Indigenous business development opportunities and impediments in the fishing and seafood industry - 'Wave to plate' establishing a market for Tasmanian cultural fisheries

Project Number:



University of Tasmania (UTAS)

Principal Investigator:

Marcus Haward

Project Status:


FRDC Expenditure:



Communities, Industry, People


Aboriginal wild catch is aspirational, seasonal and culture-dependent. For these reasons, it does not compete well against large-scale, industrial fishing operations. Addressing the FRDC’s Indigenous Sector strategy to improve understanding and engagement that ‘best support individual and community economic development’ (FRDC 2015), this project aims to develop a niche market of boutique seafoods, together with investigating how the arts and tourism sectors can foster fisheries management for greater Indigenous community benefit. A Tasmanian Aboriginal engagement framework in fisheries has not yet been developed by government (Lee 2016, in press). This project will create the conditions for extensions development, based upon resetting engagement terms between Indigenous peoples and government, providing a toolkit of self-determining strategies for regional development. Economic models for future development of fisheries can build upon the capacity of Indigenous communities to translate value into benefit in subsequent projects, such as employment opportunities within the network chain of wild catch procurement to presentation. There is a need to provide best practice guidance that demonstrates Australia’s commitment to international obligations, such as 2007’s UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In Australia, building on the growing jurisprudence that affirms native title rights to land, the High Court in 2013 extended such rights to commercial fishing in the Torres Strait in its Akiba v Commonwealth decision (Butterly 2013). However, judicial recognition of Indigenous fishing or other marine-based rights does not in itself provide specific guidance on how those environmental resources should be managed culturally and economically.


1. Adapt successful terrestrial model to marine environments, investigating specific conditions of Tasmanian Government policy relating to Indigenous peoples.

2. Assess cultural fishery extensions within commercial operations and determine best practice for government and industry partners.

3. Explore the network chain opportunities for Indigenous involvement in food tourism.

4. Develop postgraduate Indigenous research capacity and broaden scope of marine studies in academia.

‘Wave to Plate’: establishing a market for cultural fisheries in Tasmania

Final Report
Author(s):Emma Lee and Marcus Haward
Date Published:May 2019
The FRDC project, ‘Wave to Plate’: establishing a market for cultural fisheries in Tasmania, is the first time that an Aboriginal Tasmanian postdoctoral researcher has engaged with marine research in Tasmania. Indigenous-led research has delivered a raft of outcomes that can be considered important social shifts for Tasmanian Aboriginal fisheries in over a generation, and, at the time of writing, the Tasmanian Government is actively working to implement the outcomes of the project in relation to access to resources and good governance.
This project has been successful in highlighting the barriers to participation and engagement in cultural fisheries, specifically the current regulatory and policy frameworks that impede progress towards regional development and the contributions that cultural economies of Aboriginal Tasmanians can make to the Tasmanian state. It has identified gaps in knowledge and posited future research directions that are Indigenous-led and centred upon connections to sea country. The project has also been successful in publicly demonstrating the appetite for cultural fisheries through the trialling of the ‘Wave to Plate’ concept with commercial partners.
There has been increased understanding from government, Aboriginal communities, industry and research stake holders and partners to the potential of new markets and developmental fisheries from making centre and core Aboriginal Tasmanian connections to sea country. New collaborations with food tourism interests have resulted from the project to inject cultural strengths into Tasmanian fisheries.
This report outlines several key areas that must be considered for establishing a market for cultural fisheries in Tasmania. These include:
  • access to marine resources for Aboriginal Tasmanians;
  • the governance forms, such as a proposed Indigenous Fisheries Advisory Committee and cultural marine planning unit, to assist in decision-making that provide fairness, equity,transparency and opportunities for Aboriginal Tasmanians to develop cultural fisheries that suit local conditions;
  • the models for Indigenous rights to resources and business enterprise that provides a best fit for Aboriginal Tasmanian regional development and fisheries management;
  • the research directions that require a multi-disciplinary focus; and
  • the types of partnerships that can aid in the establishing a market for cultural fisheries.
The report demonstrates that there is a vast array of good will towards Aboriginal Tasmanian aspirations and a variety of means upon which the direction of fisheries can deliver mutual benefit. Above all, there is a breadth and depth of Aboriginal Tasmanian community expertise to create a new industry based upon ancient traditions.
Keywords: Cultural fisheries, Tasmania, Aboriginal activity, regulation, social enterprise, regional development.