Baseline Socio-Economic Data for Queensland East Coast Inshore and Rocky Reef Fishery Stakeholders. Part A: Commercial Fishers

Tobin, R.C., Sutton, S.G., Penny, A., Williams, L., Maroske, J., and Nilsson, J. (2010) Baseline Socio-Economic Data for Queensland East Coast Inshore and Rocky Reef Fishery Stakeholders. Part A: Commercial Fishers. Report. Fishing and Fisheries Research Centre, Townsville, QLD. Australia.

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Queensland’s East Coast Inshore and Rocky Reef Finfish Fisheries are important for commercial, charter and recreational fisheries, as well as Queensland seafood consumers. With a new Management Plan in development during this project for the East Coast Inshore Finish Fishery (the ‘Inshore Fishery’), and a revision of management for the Rocky Reef Finfish Fishery (the ‘Rocky Reef Fishery’) planned for the future, an opportunity arose to collect baseline socio-economic data for these fisheries prior to management change. This baseline data would provide the opportunity to assess the impacts of management change, and to also initiate a process of long-term socio-economic monitoring. Such monitoring would allow ongoing assessment of the socio-economic status of the fishery in terms of fisher resilience and ongoing fishery viability.

This report (Part A) outlines the baseline data for the commercial Inshore and Rocky Reef Fisheries. Baseline data were collected via fisher surveys in 2008 plus collation of existing data from other sources, prior to implementation of the new Inshore Fishery Management Plan. The baseline data also provide a test of many of the socio-economic indicators listed by fishery stakeholders in a workshop prior to the surveys. A brief summary of the most pertinent findings are provided here.

The Inshore Commercial Fishery Resilience is defined as the ability to cope with and adapt to change (Folke et al. 2002). When measured via a set of ‘resilience statements’ developed by Marshall and Marshall (2007), inshore commercial fishers on average had ‘medium’ resilience, although almost half (48%) fell into the ‘low’ resilience category. Level of education and presence of training outside of the fishing industry were found to be significant predictors of resilience, suggesting that one way of increasing and maintaining resilience within the Queensland Inshore Fishery is to ensure adequate opportunities are available for education and training.

We also collected data on a range of additional socio-economic variables that can be considered indicators of resilience level. These indicators revealed that fishers’ resilience within the fishery (socio-ecological resilience) is high: Fishers harvest a diverse range of species and markets are available for byproduct species as well as the main target species, suggesting fishers should be able to easily adapt to environmental or managerial factors that impact the availability of one inshore species by shifting their effort to readily available substitutes. Most fishers reported holding symbols for, and being dependent on, more than one fishery, meaning they are able to shift effort to other fisheries if needed (although capacity to rely more heavily on offshore fisheries is somewhat limited by current vessel size). While profit within the fishery is low (average of approximately $39,600), return on invested capital (ROIC) estimates are relatively high (though should be interpreted with caution) and fishers hold little or no fishing related debt, suggesting an economically viable fishery despite low profits. Resilience outside of the fishery (social resilience) is low, however: fishers have a low ability or desire to exit the fishery, with most fishers being older (50-59) and with a high personal and household dependence on commercial fishing. Fishers’ education level is low (most have year 10 level education), and despite having other training, fishing is very important to them and they believe they will still be fishing in 3 years time.

Ongoing socio-economic viability of the fishery is questionable: While current fishers intend to remain in the industry, there appears very low recruitment of new fishers, which is particularly pertinent in a fishery dominated by older fishers. Fishers in the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) region also hold a low level of satisfaction regarding many aspects of their fishing – an important factor for a socially viable fishery. It will be important to explore whether fishers are remaining in the industry because they choose to or because they have no other options (i.e. they are not socio-ecologically resilient).

Commercial inshore fishers were generally supportive of current (at the time of survey) commercial regulations for the Inshore Fishery, and believed they were sufficient to ensure long-term sustainability of inshore fish stocks. Fishers believed the reasons given for suggested changes to the Inshore Fishery management arrangements were transparent and clear but did not think they were being treated fairly compared to other groups in fisheries management decisions. Fishers also did not think stricter regulations were required for commercial fishers for some inshore species, were concerned about the negative impacts of management changes on their industry and were divided in their opinion regarding whether the changes suggested in the draft plan were in the best interest of the industry. Interestingly, fishers with a higher overall resilience level (according to the resilience statements) were less likely to be concerned about negative impacts of management changes on the commercial fishing industry.

Most inshore fishers reported being involved in consultation about the draft Inshore Fishery Management Plan by attending a public meeting or completing a questionnaire or submission, and most fishers reported they would get involved in this way again in the future. However, many did not feel that their concerns were adequately addressed by these processes, perhaps contributing to fishers’ concern about the impacts of the management plan on their fishery.

The Rocky Reef Commercial Fishery When measured via ‘resilience statements’, resilience of rocky reef commercial fishers was found to be ‘medium’. Rocky reef fishers were highly resilient in terms of risk perception and management of those risks, but showed lower resilience regarding their ability to cope with change. No variables showed correlations with resilience levels for this fishery.

When exploring resilience via a range of additional socio-economic variables, results suggest that fishers’ ability to adapt to change within the Rocky Reef Fishery specifically is low (i.e. they have low socio-ecological resilience): The fishing area for this fishery was restricted and species specialisation was high with harvest dominated by only a few species sold in a restricted market with limited opportunity for sale of byproduct. Socio-ecological resilience within the commercial fishing industry as a whole, however, appears high: fishers were not highly dependent on the Rocky Reef Fishery, and most fishers utilised multiple fishing types. Economic information was not available for this fishery.

Rocky reef fishers had a low level of personal social resilience, being mostly older (40+ years old), with long-term fishing experience (average of 27 years), and with a high personal income dependence on commercial fishing. Education level was low (most have year 10 level education), although most fishers did have other training (usually in a trade). Almost all fishers rated fishing as very important to them and expected to still be fishing in the same fishery in three years time. Social resilience at the family level, however, was higher: most fishers were married, and fishing provided only part of the household income.

Again, ongoing viability of the Rocky Reef Fishery is questionable, with a very low recruitment of new fishers in a fishery dominated by older fishers. Half of the surveyed fishers stated they were also not as happy being a fisher as they were when they first started, highlighting the need to explore satisfaction with fishing.

Commercial rocky reef fishers were generally supportive of current regulation concepts, and compliance rates for the commercial Rocky Reef sector were very high (96%) (Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries 2008b), indicating support for, and effective communication of, regulations for the Rocky Reef Fishery. Most rocky reef fishers did attend a public meeting or complete a questionnaire or submission regarding the draft Inshore Fishery Management Plan, and most stated they would get involved in this way again in the future. However, fishers felt their concerns were only slight considered by such processes, if at all. Rocky reef fishers appeared to have good social networks in terms of where they got their information (mostly via other fishers), and how often they spoke to their Queensland Seafood Industry Association (QSIA) representative or Fisheries Queensland personnel. As for the inshore fishers, rocky reef fishers with a higher overall resilience level were less likely to be concerned about negative impacts of management changes on the commercial inshore fishing industry, highlighting the importance of increasing resilience of the industry.

The information collected through the fisher surveys and other sources provides a baseline of the current (as of 2008) socio-economic status of the Inshore and Rocky Reef Commercial Fisheries. There are significant quantities of data provided in the results from which to compare post-Management Plan implementation, to explore the positive and negative impacts of management change and whether the socio-economic goals of management are being fulfilled. In the long-term, the data will provide a starting point for socio-economic monitoring. While a multitude of socio-economic indicators have been tested here, long-term monitoring surveys are unlikely to be as detailed: Stakeholders need to now choose the most important and relevant information to collect with which to monitor the socio-economic health, resilience and viability of the commercial Inshore and Rocky Reef Fisheries.

Item ID: 11767
Item Type: Report (Report)
ISBN: 9780980688160
Keywords: Inshore Fishery; Rocky Reef Fishery; commercial fishery; Queensland east coast; socio-economic; indicators; resilience; demographics; fisheries management; consultation
Additional Information:

Fishing and Fisheries Research Centre Technical Report No 5.

FRDC Project No. 2007/048.

Funders: Fisheries Research and Development Corporation
Projects and Grants: FRDC 2007/048 Towards Evaluating the Socio-economic Impacts of Changes to Queensland’s Inshore Fishery Management
Date Deposited: 13 Sep 2010 00:55
FoR Codes: 07 AGRICULTURAL AND VETERINARY SCIENCES > 0704 Fisheries Sciences > 070403 Fisheries Management @ 80%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050209 Natural Resource Management @ 20%
SEO Codes: 83 ANIMAL PRODUCTION AND ANIMAL PRIMARY PRODUCTS > 8302 Fisheries - Wild Caught > 830204 Wild Caught Fin Fish (excl. Tuna) @ 100%
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