Low cost management regimes for sustainable, small low-value fisheries based on coastal inshore species

Project Number:



CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere Hobart

Principal Investigator:

Natalie Dowling

Project Status:


FRDC Expenditure:





Low cost, practical management regimes for small-scale, low-value fisheries are desperately needed, to ensure long term sustainability for these fisheries without the need for resource hungry management frameworks. While management should focus on output regimes to provide business cases to support investment, input regimes should also be considered. The level of data and/or resource poverty for these low-value/small-scale fisheries is often such that they lack formal data collection protocols. Associated challenges in providing guidance, even at the level of basic data collection regimes, can include limited literacy and numeracy, and profound associated cultural issues associated with indigenous sectors. A logical first step is to undertake a desktop study that provides guidance and a recommended approach to developing management regimes. This has been long been flagged as a priority by the Northern Territory for its small-scale, low-value fisheries, including those with an indigenous and/or community emphasis. The focus would be on developing a kernel for advice that is informed by a starting-point case study. The multi-sector N.T. Spanish Mackerel Fishery would be considered in the first instance, but with proactive awareness that guidance should be developed in a format that is able to be more generally adapted. Work would be undertaken in close collaboration with state/territory agencies and indigenous liaison teams. The innovative nature of the project lies in providing pragmatic, practical, stepwise guidance provided to date to explicitly confront and address the extreme data poverty and, to a lesser extent, the profound cultural issues associated with small-scale, low-value fisheries. Where appropriate, the project will apply the general advice from the new National Harvest Strategy Guidelines. It will also be enhanced by i) the experience of the project team within the Commonwealth context, and in providing general guidance to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), for data-poor fisheries; and ii) the experience, local knowledge and trusted reputation of the N.T. members of the project team.


1. To review and inventory existing approaches for management regimes for small-scale fisheries, with emphasis on low-cost approaches.

2. To provide a guidelines document of advice and recommendations for the development of management regimes for small-scale, low-value fisheries, according to fishery family/archetype.

3. To use the NT Spanish Mackerel Fishery as a case study to inform and refine the guidelines document for one fishery family/archetype.

4. Via the case study fishery, to consider how to incorporate multiple sector objectives and how best to engage relevant stakeholders, in the context of pragmatic management regimes

5. In association with relevant management agencies, develop a new proposal to apply the guidelines to additional case study fisheries, and to continue the engagement with the Spanish mackerel fishery.

Low cost management regimes for sustainable, small low-value fisheries, based on coastal inshore species

Final Report
Author(s):Natalie A. Dowling, Bryan McDonald, Lindsay Joll, Shijie Zhou, Rik Buckworth, Robert Fish, Lianos Triantafillos
Date Published:June 2020

This study provides a comprehensive, process-based guidance to developing low-cost management regimes for small-scale, low-value fisheries. The approach outlined is strongly “bottom-up” in that it seeks to identify pragmatic options and provide practical advice that specifically acknowledge(s) the context and (resource, managerial and research capacity, data, socio-economic) constraints within the fishery. That is, it attempts to provide advice that is tailored to each fishery’s unique circumstances. This includes incorporating and formalising, where appropriate, existing management arrangements into a harvest strategy, and recommending assessment approaches based only on currently available information. 

The resultant Guidelines provide to users an efficient, transparent, defensible and standardised process to identify management options that are best suited to the fishery’s context. Such a process mitigates against decision paralysis and inefficiency in having to develop a harvest strategy in the absence of a pro-forma, and against using the wrong assessment, or inappropriate control rules or monitoring programs. The Guidelines developed as part of this project are underpinned by a review of the literature, and an accompanying ‘Low-cost Management Regime Guidelines’ document.

Appendix One: Low-cost management regimes for small-scale, low-value fisheries: a review of the literature

Author(s):Natalie Dowling
Date Published:

Appendix Two: Guidelines for developing low-cost management regimes for smallscale, low-value fisheries

Author(s):Natalie A. Dowling, Bryan McDonald, Lindsay Joll, Shijie Zhou, Rik Buckworth, Robert Fish, Lianos Triantafillos
Date Published: