Informing strategies, policies and options supporting owner-operated fishing businesses in fisheries experiencing corporatisation

Project Number:



Southern Rocklobster Ltd (SRL)

Principal Investigator:

Tom Cosentino

Project Status:


FRDC Expenditure:





Southern rock lobster fishers have expressed concerns about trends in ownership of the fishery, including issues like concentration of ownership, foreign ownership and loss of regional economic benefits. Fisheries managers and industry leaders have expressed interest in attending a workshop that is aimed to conceptualise small-scale fisheries, the role of the state in facilitating or limiting corporatisation, and the extent that corporations are involved in conservation.


1. Plan for and adapt to corporatisation in the southern rock lobster fishery and summarise concerns and identify possible solutions.

2. Identify ways that fishers can become better organized and better able to protect their interests.

3. Identify comparisons with fisheries that exist within ITQ managed systems.

Informing strategies, policies and options supporting owner-operated fishing businesses in fisheries experiencing corporatisation

Final Report
Author(s):Thomas Cosentino
Date Published:November 2020
The Australian wild caught Southern rock lobster industry operates in the South Eastern part of Australia and spans three distinct jurisdictional areas - South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania. The industry comprises a fleet of vessels run by a mix of family owned and operated business and vertically integrated export businesses.
Some industry participants consider that the ownership structure has an impact on the culture of the industry which extends to benefits to regional communities, employment and job satisfaction.
Southern Rocklobster Limited (SRL) recognised there is diversity in the composition of the industry’s structure and the receipt of benefits from the fishery varies between user types. SRL sought to hold a workshop to assess other similar examples and if there appropriate management options to address them.

Aims, Objectives & Methodology

A workshop hosted by Southern Rocklobster Limited was held in Melbourne in October 2019, to allow industry stakeholders, managers and investors the opportunity to discuss the current industry structure and determine any paths of action.
Keynote speakers were selected to facilitate discussion of the benefits of various and current ownership structures.  As experts in the field they presented on key parts of individual transferable quotas, their history in Australia and case studies from North America.
Speakers included Professor Caleb Gardner, Dr Nick Rayns, Steven Xiao, Evelyn Pinkerton and Mike Barron. Speaker’s qualifications and experience are outlined in the report.
The workshop discussion, facilitated by Caleb Gardner focused on pragmatic options if industry agreed that measures needed to be taken to address the unintended consequences of ITQ systems.
Dr Rayns provided the benefits that TAC ITQs offered fisheries. These included integration with macro changes in global economics and followed trends in capitalism and the enhancement of free trade. 
The workshop discussion involved discussing the various dimensions of the characteristics of ‘rights’; flexibility, exclusivity, quality of title, transferability, divisibility and duration
The workshop considered whether Individual transferable quotas constitute rights. In Australia there has been a push to equate ITQs as rights which increases exclusivity of a publicly owned resource. This reduces an investor’s exposure to the risk of the Government altering the framework.
The Australian seafood sector has not kept pace with the implementation or development thinking for alternative business arrangements. Comparisons were made between the land-based agriculture sector and its ability to diversify into other commodities, markets and value adding strategies. Speakers at the workshop outlined that there are genuine management options for curbing the rate at which a fishery becomes more exclusive. Whilst some alternatives seems novel and in some instances even extreme, it was discussed that in Australia, these alternatives are often left unexplored when fisheries are being established or reformed.
Internationally there is a considerable body of arrangements that are being implemented that can inform Australian fisheries. These were discussed in length during Dr Pinkerton’s presentation.
The desired framework for a fishery must first decide what its goals are. These goals might include; the prevalence of owner operator businesses, low entrance costs for young fishers, support for regional communities and return on investment.
The workshop reviewed options to deliver objectives and fishery community goals. These options ranged from legislative and regulatory instruments to voluntary local agreements. Assessment of these goals could constitute further work in this area.
Recommendations & Implications
The purpose of the workshop was not to consult with industry on various options, but to lead thought and inform strategies, policies and options on what areas industry could improve, and how it could implement change to achieve those improvements. As such, the outcomes of the workshop have no realisable implications on the industry. The outputs expected from the workshop are:
  1. A succinct summary and discussion on “Current direction of the SRL fishery, and options for changing course from fisheries elsewhere”. 
  2. An avenue for the provision of a synthesis of Alternative Business/Deed/Corporate models that can be used to deliver different objectives when implementing management measures including ITQs, TACs and ITEs or Input Controls.
  3. Debate and education for attendees at the workshop.
  4. To synthesise alternative business/deed/corporate models that can be used to deliver different objectives when implementing management measures including ITQs, TACs and ITEs or Input Controls including:
  • A brief overview of alternatives
  • A conceptual framework for informing decisions
  • Case studies of examples used by different fisheries to deliver particular goals 
  • Further resource material – eg web links, publications etc