A lot has changed since FRDC developed its first strategic plan in the early 1990s.

There has been widespread digitisation of enormous amounts of information, development of smart systems that communicate interdependently, a huge decrease in cost and increase in the power of computing, a global pandemic, changes in global trade relations, marine heatwaves, droughts and floods to name a few. This creates a difficult environment for planning, and requires use of methods well suited to dealing with complexity and uncertainty.

Consultation and engagement

The priorities in our R&D Plan 2020-25 were informed by reviews, research and extensive consultation. Our consultation approach focused on scenario planning, which can be helpful when planning in an uncertain environment.

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This short video provides a summary of the consultative process to inform our new plan - View video

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More detailed perspectives of the process used to shape our new plan can be viewed here - View video

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Insights gained from participants involved in the process can be viewed here - View video

Stakeholder workshops

The process to develop our R&D Plan involved significant consultation and awareness raising among our stakeholders over 18 months.

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Participants engaged in systems thinking, were challenged by confronting scenarios and considered outputs of relevant research, to help consider what the world might look like in the future and what planning must happen now to prepare for it.

Research and knowledge underpinning the R&D plan

In addition to the consultation, we commissioned a series of initiatives to inform the process, which are summarised below.

Revealing opportunities for cross-sector collaboration

Consultation to inform our R&D Plan also allowed the aquaculture, commercial wildcatch, Indigenous, recreational and post-harvest sectors to develop a long-term (10-year) shared vision for fishing and aquaculture in Australia, entitled Fish Forever 2030. Currently in draft, this shared 2030 vision could offer solid foundation for concerted action by all sectors to address shared strategic national challenges through combined efforts. FRDC can support those efforts through investment in R&D, enabling synchronised, collaborative actions towards creating a common desired future for fishing and aquaculture.

Mapping the complex system of fishing and aquaculture

A broad collective of innovators and leaders from across the aquaculture, commercial wildcatch, Indigenous, recreational and post-harvest sectors, as well as fisheries management and research communities, worked together to build a first-of-its-kind system map of the fishing and aquaculture landscape. The map describes key drivers affecting fishing and aquaculture in Australia, and the relationships between them. Building this map sparked deep discussion among the sectors about the intricacies of the shared world and the need for a common language to describe the forces that influence the industry and community.

The System Map

Screen shot of map of fishing and aquaculture

Systems thinking is a useful way to visualise and discuss the complex reality faced by the industry and community and can help support the right decisions being made, avoiding wasted time, money and other resources.

In 2019-20, we collaborated with a cross-section of stakeholders to develop a system map of fishing and aquaculture in Australia.

A copy of the system map can be found here.

The map illustrates key drivers affecting fishing and aquaculture in Australia (the coloured nodes), and the relationships between them (the lines between coloured nodes).

The system map provided the groundwork for stakeholders to identify the most critical drivers that, if changed, would alter the entire operating landscape for fishing and aquaculture in Australia.

It informed development of the R&D Plan and continues to be a useful resource when seeking to develop solutions to issues affecting fishing and aquaculture.

Scenario planning - four futures

Scenario planning uses cutting-edge methods well suited to planning in an uncertain environment. We worked with a broad collective of innovators and leaders from across aquaculture, commercial wildcatch, Indigenous, recreational and post-harvest sectors, as well as fisheries managers and researchers, to explore possible future states. Four alternative possible futures were considered:

  1. A world in 2030 where the prevailing motivation is confidence and influencers are largely unifying and inclusive.
  2. A world in 2030 where the prevailing motivation is fear and influencers are largely polarising and divisive.
  3. A world in 2030 where aquatic systems are managed sustainably in an integrated manner and key environmental impacts are largely known, measured and managed.
  4. A world in 2030 within which government policy is driven by populism and key environmental impacts are largely unknown, unmeasured and unmanaged.

Participants then worked together, over several workshops, to consider the implications of each possible future for fishing and aquaculture in Australia. A number of themes were identified, which are summarised below.

Diagram of four scenarios of the future

Figure 1. Fourteen themes of data collected from stakeholders participating in regional workshops in response to alternative future scenarios.

Data collected was then presented, complete and unfiltered, to a workshop involving all sectors on 20 and 30 October 2019, during which they made sense of the data collected, organised it into themes, and used the information to develop a strategic intent for the R&D Plan.

Identifying priorities and developing models for the future

Additional analysis was undertaken in collaboration with Dr Kirsten Abernethy from the Human Dimensions Research Subprogram to explore priorities identified by Research Advisory Committees (RACs), Coordination programs and Industry Partnership Agreements (IPAs), as well as the Federal Fisheries Minister's National Fishing Advisory Council, the National Marine Science Plan and the Australian Fisheries Management Forum. The common themes were mapped and priority areas were cross-referenced.

The most commonly referenced issues were improving management and governance, building societal support for fishing and aquaculture, building capability and capacity, resource access, allocation and sharing, and improving productivity and efficiency.

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The new planning approach used to develop the R&D Plan was generally well received, with many commenting favourably on the way it encouraged participants out of their traditional sectoral views to take a shared 'big picture view'. It is hoped that some of the tools, methods and insights developed to inform the R&D Plan will be used by people, businesses and organisations in fishing and aquaculture as they prepare for the future.

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