Project number: 2017-125
Project Status:
Budget expenditure: $11,600.56
Principal Investigator: Bryan McDonald
Organisation: Department of Industry Tourism and Trade
Project start/end date: 14 Oct 2017 - 30 Jan 2018


A number of fisheries in Australia are characterised as being 'small scale', 'data ' and/or 'capacity' limited (hereafter small scale fisheries). Fisheries management within the context of small scale fisheries is often ad hoc and is resource intensive relative to the value of the fishery in question. An existing project (FRDC 2015-213) is developing guidelines for low cost and systematic management of small scale fisheries. A central component of those guidelines is the FishPath tool developed by CSIRO in partnership with a global consortium of experts.

The FishPath tool has significant potential for adoption as a 'standard' approach to small scale fisheries management in Australia and has strong stakeholder by-in at a theoretical level. However, the implementation of the guidelines and the FishPath tool would benefit from testing to optimise that potential. To be effective, the tool needs to provide a framework for participatory discussions about what management, harvest strategy and longer term monitoring and assessment options are best suited to a given fishery.

As a part of the existing project, a workshop has been scheduled to occur in Darwin on November 17 2017. At that workshop, a project team that will be led by Natalie Dowling (Principal Investigator 2015-213) and Kate Crosman (Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington) plan to introduce, test and improve the FishPath tool by focusing on stakeholder input. The existing project budget will enable the workshop to proceed with NT-based stakeholders in attendance. However, the potential value of the tool in a national context warrants broader participation. This proposal seeks support to fund the participation of key stakeholders from regional areas of the Northern Territory (e.g. Gove) and around Australia to ensure broad issues are considered and outcomes are provided against national priorities to improve productivity and profitability of small scale fisheries and in assistance to the Status of Australian Fish Stocks program.

The outcomes of the workshop are regarded as essential to determining the next phase of work in the implementation of the management guidelines and FishPath nationally.


1. To test and inform the utility of FishPath from a stakeholder perspective so that it is end-user friendly and designed to have optimal value as a decision support tool
2. To provide stakeholders with an opportunity to learn about, and influence, the application of a management decision support tool designed to remove uncertainty and improve rigor particularly with regard to small scale fisheries,
3. To provide additional extension of project 2015-213 and to facilitate stakeholder-based discussions of potential future projects to improve and implement the guidelines for low cost management of small scale fisheries.

Final report

Authors: Katherine M. Crosman Natalie Dowling Bryan McDonald
Final Report • 2021-05-03 • 1.35 MB


Fisheries are increasingly managed with involvement of fishers and other stakeholders. Stakeholders are especially critical where managers lack full knowledge of the system to be managed, resources to gather additional information, and/or resources to monitor and enforce compliance. Such ‘data-limited fisheries’ comprise more than 80% of the total global fish catch and face challenges to maintaining sustainable harvest rates. Sustainable management of data-limited fisheries may be improved by decision support that informs assessment and management choices and that is available to fishers and managers. Here we report results from a field experiment conducted with Australian fisheries stakeholders. The experiment tested FishPath, an interactive decision-support software tool for data-limited fisheries, and its influence on stakeholder buy-in to management. Participants were provided with a hypothetical fishery that mimicked commonly encountered real-world data- and capacity-limitations. In Stage 1, to establish baseline levels of buy-in, we presented participants with a shortlist of management options tailored to the fishery; participants did not interact with FishPath. In Stage 2, to test the effect of FishPath use, participants collectively input the hypothetical fishery into FishPath; the tool then presented the same management options seen in Stage 1. In Stage 3, to assess the effect of expert support, participants were randomly assigned to a control group and a treatment group after a common introduction to FishPath output. The control group explored the output without additional support, while the treatment group explored output with support from a FishPath expert. After each stage, participants were asked to rate: 1) their support for an ongoing process to select management options from the shortlist; 2) how easy or hard they expected management of the fishery to be; and 3) how effective they expected management of the fishery to be. Initial findings indicate that while FishPath use does not significantly increase stakeholder support for management (possibly due to ceiling effects, as support was high in Stage 1), it does significantly increase participants’ perceptions of the ease and effectiveness of management.

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