WHILE fishing industry figures in other parts of the world battled with conservationists, Murray France was instead forming partnerships with unlikely allies and advocating sustainable fishing in Australian waters.
It is this vision, along with his recognition as a leader in his field, that has led to his recent award of General Division of the Order of Australia in the Queen’s Birthday Honours’ List
Perhaps best known as a director of Kailis and France – a major exporter of fresh and frozen foods – Mr France built a commercial empire alongside a doctrine of sustainable fishing and an ethos of partnerships among industry stakeholders.
Mr France, also a managing director of Newfishing Australia and Austral Fisheries, has worked in the Western Australian fishing industry for more than 30 years.
Arriving in Australia from Canada as a teenager, he drove cabs in Sydney before heading to WA to work on the fishing boats in the South West.
From these humble beginnings, Mr France has been instrumental in groundbreaking initiatives that have led to international recognition of the Australian fishing industry as one of the best managed in the world.
Little known to many outside the fishing industry, Mr France has also worked on other significant industry developments including the restructuring of the Northern Prawn Fishery and the development of sub-Antarctic fisheries.
He was instrumental in the establishment of ISOFISH – International Southern Oceans Longline Fisheries Information Clearing House, a non-government joint venture between conservation organisations and licensed fishing companies that includes key figures from major conservation groups such as the World Wide Fund for Nature on its board.
Mr France is also a board member on the Marine Stewardship Council – an independent, global industry body that recognises well-managed fisheries.
One of the ways the MSC achieves this recognition is by labeling MSC-certified products.
“Eco-labelling has a strong impact on the market,” Mr France said.
“Consumers are comfortable to know that if they buy that product with that credible, reputable logo on it [similar to the Heart Foundation labelling] that this product is coming from a resource that is sustainably managed.”
Involvement in sustainable fisheries development and industry regulation at a high level was, according to Mr France, a natural progression.
He said it became evident to him about 15 years ago that the MSC was crucial to his aim of embracing the bigger picture and becoming part of an overall management system to ensure fishing remained a renewable resource.
“The MSC is a panel of independent experts that have to go through a whole process and can confirm that the resource is sustainable, the ecosystem is in balance, the management is sufficient and they have a regime in place that is dealing with future problems that may arise,” Mr France said.
He said the key to sustainable fishing was good management and avoidance of the boom and bust cycle of over fishing sometimes seen in less developed countries.
“Marine resources are finite,” Mr France said.
“Yes, they are renewable if properly managed, so the key is there has got to be good scientific and biological monitoring of what the resource is all about and there has to be controlled development.”
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