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'Believing in the science' reaps reward for prawn fishers

SARDI scientist, Dr Cameron Dixon, tucks into one of the first Spencer Gulf king prawns of the 2011 season at celebrations following the fishery's international certification for sustainability

Above: SARDI scientist, Dr Cameron Dixon, tucks into one of the first Spencer Gulf king prawns of the 2011 season at celebrations following the fishery's international certification for sustainability

Top chef Neil Perry has praised Spencer Gulf King Prawn fishers for “believing in the science,” at celebrations to mark the fishery achieving Marine Stewardship Council accreditation.

The fishery, the first King Prawn fishery in the world to gain the prestigious MSC certification for sustainability, works closely with SARDI scientists in using real-time management harvest strategies.

This technique, implemented by former SARDI scientist, Neil Carrick, has enabled fishers to sustainably catch larger prawns at higher catch rates than any other prawn fishery in the world. The RTM strategy is a world leading example of the benefits of industry, scientists and fishery managers working together.

Dr Cameron Dixon, who leads SARDI’s Inshore Crustaceans program, told 5AA’s Amanda Blair during one of his many interviews, that the $35m Spencer Gulf King Prawn fishery is the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the world’s sustainable prawn fisheries.

Celebrations following the SA prawn fishery's international certification for sustainability

Above: Celebrations following the SA prawn fishery's international certification for sustainability

He later told ABC’s Spence Denny that SARDI and PIRSA have been involved in the management of the fishery since its beginnings about 40 years ago.
“This accreditation is an extremely important accolade which will open new markets for this South Australian fishery,  particularly in Europe where a number of supermarkets will only sell MSC recognised food”, he said.

Prawn fishers, scientists, fishery managers and food writers gathered on the banks of the River Torrens on November 9 to celebrate the achievement and enjoy a feed of the first prawns of the season, cooked by chef Neil Perry.
The MSC certification covers the fishery represented by the Spencer Gulf and West Coast Prawn Fisherman’s Association. Its 39 vessels are responsible for catching approximately 2000 metric tonne of king prawns per year.  The catch is taken from a small area less than 15% of the Spencer Gulf, with more than 60% of the catch taken from two fishing grounds covering less than 8% of the Gulf.

Caught using otter trawling methods, Spencer Gulf king prawns are sold predominantly to markets in Australia and America, as well as, parts of South East Asia and the European Union.