Deloitte Access Economics (DAE) has been engaged by the Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) to assess the economic value of the recreational Southern Bluefin Tuna (SBT) fishery in Portland. The valuation methodology is a travel cost approach supplemented by contingent valuation.

1.1 Background

The Southern Bluefin Tuna (SBT) fishery extends along the entire southern coastline of Australia, as it is a highly migratory species (see Figure 1.1). SBT is currently overfished globally. It was listed as conservation dependent in Australia in 2010 and is protected through the Environment Protection and Conservation (EPBC) Act. In recent years the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT) has been working on a management strategy to guide the setting of global quotas and to pursue stock rebuilding. The global Total Allowable Catch (TAC) was reduced in 2012 to reflect the vulnerable nature of wild stocks.

The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) has introduced Individual Transferable Quotas for this purpose. The commercial catch limit has been set at 4,528 tonnes in the 2012 season (AFMA, 2012). Australia has the highest SBT catch limit internationally and – due to high prices – the industry remains a significant contributor to the national economy, particularly the local economy around Port Lincoln, South Australia where almost all (around 99%) of Australia's commercial SBT fishery is based.

Figure 1.1: Australian SBT fishing areas"This map shows the Australian SBT fishing area. A border around Australia indicating the limit of Australian Fishing zone. From western australia, young fish move away from spawning grounds and indication of some young fish may move westwards at the border of western australia. "

Source: Australian Fisheries Management Authority (2010)

The Australian SBT fishery is not only important commercially, SBT fishing is also very popular amongst recreational fishermen. SBT may be taken for recreational fishing purposes under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and the Fisheries Regulations 2009. Unlike in the case of the commercial SBT fishery, there is no formal allocation of SBT quota to the recreational fishery, although individual angler catches are restricted by State fisheries regulations, which are managed by the State on behalf of the Commonwealth.

The SBT fishery provides for a host of different economic benefits. Yet, the competing interests over those economic benefits pose several management challenges. Most obviously, the species supports a sizeable commercial fishery. Although it was listed as conservation dependent in Australia in 2010 and the global TAC limit was reduced correspondingly, the industry remains a significant contributor to the national economy. This contribution is well known and readily observable from market data. In 2009-10, the real gross value of production of the SBT fishery was estimated to be $38 million and to generate a farm gate value of $102.2 million after ranching (ABARES, 2011).

Aside from data on the commercial value of the SBT fishery, there are a number of studies on recreational fishing in Victoria (a brief summary is provided in Appendix A). A recent study by DPI (2012) estimates that the number of SBT caught and retained in Victoria (including the fisheries in Apollo Bay, Warrnambool, Port Fairy and Portland) between March and July 2011, which covers the full SBT season, was 21,198. A further 6,930 SBT were caught and released. The estimated total weight of SBT harvested by recreational anglers in Victoria was 240 tonnes, which is equivalent to 6% of Australia's commercial catch allocation of SBT.

However, there is no formal valuation of the SBT recreational fishery, in terms of its value as well as social and economic importance to the regional community. Ezzy et al. (2012) undertook a study on the recreational value of SBT fishing, but the study focused solely on private anglers. While the economic value of the recreational SBT fishery is less readily observed than the economic value of the commercial SBT fishery, it is nonetheless significant. This is particularly so at a regional level where the migratory fish come close to shore and where infrastructure is in place to support the recreational fishery. One such place is the region around Portland, in South West Victoria. Portland is particularly popular among anglers because boats have to travel a significantly shorter distance to get to the continental shelf than other nearby locations like Warrnambool or Port Fairy. According to DPI (2012), Portland accounts for the vast majority of the recreational SBT catch (89%).

1.2 Aim of the study

This assessment of the value of the recreational SBT fishery contributes to providing evidence on current levels of recreational fishing for SBT, its contribution to the regional economy as well as informing planning authorities on potential infrastructure requirements to further support this activity.

This study fills a void in the knowledge about the value of the SBT fishery as a recreational asset. The reduction of the TAC limits from 2012 and the work done by the CCSBT makes this a timely study that has multiple management and policy benefits. This economic contribution study provides members of the Project Steering Committee (including DEPI),the Victorian Government, Glenelg Shire Council and fishing businesses with a sound evidence base to inform future planning, infrastructure and investment decisions. The study also provides useful information to support the DEPI's discussions with the Commonwealth around management arrangements and conservation status of SBT and as in input into future deliberations that aim to balance competing interests such as commercial fishing/export income and recreational fishing related economic activity, including tourism in regional Victoria.

1.3 Approach

In order to assess the value of the recreational SBT fishery, DAE:

  • reviewed relevant data and studies in relation to recreational fishing in Victoria in general and the SBT fishery in Portland in particular;
  • reviewed possible valuation techniques and determined the most appropriate approach in the context of the recreational SBT fishery (consisting of travel cost approach and contingent valuation);
  • designed two questionnaires, one for recreational anglers and one for charter boat operators, and undertook a fieldwork survey to obtain the information required for the travel cost approach and contingent valuation;
  • assessed the direct value of the recreational SBT fishery in Portland using the survey information supplemented by additional data collected; and
  • provided input into DEPI's economic contribution study, which modelled the flow-on impacts of the recreational SBT fishery in Portland.

1.4 Outline of the report

The remainder of the report is structured as follows:

  • Chapter 2 provides an overview of the approach used to assess the value of the recreational SBT fishery in Portland, including choice of valuation technique and survey design;
  • Chapters 3 discusses the responses to the survey of recreational anglers and charter boat operators;
  • Chapter 4 provides an assessment of the direct value of the recreational SBT fishery in Portland for 2012 and discusses the risks and issues affecting the results; and
  • Chapter 5 concludes and discusses areas for further research.

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