Project number: 2010-040
Project Status:
Budget expenditure: $693,411.73
Principal Investigator: Lianos Triantafillos
Organisation: Department of Primary Industries and Regions South Australia (PIRSA)
Project start/end date: 19 Jun 2010 - 29 Aug 2013


As discussed in the Background section, fisheries management has mostly been directed by economic and ecological objectives. With the introduction of the call for triple bottom line assessments of industry and government performance, a need for social objectives has become apparent which has remained largely unaddressed in terms of integration into management plans for specific fisheries.

There is a need for specific social objectives and associated relevant indicators for fisheries management to use in the development of management plans and the assessment of them. This requires clarity over the degree and boundaries of social responsibility fisheries management have in areas such as employment, skills and education. In this context, it is essential to ensure that the tradeoffs between the social, environmental and economic objectives provide the optimal outcomes in the context of fisheries and other external drivers.

A universal set of social objectives needs to be identified, trialled (using relevant case studies) and agreed as acceptable for fisheries managers, before any further effective progress can be made on the implementation of triple bottom line assessments or government management of ESD in Australia’s fisheries.


1. Identify social objectives and indicators of relevance at the National level
2. Test and verify applicability of social objectives and indicators using the Queensland Trawl Fishery and three fishing communities in South Australia as case studies
3. Review social objectives and indicators for applicability to National fisheries management

Final report

ISBN: 978-0-9924621-0-9
Author: Dr Lianos Triantafillos
Final Report • 2016-02-23 • 20.66 MB


The importance of including social objectives in fisheries management is recognised in many policies and programs that are intended to guide sustainable fisheries management. This includes the principle of Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD) that underpins Australian fisheries management and is commonly agreed as the way forward in fisheries and marine ecosystem management, the Marine Stewardship Council certification process and the UNESCO Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO)’s Code of Conduct. 

Yet, little is known about the social dimensions of sustainable fisheries management. In particular, there is little guidance available for fisheries managers to assist them in identifying the social objectives they are managing for, or in collecting information that helps them more successfully manage for these objectives. To address this, this project developed a two-part guide, titled ‘Managing the Social Dimensions of Fishing’ (‘the Guide’). This Guide takes fisheries managers and other key stakeholders through the steps of implementing social objectives, in an ESD context, by helping them identify, document and manage social objectives relevant to their fishery. The Guide also helps fisheries managers identify what aspects of the social dimensions of fisheries they can influence and what factors remain outside their direct influence. This will help fisheries managers better target the identification and management of social objectives to those issues that they can address. Fisheries managers and other key stakeholder will now be able to monitor the performance of a fishery from a social perspective and make decisions regarding future management. This is essential to enable progress to be made on the implementation of triple-bottom-line assessments for Australia’s fisheries. 

The Guide will also assist the Australian Fisheries Management Forum (AFMF) to promote a consistent national management approach across all fisheries jurisdictions for developing social objectives. The adoption of a consistent national approach will lead to improved fisheries management outcomes through increased certainty for all stakeholders.

The development of social objectives and associated indicators for Australian fisheries that can be used to assess performance, in line with ecological and economic objectives, was achieved through three phases. 

First, based on a review of the literature on social dimensions of fishing, existing requirements of all Australian jurisdictions in relation to fisheries legislation and policy, and of existing national and international frameworks that consider social dimensions of fishing, a set of draft social objectives and associated indicators was developed. These draft social objectives and indicators were then revised at a workshop held with fisheries managers and policy makers from across Australia, which also included representatives from commercial, recreational and Indigenous fisheries from all states and territories. The workshop also considered how fisheries managers might best be able to engage with the proposed project outputs. 

Second, case studies of the Queensland East Coast Trawl Fishery, the South Australian communities of Ceduna, Port Lincoln and Wallaroo (in which a diversity of fisheries operate) and the Indigenous community of Narunnga from South Australia were used to test the draft social objectives and indicators, identify how best to select and apply them to the circumstances of specific fisheries and to identify low-cost approaches that can be used by fishery managers to enable them to more explicitly incorporate social objectives in their management. 

The results of the case studies were used to revise and refine the objectives, and to develop indicators designed to inform each objective. The outcome was a set of recommended social objectives and associated indicators, as well as recommended processes for selecting, measuring, and analysing them in different contexts. Testing in multiple case studies ensured that the resulting social objectives and associated indicators included in the Guide are appropriate for fisheries management across different jurisdictions, at the State, Territory and Commonwealth level. 

Third, the revised social objectives and indicators were workshopped with the fisheries managers that had participated in the first phase of the project. This provided the basis for developing the two-part Guide that is the final output of the study. The draft Guide was reviewed by fisheries managers from across Australia, and their comments and feedback incorporated into revisions of the Guide.

Throughout the project, the objectives and indicators were developed with future integration into potential fisheries status report frameworks, such as the National Fisheries Status Report, in mind. To that end, the social objectives and indicators included in the Guide are high-level and include options that enable individual fisheries management jurisdictions to select options for measuring social objectives that best fit their needs, resources and budgets. 

Keywords: ESD, social objectives, social indicators, triple-bottom-line assessment, national guidelines, fisheries management.

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