Quantifying changes in the subsistence reef fishery of indigenous communities in Torres Strait, Australia

Busilacchi, Sara, Russ, Garry R., Williams, Ashley J., Begg, Gavin A., and Sutton, Stephen G. (2013) Quantifying changes in the subsistence reef fishery of indigenous communities in Torres Strait, Australia. Fisheries Research, 137. pp. 50-58.

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Catch levels and fishing practices for the traditional subsistence reef fishery in Torres Strait, Australia, have likely changed since the 1980s. Islanders now have greater access to motorised boats and modern fishing gears. This allows them to travel further, access more fishing grounds and improve catch rates. The aim of this study was to quantify changes in the fishery over a period of 15 years (1991/1992-2005/2006). Catch information collected in 2005/2006 allowed a comparison of subsistence fish catch and yields with estimates of these variables made from data collected in the 1990s. In 2005/2006, mean annual subsistence catch from Darnley, Yorke and Murray Islands were 71 mt (SE = 21), 55 mt (SE = 18) and 43 mt (SE = 15), respectively. This represents annual reef fish yields of 1.97, 2.96 and 3.49 mt km⁻² y⁻¹, respectively, or per capita yields of 248, 206 and 92 kg person⁻¹ y⁻¹, respectively. These levels of subsistence catch were up to 6 times higher than those estimated from data collected at the same islands in 1991/1992 and 1995/1996. Estimated yields were comparable with those considered sustainable for other reef fisheries in the Pacific region. In contrast to other studied subsistence fisheries, higher levels of modernisation of fishing activities corresponded to higher fish yields. These increases are likely a consequence of the shift in the nature of the traditional subsistence activities to include the relatively recent practice of sending fish from the islands to family members in other locations. If catch levels continue to increase in the future, it will be important to estimate more reliably sustainable yields for the fishery, which would allow more informed management decisions.

Item ID: 25070
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1872-6763
Keywords: subsistence fisheries, reef fisheries, Torres Strait, historic trends, fisheries catches
Funders: CRC Torres Strait, Project AWARE foundation
Date Deposited: 20 Feb 2013 09:20
FoR Codes: 07 AGRICULTURAL AND VETERINARY SCIENCES > 0704 Fisheries Sciences > 070403 Fisheries Management @ 100%
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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