Project number: 2013-218
Project Status:
Budget expenditure: $230,000.00
Principal Investigator: Ewan A. Colquhoun
Organisation: Ridge Partners
Project start/end date: 30 Apr 2013 - 17 Jul 2016


Wild capture fisheries are a national asset. They contribute in two ways: USE as a social, cultural or economic asset, AND value created through people and MANAGEMENT systems guiding that use. Aquaculture is an increasingly important seafood source offering potential across all sectors.

The IRG's RD&E Strategy contains 5 Aspirations, 11 Principles and related Outputs. Their comprehensive, integrated approach provides a single framework that offers a key role for all stakeholders, locally and nationally.

The IRG's Strategy will be successful only when it resolves key challenges, including:
- poor understanding and awareness of the needs of indigenous fishery users, and their monitoring of progress toward social/cultural/economic aspirations they aspire to,
- lack of capacity (human, management, structural) of fishers and communities to respond to and benefit from this Strategy,
- lack of alignment between customary sea management practices, enterprise profit motives, social/cultural/economic drivers for community viability, and government practices,
- the diversity of indigenous fisheries, across cultures, geography, aquatic environments, species and economic opportunities.

The Strategy must:
- create a viable pathway forward,
- increase fishery value in the hands of users, and
- better align government policy and process. This will require a policy and regulatory gap analysis and review options to better align these with traditional sea management approaches.

Change will take time - but outputs must demonstrate increasing value (social/cultural/economic) to fishers and communities.

The Project Team will partner with 4-5 indigenous fishery communities to consult and understand their fisheries, aspirations, needs, capacities and alignment with social/cultural/economic factors. The Team will respond with actions that aim to boost fishery value. Local case studies will inform national approaches and about what works, when and where.

The project will cost effectively create new tools, structures, alignments, data, and capacities, in the hands of the IRG, indigenous fishers and communities.


1. Identify 4-5 Case Study fishing communities, and work with IRG and stakeholders to document aspirations and social/cultural/economic capacity, identify constraints to achieving desired community and national development outcomes, and test/trial micro development pathways.
2. Evaluate models (enterprise/management), conduct gap analyses (policy/regulatory), and synthesize and document preferred development pathways (national/regional) to enhance indigenous access to, participation in, and benefits (social/cultural/economic) from fishery development.
3. Establish and document output and extension strategies (3yr + 5yr) for the IRG (national) and each participating regional indigenous fishing community.
4. Document and report learnings (IRG + case studies), models, performance monitoring arrangements, and recommendations to the IRG that will enhance future indigenous fishery performance and community benefits

Final report

ISBN: 978-0-9871427-6-4
Author: Ewan Colquhoun
Final Report • 2018-09-21 • 6.22 MB


This project was commissioned by the Indigenous Reference Group, an advisory committee to the FRDC for matters related to Indigenous fishery research, development and extension (R&D).
The project sought to build the capacity and performance of Australia’s Indigenous fisheries. It identified issues and drivers, and describes methods, means, outputs and outcomes to enhance fishery capacity and performance.
This report summary comprises four parts:
  1. Review of the economic framework that impacts Indigenous community and fishery development

    The starting point for the project was the IRG’s RD&E Framework for Indigenous fishery development. This framework of eleven key R&D Principles and five national and community aspirations, is grounded in a vision to enable continuous improvement, rising from Primacy to Capacity Building.

    This is the pathway to achieve sustainable increases in the capacity and performance of Indigenous fisheries, collectively and for individual communities. Indigenous communities will be the immediate and primary beneficiaries of this vision fulfilled.

  2. Issues and drivers for Indigenous fisheries
    The project has identified issues that impact the capacity and performance of Indigenous fisheries, and related drivers of uncertainty and change.

  3. Conclusions regarding business models to support economic development
    Project design called for 4-5 case studies that would represent the national Indigenous community fishery cohort, meet project objectives, and inform the IRG and RD&E decision makers.
    Guided by the IRG, the project team has engaged seven case study fishery communities in face-to-face consultations regarding fishery status, capacity, performance, models, aspirations, economic development options, and analyses and reporting.

  4. Recommendations to the IRG/FRDC regarding measures and actions to build the capacity and performance of Indigenous fisheries.
The project team recommends the IRG consider the following actions:
  1. Implement a plan to identify Indigenous fishery communities across Australia that hold exclusive or non-exclusive rights to, and control of underutilised fishery resources.
  2. Encourage Indigenous fishery communities that seek to develop their fishery resources, to establish at least one community corporation registered with the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations
  3. Encourage each Indigenous fishery community (including local residents and remote TOs and members) to undertake a formal planning process
  4. Encourage community to identify commercial partners, networks and collaborations
  5. Empower Indigenous fishery community leaders to attend, contribute to and learn

Related research


Australian Fisheries and Aquaculture Statistics 2022

1. To maintain and improve the data base of production, gross value of production and trade statistics for the Australian fishing industry, including aquaculture.
Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) ABARES