Eddie Freeman has worked as an Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) Observer since 2011, and has over 40 years’ experience in the Australian fishing industry. Eddie is always excited at the prospect of another trip, with his next trip marking number 200 over his eight years as an AFMA Observer. Despite his long career in observing, Eddie isn’t showing any signs of slowing down and in fact is adamant that there are many days to go for him out on the ocean as an AFMA Observer.
Prior to his next trip, we caught up with Eddie to find out how it all started and why he continues to stay committed to his role as an AFMA Observer.
What did you do prior to joining the AFMA Observer Program?
I have been a fisherman for the last 40 years. I worked in the Tasmanian Rock Lobster industry, and had stints in various Commonwealth fisheries working with species like southern bluefin tuna, blue eye trevalla and some shark species. I also have experience in working with Tasmanian Striped Trumpeter. It’s not a well-known fish outside Tasmania but it is a very good eating fish. I also always put my hand up for scientific surveys and for taking people out on boats to get a glimpse into what I do, and I’ve also seen a lot of improvement to management over the years in the fisheries I’ve worked in.
What did you know about the AFMA Observer Program before you became an observer?
Being a fisherman I knew a lot about the program. I had also held Commonwealth fishing licences a long time ago, and so I was quite aware of the program and what its main objectives were. Even before becoming an observer I thought it would be a pretty cool job because I’d still be in the fishing industry. I have always been very interested in the science behind fishing, and my interest is still strong today.
Why did you apply for the AFMA Observer Program?
I moved to Canberra 10 years ago searching for a change in my career’s direction, and I knew of the AFMA Observer Program and that my background could be a good match so I applied for the role and was lucky enough to become an AFMA Observer. And I am sure I have fitted into this industry pretty well!
Which fishery do you enjoy working in the most and why?
That’s a hard one because having come from the Tasmanian Rock Lobster Fishery, then with this job allowing me the opportunity to work in and around other fisheries such as southern bluefin tuna, purse seine, Danish Seine and the trawl industries, you get a broader feel for how each of those different sectors operate. I must admit though, when I was a fisherman I wasn’t very keen to work in the trawl industry, but I have come to appreciate what they do and very much enjoy my voyages in the sector.
What do you like and dislike the most about your job?
I really don’t dislike anything about my job. I love what I do, and I give 100 per cent on what I do because I am passionate about the industry, and have a love for the science. In some ways I feel like my job helps to give back to an industry that’s been good to me for many years.
If you were to recommend people pursue a career as an AFMA Observer, what would be your best advice?
Well first of all you can’t be prone to being sea sick! It’s not easy, it’s a pretty demanding and hard job. You also have to deal with a lot of different people from a number of different backgrounds. However I’d say pursue it, absolutely, and give it 100 per cent, it’s a rewarding job.
Can you tell us about one of your favourite stories from working as an AFMA Observer?
There are so many! I will share a good story though, and in fact there are probably three good stories in this. I’ve worked through major historical points for the fishing industry such as the recovery of southern bluefin tuna and orange roughy stocks. These fish were pretty well on the brink at one point, and to see them come back as they are now at sustainable levels is a favourite story of mine.
AFMA places observers on Commonwealth commercial boats in many Commonwealth fisheries to collect unique, accurate and reliable data on fishing operations, catches, and interactions with the marine environment by the vessel and its fishing gear.
More information on the AFMA Observer Program can be found at afma.gov.au.