Project number: 2017-012
Project Status:
Budget expenditure: $171,520.99
Principal Investigator: Claudia Baldwin
Organisation: University of the Sunshine Coast (USC)
Project start/end date: 30 Sep 2017 - 29 Nov 2018


The Queensland commercial fishing industry provides healthy food for the community and tourist industry, has implemented sustainable operating standards (ESM), and is highly regulated. In spite of this, access to fish stocks are being reduced through competition with other users and conservation based closures, not always based on biological and stock assessment reasons (Pascoe 2013). Recent research indicates a low level of social acceptance of the commercial fishing industry by the community, contrasting starkly with perceptions of the recreational fishing industry (FRDC 2016, 2011). Issues include perceived impacts on targeted fish stocks, habitats and ecosystems (food webs), threatened, endangered or protected species (by-catch); supply chain; and compliance with best practice and government regulations (Christoe 2015; Mazur et al 2014; Sparks 2013). Gaining social acceptance, or a Social Licence to Operate (SLO) needs a long term commitment to demonstrating good environmental stewardship, leadership capacity, and effective engagement and communication to inform and garner support from stakeholders. Given rapidly evolving policy and digital media, the wild catch commercial fishing industry is in urgent need of effective and detailed engagement and communication strategies that extend well beyond interactions with government and regulators (FRDC 2016; Mazur et al 2014). This project aims to build on the considerable research and guidance about developing SLO by the FRDC (Christoe 2015; Mazur et al. 2014, Ogier et al. 2016, FRDC 2016) and others (Quigley 2014). Core research components include understanding self-identified values and capacity for and need for engagement of the fishers and key stakeholders, and identifying areas of common ground as a basis for continual improvement of relationships and perceptions of legitimacy, credibility, and trust. Phase one research findings will contribute to a community engagement strategy for the wild catch commercial fishing industry in Southeast Queensland. Phase two will test selected engagement strategies for effectiveness.


1. To provide key components of an engagement strategy for building fishing industry capacity to engage with community to improve social licence to operate.
2. To test impact of pilot engagement strategies on stakeholder perceptions of fishing industry and ability to achieve SLO.

Final report

ISBN: 978-1-925476-11-8
Author: Associate Professor Claudia Baldwin
Final Report • 2019-05-10 • 3.15 MB


This research project aimed to develop an engagement strategy that would assist the Southeast Queensland (SEQ) wild catch commercial fishing industry to gain social acceptance, or a Social Licence to Operate (SLO). SLO is needed to maintain access to the resource and market confidence.
A scan of Australian and New Zealand news print media over the last five years searching for commercial fishing and SEQ, revealed that of the 157 articles, the commercial fishing industry was predominantly portrayed in a negative light (70%), with 22% neutral. There were few good news stories.
A literature review provided the foundation for the research, identifying that factors contributing to building SLO were legitimacy, credibility, and trust, combined with procedural (processes used), distributional (equity in resource allocation) and interactional fairness (e.g. mutual respect and transparency).
Therefore, a draft engagement strategy was developed through USC/QSIA collaboration, founded on IAP2 principles and engagement spectrum. Good engagement tailors the methods of engagement to the purpose and needs of, or desired outcomes for each individual or group of stakeholders.
The QSIA engagement strategy suggests ways that the fishing industry can build broader support. Gaining social acceptance, or a Social Licence to Operate (SLO) needs a long-term commitment to demonstrating good environmental stewardship, leadership capacity, and effective engagement and communication to inform and garner support from stakeholders. Key features are being proactive, positive, and ready with factual information to clarify any misinformation quickly. Because stock sustainability and by-catch are big issues for key stakeholders, unless Queensland government’s fisheries management is considered best practice and sustainable, it will be difficult for SEQ fishers
to build the credibility and trust necessary for a high level of SLO.
Social media and online tools present good opportunities to spread information quickly and get feedback. A detailed social media strategy as well as a Queensland fisheries industry sponsored stakeholder advisory group that allows face-to-face dialogue would be a good start to building the relationships needed for improving levels of SLO. Methods for evaluation of impact on SLO of all techniques need refinement and a much longer timeframe for assessment.

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