Project number: 2014-233
Project Status:
Budget expenditure: $300,000.00
Principal Investigator: Stephan B. Schnierer
Organisation: C-AID Consultants
Project start/end date: 30 Jun 2014 - 29 Jul 2016


The need for this project comes from the continuing assertion by ICF that their ongoing relationship (use, management and spiritual associations) with fisheries resources is yet to be sufficiently addressed by various Australian fisheries jurisdictions. While this relationship is recognised in various international instruments and agreements including the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries Section 7.6.6, the United Nations Declaration on rights of Indigenous Peoples and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, this recognition hasn't converted to an 'on ground' full realisation in any fisheries jurisdiction. Indigenous participants at the Cairns workshops in 2012 identified a need for further work to be done to address these deficiencies, see FRDC Project 2010/401. Similarly, project 2009/038 documented the concerns of ICF in NSW with the impacts of commercial and recreational fishing on their cultural fishing practices.

There is a need for consistent approaches to the recognition and protection of ICF in fisheries management and governance at various levels of government. Consequently, there is a need to evaluate the current status of fisheries management approaches taken in each jurisdiction to address Indigenous fisheries interests in order to; (i) identify achievements and gaps, (ii) build on recent achievements made in this area (e.g. existent indigenous fisheries strategies, establishment of the IRG and recent FRDC funded research initiatives), (iii) benchmark management approaches in each jurisdiction with national and international best practice.

There is a need to complete the work on developing an Indigenous GCT described by Fletcher et al (2000) using different approaches to collect the relevant data for the GCT so that a risk assessment methodologies can be applied in assessing risks and impacts of nIF on the ICF as part of achieving ESD in Australia.


1. Review how Indigenous fisheries (ICF) ‘issues’ are addressed by fisheries management in Australia: (a) broadly, in policy and strategy, legislation, RD&E, reporting etc.
(b) specifically, in the assessment of impacts of non-indigenous fisheries (nIF) on ICF
both to develop practical guidelines that deliver best practice.
2. Conduct a national indigenous workshop to develop a methodology to assess impacts of nIF on ICF and the associated risk factors and two indigenous workshops at state/territory level focusing an iconic species targeted in IF and nIF to trial and refine the methodology.
3. Write reports in appropriate language for activities in objectives 1 and 2 outlining the outcomes.

Final report

ISBN: 978-0-9871427-7-1
Authors: Stephan Schnierer Hayley Egan Chris Calogeras Stan Lui and Lucille Schnierer
Final Report • 2018-11-02 • 5.37 MB


This report provides details of the FRDC Project 2014-233 Improving access for Indigenous Australians to and involvement in the use and management of Australia’s fisheries resources. The project was undertaken because Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to assert that their rightful place in the use and management of fisheries resources is yet to reach a level that would enable them to meet their cultural, social and economic needs.

Some key issues underpinning this perception were identified by Indigenous fishers at a national workshop supported by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) held in Cairns 2011. Two specific issues identified in Cairns were the basis for this project, they included the need to identify barriers and opportunities for Indigenous fisheries within legislation and policy and the need to address non-indigenous impacts on Indigenous fisheries. This project comprised two phases addressing two objectives based on these two issues.

Phase 1 of the project centred on the first objective, to audit as many fisheries related documents (legislation, policy, management strategies and plans) so as to develop a picture of how Indigenous fisheries are addressed within these documents. Phase 2 of the project focussed on the second objective which was to trial a methodology for conducting a risk assessment of the potential impacts of non-indigenous fisheries on Indigenous cultural fishing.

It will take time for the outcomes to have an impact on end users such as fisheries managers. However, there has already been some uptake of information from the project into fisheries decision making spaces. This has been achieved through information from the
audit being provided to a number of governmental reviews and inquiries over the past 3 years. For Indigenous end users’ findings from this section of the project will be communicated through a recently commenced FRDC project 2017-069 in the form of educational content and key messages developed through a new project the FRDC Indigenous Reference Group (IRG) is supporting to commence in 2019 (‘Identify and synthesizing key messages from IRG projects’).From Phase 1 of the project the research team recommends the development of a more comprehensive set of national Indigenous fishing principles to further guide the development, implementation and monitoring of Indigenous fisheries policy across all jurisdictions. The team also recommends the inclusion in all fisheries acts, across all jurisdictions, of an objective that specifically addresses Indigenous cultural fishing, provisions for the establishment of Indigenous fisheries advisory committees, the inclusion of provisions to identify, measure and address impacts of non-indigenous fisheries on Indigenous fisheries and provisions to protect and enhance Traditional Fishing Knowledge (TFK). The research team also recommends a review of the Commonwealth’s ESD guidelines to include a requirement for the assessment of the impacts of non-Indigenous fisheries on Indigenous cultural fishing.

The aim of Phase 2 of this project was to run a series of case study workshops for Indigenous fishing communities to test a methodology for making risk assessments of fisheries that was developed by Fletcher et al 2002. This methodology was used to assess
the potential risks posed by non-indigenous fisheries on Indigenous cultural fisheries.

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