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Publication No.VBP 2846.
The term "Sea Change" has been done to death recently in the
Moving away from its conventionally accepted meaning of ageing baby boomers
retiring from the city to the seaside, the expression can be seen more positively.
So, against the background of the environment in which most of our readers earn
their living, a change at sea may well be very beneficial. In the current socio-economic
situation, the sea change that most commercial mariners are starting to experience
appears likely to be most favourable.
This magazine, which spent 90 per cent of its life as "Professional Fisherman" was forced
into its own sea change a few years ago. Having started and grown up with the commercial
fishing sector, we had to face the stark reality that a bureaucratic and environmentalist
conspiracy was effectively putting a large part of that sector out of business.
Having spent considerable time and money on trying to rally the fishing industry, we
eventually realised that it was not going to lift a finger (or spend a dollar) in its own
defence. We also noted that some of the strongest and most forward thinking fishermen
were changing their focus to offshore oil, aquaculture, marine tourism and other activities!
Whether we liked it or not -- and we didn't like it then -- our decision was made for
us. Fishing was dying but other sectors of the maritime industry were becoming
established or reviving.
A visit to the once thriving fishing town of St. Helens in Tasmania in mid-2007
illustrated the new reality very clearly. Where once there had been 30 or more fishing
boats, there were six patrol boats, four tourist boats and a couple of aquaculture boats.
There were only four commercial fishing boats in port.
This phenomenon, as is now well known, is occurring all around the Australian
coast. Indeed, it is happening all around the coasts of most developed countries except
for Spain, Norway and Iceland where the electoral systems ensure their fishermen
remain forces to be reckoned with.
So, accepting, albeit grudgingly, this new reality, we broadened the focus of this
magazine to include all non-leisure marine activity in Australasia. Our Sea Change took
place in November 2005, four years ago exactly.
While, we initially saw this as a negative development, we began to realise that the
change was having many positive side-effects and consequential benefits. The more
entrepreneurial members of the fishing sector moved into other maritime sectors. In
many cases they took their less inspired brethren with them as employees.
While it has been sad to see the fishing sector so unnecessarily diminished, it is
encouraging, indeed exciting, to see so many new maritime opportunities presenting
themselves of late. The Australasian maritime industry is, once again, re-inventing and
re-establishing itself in the face of apparent doom.
Looking at a map of Australia I can see at least 30 major projects either on or just off
the coast. They will require the expenditure of at least 100 billion dollars over the next
five or so years. All of them require at least some marine activity. Many of them will
provide masses of work for boats of many types.
There is no doubt that fishing and marine tourism are on the skids. Marine tourism,
thankfully, will only be down temporarily. On the other hand, though, oil and gas,
mining, port development, patrol and rescue, aquaculture, coastal construction and,
even, alternate energy are developing rapidly. Major projects are dotted all around the
coast. Some of them, like Gorgon at 43 billion dollars and Pluto at 14 billion dollars are
enormous. Others such as some of the port developments are "inconsequential" at a
billion dollars or thereabouts each. Their aggregate, though, is a staggering amount.
Of course, all those projects will require ongoing maintenance and development
once the initial establishment is completed. In most cases that will amount to annual
expenditure of at least ten per cent of their prime cost. That will be at least ten billion
dollars per annum.
All this, obviously, fails to take account of future unannounced projects of which
surely, there will be many. With a fast growing population and ever closer
inter-connection with Asia, marine tourism, marina and coastal property developments
seem certain to continue to expand.
All in all, it is a very rosy picture. What we have lost on the fishing and marine
tourism swings, we are rapidly winning on the oil and gas, mariculture, mining, coastal
and port development, and tourism roundabouts.
A Sea Change for the better indeed.
A Sea Change for the better
EDITORIAL NOVEMBER 2009
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