mark Asplin

In June 2006 the Victorian Western Zone abalone fishery was devastated by the AVG virus. Up to 90% of the stocks were killed on individual reefs and the fishery went from a 280-tonne fishery to zero. In the years following the virus most of the productive areas of Western Zone remained closed to fishing. Thirteen years later, the Western Zone abalone fishery is in recovery, with breeding populations re-established, the quotas climbing, and in 2016 the stock status of Black lip abalone was declared sustainable in the Status of Australian Fish Stocks Report. Furthermore, in 2019 the fishery is moving into self-management. In this presentation, we present the perspectives of a diver and licence owner, an abalone scientist, and an abalone fisheries manager who have all been deeply involved in the recovery process. We will discuss what was done, both before and after the virus, and how decisive actions, the use of new technologies, research, and perhaps most importantly, constructive collaborations have contributed to one of the only documented restorations of a wild abalone fishery after collapse.


Overview of the World's Wild Harvest Abalone Fisheries and their Utilisation of Stock Enhancement; Jonas Woolford, Nuffield Scholar

The worlds wild harvest abalone fisheries have experienced major decline since the production peaks of the ~1960’s for a whole range of reasons. While aquaculture production has grown rapidly with major advances made in knowledge, transitioning this knowledge to recover wild abalone populations is yet to occur. 
Jonas Woolford an abalone diver of 20 years from the western zone of South Australia achieved a Nuffield Scholarship in 2017 that enabled him to travel to the world’s major wild harvest abalone countries and explore firsthand the management and governance of the fisheries, their history, the issues and the planned future for these fisheries. He had a particular focus on abalone stock enhancement.
The scholarship saw Jonas travel to New Zealand, Japan, USA - California, Mexico - Baja California and South Africa. He also questioned importers of abalone in Hong Kong to learn their perspectives on reseeded abalone in the market place and visited Florida in the USA to learn from Professors about the fundamentals of fisheries stock enhancement.         

Abalone Stock Enhancement, a Farmers Perspective; Nick Savva, AAGA

The goal is to use farm raised juveniles to create self-sustaining wild stocks for harvest.

  • Requires:
    • husbandry methods that:
      • are bio-secure
      • reduce the chance of rapid domestication
      • maximise genetic diversity & genetic compatibility
      • are cost effective
    • disease surveillance
    • research to determine specific locations where stock enhancement has the greatest potential to succeed (careful site selection)
    • effective release mechanisms/modules
    • means to determine measurable increases in stock commensurate with effort
    • business models to deal with ownership and commercialisation
    • willing cooperation between regulators, farmers & fishers
    • effective policies
  • Benefits:
    • Farmers: additional sales opportunities.
    • Fishers, Processors, Recreational fishers, Community, State: a sustainable and productive abalone fishery.


Session 4 - Human Dimensions; Chaired by John Smythe


Head Down | Bum Up, Personal History - Early Days of Abalone Diving in Mallacoota Australia; Fred Ledwell & Heidi Ledwell

Fred and Heidi Ledwell will present their book, ‘Head Down | Bum Up’, documenting the birth of the abalone industry in south east Victoria.
Their book lays out the story from the early 1960’s when a Chinese businessman recruited a group of young watermen to go to a place that was unknown, to dive for a shellfish they knew little of.
Head Down | Bum up tells the story of how the industry was developed, managed and saved for future generations.


Early Days of Paua Diving in New Zealand and How Times Have Changed; Storm Stanley, PIC NZ

With a toxic new political and operating environment and a Government push to high detail, real time Electronic Catch Reporting and Geospatial Reporting of vessels, many divers reckon the New Zealand abalone diving game is just no fun any more. This snapshot look at the Kiwi abalone fishery 30 years ago compared to now lets you make your own mind up. An introduction to a couple of our more famous characters, now all approaching pension years, and an account of what the scene looks like now. And what path we intend to take from here on.


Day 2

Session 5 - Resource Assessment; Chaired by Kaz Bartaska


Optimising CPUE for assessing fishery trends: accounting for environmental influences; Dr Craig Mundy, IMAS

Use of commercial fishing catch rate as a performance indicator is frequently criticised, and concerns over its use have been raised at times by all stakeholders (industry, researchers, managers). However, the problem is less about CPUE as an informative indicator but the way it is used, what is assumed to be an indicator of, and the spatial and temporal scale over which the data are aggregated. Commercial fishing catch rate data remain the most cost-efficient indicator available, including when captured using GPS and depth data loggers. 
Statistical standardisation of CPUE offers a mechanism to account for known influences on CPUE, or demonstrate that factors thought to be influencers of CPUE are less important than might be imagined. Here I use atypical environmental conditions (temperature, swell) along with location and diver experience in CPUE standardisation to explore assumptions of level of influence by these factors on CPUE trends.


Paua Data Logging and the Transition into the Era of Digital Monitoring & Reporting; Jeremy Cooper, PIC NZ

For the last 11 years the paua industry has been developing and building on its data logger programme. We are just about to roll out the third generation of our data logger platform. These new units have the capacity to meet the regulatory requirements of digital monitoring and reporting plus the additional industry data collection programme. Automation of the recording and uploading is the key, and todays units have been a massive step up from those units we have been using in the past. This presentation will cover the units and systems that have had to be developed plus it will be a lead into Dr Phil Neubauer’s presentation around using this data to automatically populate our Harvest Control Rules and industry Dashboards. 

Accommodating demographic variability in New Zealand pāua stock assessments: from single to multi-area assessments; Philipp Neubauer, Dragonfly Data Science NZ

Stock assessments for abalone have been consistently criticised for not adequately capturing spatial demographic variability that characterises most larger-scale abalone stocks. In New Zealand, fisheries for blackfoot abalone (pāua; Haliotis iris) are currently assessed using a single area stock-assessment model over management areas spanning 100s of kilometres. I will show recent work that aims to more adequately reflect demographic variability in length-based assessment model, starting with a new growth formulation based on bio-energetics of growth that provides a way to incorporate more realistic representations of demographic variability, and provides a basis for exploring effects of climate on abalone stocks. I will then show some key developments that enabled us to develop a spatial version of the assessment model that can simultaneously estimate population trends for sub-areas within larger quota management areas. The spatial model will make it possible to assess sustainability on smaller scales than current large-scale management areas, and will provide a basis for simulation-testing spatial management approaches.


Session 6 - Resource Productivity, continued; Chaired by Craig Fox


Metabolism & Gas Exchange - How Paua Cope with a Changing Marine Environment; Dr Norman Ragg, Cawthron Institute

While all ocean regions are experiencing progressive warming and acidification, local processes appear to be driving more rapid warming along coastlines that support key abalone fisheries. These areas include the entire New Zealand coastline, eastern and southern Australia, South Africa, the English Channel and Baja California. During this presentation we will examine the effects of these changes upon the physiological functioning of the abalone. As temperatures rise above the abalone’s physiological optimum, basal metabolic rate increases, progressively reducing the surplus energy (aerobic scope) available to support activity, feeding, reproduction and immune system maintenance. The abalone’s gills are relatively efficient, supporting oxygen uptake even as dissolved gas levels decrease in warmer water. However, warming in temperate seas tends to occur in conjunction with periods of reduce water movement and may also impact the productivity of key dietary seaweeds. Coastal warming can therefore be indirectly associated with reduced growth and diminished stress tolerance. Reports of substantial mortality do not appear to be associated with heating alone, but require additional compounding stressors, including reduced water movement, sexual maturation, food limitation or the presence of pathogens (e.g. Vibrio bacteria). Potential options for proactive fishery management to support future productivity will be discussed, including mitigation of local stressors (e.g. pollutants and sedimentation), introduction of resilient stock and habitat restoration.


Reseeding & Translocation: A Genetic Perspective; Dr Adam Miller, Deakin University

Stock augmentation activities, such as translocations and reseeding, have been used in various fisheries for catalysing the recovery of depleted fishing stocks and establishing new stocks. However, careful genetic management is needed in order to maximise stocking success and preserve the genetic integrity of wild fishing stocks. I will provide a genetic perspective on factors that should be considered when undertaking wild translocations and reseeding programs, and draw on case studies from around the world to demonstrate how poorly managed augmentation programs can compromise both investment and the health of wild populations. I will discuss the importance of considering the natural recruitment potential of stocks earmarked for augmentation, habitat condition prior to augmentation, and genetic matching of source and recipient stocks. With regard to reseeding activities, I will discuss the risks of rapid domestication in farmed animals, how this can lead to reduced fitness and maladaptation to wild conditions, and potential deleterious effects of ‘swamping’ wild fishing stocks with farmed animals of this nature. I will discuss the importance of considering husbandry methods that reduce the risks of rapid domestication, paying careful attention to genetic mixing strategies, and selecting genetically optimal broodstock for augmentation activities at local and regional scales.


Fishery-Scale Reinvestment - The Road to Industry Self-Determination Through Fixing the Long-Spined Sea-Urchin Problem; Darvin Hansen, GM Tasmanian Seafoods

Since the 1990s, the Tasmanian abalone industry has faced the problem of Centrostephanus sea urchins gradually causing devastation on abalone reef systems along the majority of the East Coast. These long-spined sea urchins eventually form barrens unsuitable for abalone (and other reef inhabitants such as rock lobster). Almost 1/6 of Tasmania’s abalone historically came from that region, which would be worth ~1/5 of the overall fishery value. The labour intensive, low recovery, unforgiving nature of the urchin processing business meant that the abalone industry would need to fund a “fishery scale” solution to solve this problem.
The foundational elements of this solution already existed in the form of the relationship that the Tasmanian Abalone Council Limited (TACL) has nurtured over a long time with the Tasmanian Government. The degree of trust and cooperation that was established over at least two decades between the TACL and Government has culminated in the establishment of two successful industry development initiatives - the Abalone Over-catch Trust Fund (AOCTF) and the Abalone Industry Development Fund (AIDF), both of which have now been in been in place for close to a decade. The prudent and productive management of these industry development funds demonstrated to TACL members and the Government that industry could drive useful research and other industry projects for its benefit. Dean Lisson was at the heart of putting all these pieces into place over several decades, and he will tell that part of the story.
The Centrostephanus problem has been an irritation to the abalone industry for a long time, but it seemed to be solvable. The reef flora had been shown to grow back after the Centrostephanus was removed. And it seemed that if it was possible to overfish abalone, why not apply a similar approach to Centrostephanus? All that was missing was the money to do it. However, it would take a sea change of thinking on behalf of quota holders – that the industry could start to act like a corporation, to take a significant percentage of its profit to reinvest in maintenance, research, or profit/volume increasing activities. The success of salmon and other aquaculture industries in Tasmania challenged the wild abalone sector to see itself as potentially more than just a fishery. These events led Darvin Hansen to propose a motion at the 2017 TACL Annual General Meeting to create a third abalone investment fund - the Abalone Industry Reinvestment Fund (AIRF) worth up to 2% of the landed value of Tasmania’s wild abalone. This is the story of an opportunity seized and hopefully a key step in the industry’s journey towards self-determination, allowing it to proactively tackle problems and find solutions into the future. Taken together, the two talks may spark some ideas for building developmental capacity within your own fishery.

Session 7 - Industry Innovators; Chaired by Nathan Adams


The Decline of the South African Wild Abalone Fishery, the Expansion of Farmed Production, and the Future of Abalone Ranching; Rowan Yearsley, AQUNION Company, South Africa

South African abalone is highly regarded in Asian markets. Unfortunately, since the 1990’s the vast majority of wild abalone has been illegally harvested. This has pushed catches to unsustainable levels, and as a result the legal quota has declined to its current level of 96 tpa. In response to this dynamic, and to strong demand from the East, a farming industry began in the mid-1990’s and has steadily expanded to a current production of roughly 1850 tpa. Most of the larger farming companies are in an expansion phase and the supply from this sector is forecast to grow over the next 5 years. At the same time there is growing interest in abalone ranching, in which juvenile farm-reared abalone are seeded into the natural environment, and managed to harvest, by companies which have a Right to pursue this business model along stretches of the coastline. A few farming companies have chosen to diversify into ranching, with various levels of commitment. 
The decline of the wild fishery, rise of farmed production and diversification into ranching will be discussed from the experience of Aqunion, a company with a history, and with operations, in all three sectors. The discussion will focus on opportunities and challenges and some forecasts will be made for the future.  

Ocean Grown Abalone Limited - Commercial Sea Ranching of Greenlip Abalone in Western Australia; Brad Adams, CEO OGA

Ocean Grown Abalone Limited has successfully developed an ocean ranching model, currently being used in Western Australia. This session will explore the reasons for the model's success in relation to location, the current production of the operation, future plans and why Western Australia is able to maintain a successful abalone ranching business in comparison to other states that currently don't allow. The session will also outline where there is potential for cooperation between Wild Industry, Ranching and Aquaculture. 


Session 8 - Profiling Abalone Consumers - Current & Future Trends; Chaired by Kerry Rowe

The Dynamic Chinese Consumer: Staying Truly Relevant and Resonant; Alex Hefel, Marketing Manager, China Skinny

The talk looks to provide insights into perceptions of Australia and New Zealand among Chinese consumers with a focus towards the seafood category and how the country of origin can be leveraged to win over consumer’s trust. Further, a breakdown of Chinese consumer research and purchase behaviour along with critical consumer trends affecting the Abalone and Paua market will be discussed and how this is going to shape the market over the coming years. The talk further looks to provide an overview of China’s digital landscape and how consumers interact with brands.


The Abalone Consumer Profile in Greater China; A Unique Perspective from Senior Trade Commissioner for Hong Kong & Macau, Sam Guthrie;     Sam Guthrie, Deputy Consul-General (Commercial) and Senior Trade Commissioner, Hong Kong and Macau

Sam will provide insight from his unique position as Senior Trade Commissioner in Hong Kong.  He will discuss the consumer consumption trends and drivers in retail and food services that he is witnessing in Greater China as he works with a variety of Australian exporters and local agents, distributors and retailers.   He will discuss increasing consumer interest in brand narratives that speak to trust and provenance, the importance of eco-labelling, innovation across the supply chain and the impacts of bilateral and multilateral trade relationships on the present and future of the abalone consumer.