Fish research canned
DR Stuart Rowland is a smart man, but he can't figure out the thinking, or lack thereof, behind the former NSW Government's shrinking of aquaculture research at a time when half the world's fish consumption comes not from the ocean, but a farm.
“With wild fish stocks in decline and world population growing – farmed fishing has to grow,” said the recently retired lead scientist of the Grafton Fisheries Centre.
“Aquaculture is the fastest growing food producing industry in the world – it has been for 15 years.”
Add to that the recent promotion of the health benefits of fish and the market for farmed fish is buoyant to say the least.
Dr Rowland said the Grafton Aquaculture Research and Extension Centre was effectively shut down last year – up to eight staff now reduced to skeleton numbers, none of them on a permanent tenure.
The staff remaining, he said, did no work in production, rather wild fisheries research in the Clarence and Murray Cod work to the west.
“People are not investing in the industry now because they are not being supported by Governments,” he said.
He said the centre was a model fish farm utilised by countless farmers to establish their own commercial farms.
Dr Rowland's disappointment in the aquaculture centre's closure extended to the whole Trenayr research facility.
“In 1985 when I first came here there was a staff of 50 to 60, scientists and technicians, now there are 20 or less in total ... no cattle research gets done here anymore.
“This was a big and vibrant place in the 80s.”
Dr Rowland said he had seen seven department name changes during his career from what was originally NSW Fisheries.
“When I joined the department in 1978 I was able to establish a career, I had security of tenure, a permanent job,” he said.
“Now young scientists get grants that have a three-year duration and they are unable to develop a career path.”
Dr Rowland encouraged the re-establishment of the research station as a vital tool for farming – particularly new farming.