Gail Richey has been awarded an AM in the General Division of the Order of Australia in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours Roll. Mrs Richey was recognised for her significant service over 30 years to the fishing and aquaculture industry, particularly in Tasmania, and to fisheries management and industry associations. Her achievements are extensive and span across many fisheries, the public sector and scientific institutions.
Mrs Richey started her career with fisheries working for the Australian Fisheries Service (now the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA)) in 1984, until she felt the pull of her primary industry background and left the Department in 1989 to start her own fisheries consultancy business, Trawline.
SETFIA has a very special connection with Mrs Richey, as she was instrumental in the association’s establishment in 1990 and served it for almost 20 years as a Director, Executive officer and Secretary. Mrs Richey explained that the aim for establishing SETFIA was to bring together, for the first time, the various operators in the south-east trawl fishery around the table to discuss and work through the major issues in the fishery and to use it as a platform to engage the government and other stakeholders. SETFIA allowed industry to express their concerns and opinions with a united voice.
Mrs Richey’ s biggest achievements during her 19-years with SETFIA include:
· An initial structural adjustment in the South-East Trawl Fishery in 1996 that addressed some of the inequities in the way in which quota had been allocated in the fishery. This was followed by a $220 million government restructure program of most Commonwealth fisheries. The proposal was prepared with input from AFMA, the environmental sector, scientists and industry and involved many hours walking the halls of parliament to get Ministerial support.
· Extensive work with politicians, researchers, industry and management during the introduction of a 388,000km2 marine protected areas estate that achieved environmental outcomes whilst at the same time reducing the impact on the fishing industry.
When asked about the biggest challenges during her time at SETFIA, Mrs Richey reflects that the move to quota-based management and the introduction of the concept of Harvest Strategies was a quantum leap in fisheries management and a huge adjustment for the fishing industry.
Going forward, Mrs Richey observes that the biggest challenges to the fishing industry will be resource sharing between the commercial, recreational and indigenous fishing sectors, and community acceptance and support of Australian fisheries science and the management decisions that it informs. Mrs Richey adds that it is important to get through to the community that some impact of fishing is unavoidable, but it has to be balanced against the availability of fresh Australian seafood for those unable to catch it themselves. The commercial and recreational sectors need to work together to achieve a balance between ever decreasing fishing grounds and increasing environmental demands driven by eNGOs. Ultimately, the viability of the commercial fishing industry might come down to whether the community wants to continue to have access to fresh Australian seafood.
In an industry that is traditionally male-dominated, Mrs Richey’s achievement is an important reminder that there are women in this industry who contribute to its success and make a difference. Her recognition is an inspiration for more women to pursue leadership roles in the sector. She states that the viewpoints of women and their political involvement in the fishing industry is very important given their livelihoods are intertwined with the viability and profitability of the Australian fishing industry.
More information on Mrs Richey’s achievements can be found here.