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Learning from the COVID-19 pandemic to future-proof Australia's seafood industry

Understanding how COVID-19 affected Australia's seafood industry and using this knowledge to prepare the sector for future shocks is the focus of a new IMAS report released today.

Funded by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC), the study found that the overall impacts of COVID-19 have been asymmetric, with sectors supplying domestic retail markets mostly able to prosper, while producers selling into export markets and the domestic dine-in food service sector were often brought to their knees.

IMAS University of Tasmania Research Fellow and study leader, Dr Emily Ogier, said the research focused on the short-term impacts on the Australian seafood industry during the early stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, from January to June 2020.

“Our research specifically looked at the impacts of the pandemic, rather than any trade barrier affects that may have arisen during that time – and we examined those impacts at a sector level, rather than at an individual business level,” Dr Ogier said.

“The industry at large showed resilience, with sectors able to quickly adapt doing better. This highlighted the need for continuity planning, including paying greater attention to supply chain risks, and fostering relationships and capabilities to enable rapid reorientation in products and markets.”

The report aimed to gain a broad understanding of the immediate economic impacts to the industry from the early phases of the COVID-19 pandemic, and provides valuable insights that will help the industry tackle future shocks. It found that government support measures assisted the seafood industry withstand some of the negative impacts on profitability and business continuity.

“The pandemic impacted the seafood industry both directly and indirectly, and resultant disruptions were often amplified by other factors, such as bushfire or disease recovery and stock conditions,” Dr Ogier said.

The report provides valuable insights that will help the industry tackle future shocks. It aims to gain a broad understanding of the immediate economic impacts to the industry from the early phases of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The pandemic impacted the seafood industry both directly and indirectly, and resultant disruptions were often amplified by other factors, such as bushfire or disease recovery and stock conditions,” Dr Ogier said.

“The report provides valuable clues as to the vulnerabilities of Australia’s seafood industries to global shocks that affect our seafood industry’s markets and supply chains in different ways – and these clues will assist to build a more resilient industry.”

The FRDC’s Managing Director Dr Patrick Hone said that, while not comprehensively surveying all sectors within the industry, this initial study represents an important first step to future-proofing.

“As the industry moves forward, it is important to ask what was learned from this past year. What were the surprises and what can be done differently in the future?” Dr Hone said.

“The cost of being under-prepared is too great. The lesson from the previous SARS Asian Pandemic was that these questions were not asked and the data to improve future outcomes was not collected.

“For the FRDC, this report will provide a reference point for further impact analysis to help us identify future research needed to improve early warning systems and diagnostic capacity of our seafood industry, should future shocks or disruptions occur.”

Read the report: Impact of COVID-19 on the Australian Seafood Industry January-June 2020


If you work in the seafood industry and the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting your mental health, Seafood Industry Australia is running ‘Stay Afloat’, a mental health support program specifically created for the seafood industry.

Images: The COVID-19 crisis triggered huge changes, damage and opportunities in Tasmania’s fisheries and aquaculture sector (photos supplied by Emily Ogier)

Published 4 March 2021

Authorised by the Executive Director, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies
March 17, 2021