Austral Fisheries is one of Australia’s largest integrated commercial fishing companies. You can find our seafood in some of the world's finest restaurants. From our GIANT Skull Island Prawns™ caught in Australia's Northern Prawn Fishery to our prized Glacier 51 Toothfish™, everything we do and catch is driven by the pursuit of quality and sustainability.
Within Austral, the carbon neutral process began as a conversation between staff and other fisheries stakeholders, which led to greater understanding and recognition of the impacts our emissions were having on our planet. This initial conversation proved beneficial in terms of garnering a company-wide sense of purpose and support for Austral to actively reduce and offset our emissions, and achieve carbon neutral certification. We achieved carbon neutral certification in 2016 and have chosen to certify both our organisation as well as our wild caught fish and prawn products.
The business case for Climate Active certification
Austral Fisheries recognises the adverse impacts global warming and climate change is having on the world’s oceans, the very same oceans that are home to the fish and prawns we rely on for our core business operations. We understand the increase of man-made greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere is contributing to this warming and acknowledge our relatively heavy contribution to these emissions as a result of our remote fishing operations. We see it as our duty to limit our impact, and therefore have moved to offset all carbon emissions, while at the same time taking the necessary steps to reduce these emissions where possible.
Achieving carbon neutrality
Austral Fisheries is certified as both a carbon neutral organisation as well as certifying its wild caught seafood products. By using a cradle-to-gate approach, we have accounted for all carbon emissions we can identify from the start of our activities through to the point of the end user consuming it, whether at home or at a restaurant. This includes all the fuel we burn on our vessels at sea to harvest our catch, the emissions associated with production and transport of supplies and product to and from our vessels, and all supporting activities such as shore-based operations and management, administration, policy development, sales and marketing.
Our emissions reduction strategy is primarily focussed on the rate of carbon emissions per tonne of product caught. Around 80 per cent of our emissions are from diesel use on our vessels which will require substantive changes to both operational approaches, and technological developments for significant emissions reductions. However, we already have achieved positive results in some areas such as the 38 per cent reduction in fuel use on our largest vessel. This was achieved through a major modification to the vessel’s drive train which provides the crew with more flexibility in managing propulsion and electrical loads under various situational requirements. This project alone reduced our emissions by 3126 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2018.
Other components of our emissions reduction strategy include:
- reducing emissions intensity per tonne of fish and prawns;
- communicating our approach to carbon neutrality with relevant stakeholders and using the seafood industry as a change leader for this;
- working with Government regulators and agencies to allow our operation to become more emissions efficient without compromising safety or operational efficiency;
- encouraging suppliers and customers to integrate carbon neutrality or low emission thinking into their supply chains;
- working with relevant stakeholders to build momentum for blue carbon and to progress an international carbon neutral standard or the alignment of domestic standards.
To offset our emissions, Austral has primarily retired Gold Standard Voluntary Emissions Reduction units from the Yarra Yarra Biodiversity Corridor project. Based in the Western Australian wheatbelt, the Yarra Yarra Biodiversity Corridor is currently the only Gold Standard carbon offset project in Australia. The project is part of 10,000 hectares that has been revegetated and will capture an estimated 1 million tonnes of carbon over the next 50 years.
Benefits and outcomes of carbon neutral certification
From a business perspective, we seen some immediate benefits from a clearer focus on making our fishing fleet more fuel efficient. We have also been able to broaden our business reach to more environmentally focused customers, opportunities and initiatives. We have also seen benefits in staff engagement and community support thanks to becoming carbon neutral. The other positive outcomes include the core benefits stemming from the Yarra Yarra Biodiversity Corridor project that we are proud to support. As well as removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the project delivers substantial positive social outcomes in the area, and is designed to enhance the biodiversity of the region through its native biodiverse revegetation.
Challenges and learnings
At Austral, we recognised that moving towards carbon neutrality would present some initial challenges. Being new to the program, this involved:
- interpreting the Climate Active carbon neutral guidelines to understand specific carbon accounting principles and offsetting issues and working with the team for clarification and direction;
- setting up a carbon accounting system to capture business data;
- networking and collaborating with others operating in this industry to determine consistency of approaches as well as avoiding pitfalls of 're-inventing the wheel' on areas in the guidelines, or carbon offset choices that can be made.
The process of seeking certification has expanded our internal expertise in carbon accounting, our understanding of offsetting and co-benefits, and our drive towards emission reductions. With this knowledge and having achieved the certification tick, we can confidently explain our carbon neutral story to our stakeholders. We believe progressive business, in collaboration with well-informed consumers, can effect change on a scale and at a speed not possible any other way.