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Australia’s seafood industry has honoured its highest achievers at the 7th National Seafood Industry Awards, held in Port Lincoln, South Australia, last night.

More than 300 people attended the gala event, which showcased the industry’s value to the national economy, its professionalism and commitment to supplying some of the finest seafood in the world to local, national and international markets.

The awards also launched the biennial Seafood Directions Conference, from October 26 to 29, which brings together representatives from all sectors of the seafood industry to discuss the latest research, industry issues and trends.

Seafood Directions chair Jonas Woolford said the national awards provided an auspicious start to the conference. “They celebrate the positive contributions of individuals, partnerships, businesses and organisations towards a sustainable and profitable Australian seafood industry.” He says the strong field of entrants from all states was shortlisted to three in each category for final judging.

The evening’s highest honour, the National Seafood Industry Ambassador Award was presented to Western Australian rocklobster fisher John Cole, AM. Mr Cole has been a passionate advocate for the promotion and advancement of the industry for more than 50 years, including the need for better science and a coordinated approach to decisionmaking. Other finalists for this award were Tasmania’s Allen Hansen, a pioneer of the abalone industry, and Peter Dundas Smith, chair of the Australian Seafood Cooperative Research Centre and formerly executive director of the FRDC.

Australia’s leading producer of Atlantic Salmon, Tassal, took out the 2013 National Seafood Industry Large Business Award. This recognises both the company’s role as a major employer in Tasmania with 850 staff, its market leadership and commitment to maintaining internationally recognised standard of sustainable aquaculture production. Runners up were Western Australia’s premium seafood wholesaler Endeavour Foods, and the South Australian Prawn Cooperative.

The National Seafood Industry Primary Producer Award winner was Marine Produce Australia, which farms Barramundi at Cone Bay, north of Broome, in Western Australia. Runners up were Humpty Doo Barramundi, based on the Adelaide River south of Darwin, and mussel and scallop producers Spring Bay Seafoods, at Triabunna, Tasmania.

Australia Bay Seafoods claimed the National Seafood Industry Environmental Award for its efforts in reducing bycatch by 95 per cent, and adopting new technology to reduce the impact of trawling in its Northern Territory fisheries. Runners up were the Moreton Bay Seafood Association and the Victorian Bay and Inlet Fisheries Association.

Del Giorno’s Cafe Restaurant in Port Lincoln, South Australia, won the National Seafood Industry Best Restaurant Award for its efforts in combining quality seafood dining with promotion of the region’s seafood through initiatives such as seafood master classes, staff education and Seafood Lovers Weekend programs. Runners up were Hallams Waterfront Restaurant in Launceston, Tasmania, and Salt n Peppa Café Risorant in Darwin, Northern Territory.

The National Seafood Industry Award for the Best Fish and Chips went to Sweetlips, which has shops in Leederville, Fremantle and Scarborough, Western Australia, with a focus on fresh, locally harvested seafood, prepared from whole fish in-store. Runners up were the Port Cartwright Seafood Market in Queensland and the Barra Bar Seafood Café in Darwin.

The Darwin Fish Market, based at Fisherman’s Wharf, won the 2013 Small Business Award. The Australian-only seafood wholesaler and retailer has developed a range of new products and also provides education campaigns, cooking programs and tastings. Runners up were processor and export business Seafoods Tasmania, and She Sells Seafood, a fishmonger in Castlemaine, Victoria.

Austral Fisheries, based in Perth won the National Seafood Industry Promotion Award for its work with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) to achieve sustainability certification for all four of the fisheries it works in. Specific initiatives include the launch of Glacier 51 branded MSC certified Patagonian Toothfish and promotion of its MSC certified prawns. Runners up were Tasmanian rocklobster fisher Christopher Parker for his community promotion work in Hobart, and Wildcatch Fisheries SA – Complete Seafood Experience 2011 as part of the South Australian Port Festival.

The People Development Award was a joint affair, shared by Samara Miller, the Australian Southern Bluefin Tuna Industry Association and Tony’s Tuna International based in Port Lincoln, South Australia. They worked together to match staff skills in the tuna industry with nationally recognised vocational qualifications and career pathways, providing a model for other sectors of the seafood industry. Runners up were the Rural Training Initiatives, which runs the National Seafood Industry Leadership Program, and the Tasmanian Shellfish Enterprise Diploma program.

The industry’s 2013 Young Achiever was Ben Cameron, who is general manager of his family’s shellfish hatchery Cameron of Tasmania, which provides about half of the national oyster industry spate. The award recognises his leadership role working with several groups to improve oyster and shellfish related research, disease management, quality assurance and strategic planning for the seafood industry. South Australian rocklobster fisher Emily Rowe and Northern Territory teenager Elspeth Davey who lives and works on her family’s Spanish Mackerel fishing boat in the Gulf of Carpentaria were runners up.

A collaborative research project between the Australian Southern Bluefin Association and the University of Tasmania won the Research, Development and Extension Award. The project, funded by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, has helped to reduce the mortality of farmed Southern Bluefin Tuna by 13 per cent, adding an estimated $20 million to the value of the industry. Runners up were Janet Howieson, a senior researcher with the Centre of Excellence for Science, Seafood and Health, and the Tasmanian Abalone GIS Team working with the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Science and Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and the Environment.

The gala awards night also marked the launch of the National Seafood Hall of Fame with 32 previous state or national seafood ambassador awardees inducted.

For more information visit: www.seafooddirections.net.au