Project number: 1999-163
Project Status:
Budget expenditure: $295,399.02
Principal Investigator: Robert Kearney
Organisation: University of Canberra
Project start/end date: 25 Jul 1999 - 30 Apr 2003


The numerous government initiatives related to resource access, mentioned in the Background to this application have, in the main, been prepared by groups of professionals working for months or years with the support of considerable government infrastructure. This is appropriate for issues of such significance. What is not appropriate is that draft policies are headed for finalisation without due input from the group most effected, the fishing industry.

The industry will of course respond most positively to proposals for conservation and management of resources which lead to greater certainty for healthy and prosperous fisheries resources and ecosystems which support them. But, to do so, all levels of industry need to understand the principles of these proposals and be convinced of the merit of the logic which underpins them. For issues as fundamental as access to fishing grounds extensive and intensive consultation and debate must be anticipated. For peak bodies to coordinate the compliance and support necessary for the cost-effective implementation of new management strategies the great majority of fishers must back the initiatives. For a new national initiative such as NRSMPA industry must be coordinated nationally.

Support from the majority of fishers will be dependent upon clear and unambiguous answers to questions which currently cloud understanding of the efficacy of using MPA’s as resource conservation and allocation tools.

Questions which researchers, and many resource managers would like answered include:

How do we accommodate series of isolated, closed areas within the broader context of the total ecosystem management (Total Catchment Management) necessary for efficient and cost effective resource conservation, utilisation and allocation?

Is the restriction of access by groups primarily a resource allocation (fisheries management by AFMA or State agencies) issue or biodiversity conservation (Environment Australia)?

What are the implications for further utilisation of the multiple-use model of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) for which Australia has received international acclaim?

Questions to which industry must have answers in order to deliver orderly harvest of our seafood resources include:

Is concern over access to protected areas (resource access) being confused by industry and Government with security of long-term access to maximum sustainable yields (resource security)?

Is the principle of (maximum) economic efficiency (AFMA) compromised by restriction of access to areas (MPA) closed for reasons other than efficient yield management?

Questions which industry itself must address if it is to fully understand the principles and then provide full support to the design, implementation, monitoring and adaptive management of a national system of MPA’s include:

What contribution can industry make to the selection of areas which justify categorisation as representative, or which may need some form of protection for other purposes? Can an area which is unique (such as the one spawning or nesting area) be “representative”? If not is there also a need for a series of “unique protected areas”?

What protection is required for each of these areas and what impact will such measures have on current and future seafood supplies and on activities of the fishing industry?

Will industry be required to meet totally, or contribute to, enforcement or other management costs associated with protected areas?

What data and/or other assistance can industry provide to help assess the effectiveness of protection, and the impact of protection on the ecosystem?

What measures are necessary within the industry to ensure understanding by all of the role of MPA’s, and to engender full cooperation and support for the appropriate use of MPA’s?

The numerous state and national peak bodies do not all have permanent staff with training and expertise to respond immediately and appropriately to the numerous Government initiatives which affect resource security and allocation. When shifts in Government policy are likely industry is compelled to employ consultants or submit project proposals to potential funding sources, such as FRDC. The latter process normally results in more considered and more professional outputs and therefore better quality advice to industry, but unfortunately requires several months lead time for submission of applications and often years to complete the task. Therefore with an issue as fundamental as the principles of access to areas of resource distribution, it is essential to take a national approach and to be given time to prepare a considered and positive response which has the support of at least the majority of fishers.

Access to the resource is of fundamental concern to both commercial and recreational users of this resource; the principles of restricted access to areas as a conservation or management tool are relevant to both groups. The common interest is acknowledged, however this project has arisen directly from state and national peak commercial industry bodies and has been designed to specifically assess policy impacts on commercial industries. It is proposed that the project proceed with commercial industry focus until at least the end of first year, at which time a major milestone report is envisaged. This would allow FRDC to consult with recreational fishing interests and then, if appropriate, negotiate including additional recreational perspectives with the Steering Committee.


1. To assist national and State fishing industry bodies with the development of a positive response to Government initiatives to increase the use of marine protected areas (MPA) for conservation and management.
2. To compare the objectives and implementation strategies of the numerous Government policies on marine resource use and conservation and prepare an assessment of their collective impacts on fishing industries.
3. To provide a concise and easily understood summary of the advantages and disadvantages to commercial fishers of present and proposed policies on MPA’s.
4. To facilitate the development of a strategy to promote sustainable resource use as an objective of future use of MPA’s.
5. To assist with the development of a nationwide fishing industry strategy to identify areas which could be included in future resource management by the use of MPA’s.
6. To develop guidelines for industry involvement in monitoring the effectiveness of MPA’s.

Final report

ISBN: 0-9577-5875-8
Author: Robert Kearney
Final Report • 2002-02-27 • 1.10 MB


Government agencies, NGO’s and local and international conservation groups are increasingly advocating the use of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) for the conservation and management of Australia’s oceanic and estuarine resources.  In December 1998, the Australian Commonwealth Government launched its Oceans Policy, which included as a key component the acceleration of the establishment of a National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas (NRSMPA).

For industry to effectively and appropriately respond to a new national initiative such as the development of the NRSMPA requires a national approach.  However, State, Territory and national peak industry bodies do not always have the required resources and expertise to develop a national approach.  One of the major aims of the project was to assist industry in developing a nation-wide uniform understanding of, and consistent response to, the principles and tools used in developing MPAs in order to promote its participation in the process.  This requires first identification and acknowledgement of industry’s needs and concerns.

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