Modern fishery regulations are creating new opportunities for Indigenous people to participate in the whole seafood chain. (see the recent corporate examples noted in the Background Section).
Indigenous people are increasingly the owners of commercial fishing licenses, and the operators of fishery businesses. But in wholesale markets their harvests will have to compete on price per kilogram with every other fishers' product. If they lack business scale or are not productive and commercially agile, their commercial business will not survive.
One option is for Indigenous fishers to offer seafood attributes that are unique and attractive to consumers. If products are differentiated and also branded in unique ways, some end-consumers may value these attributes and be willing to pay higher prices, which flow back to the fisher/owner of the brand. This is the same economic pathway that every other commercial fishing and seafood business pursues.
But does this logic apply to emerging Australian Indigenous brand fisheries? That is the question this project seeks to address.
Is there substantive global and local evidence supporting the development of specific commercial Indigenous food brands in any seafood/food market? And if there are commercial branding benefits, can Indigenous fishers/producers actually capture the benefits of the investment they make in such branding, or are they dissipated along the supply chain?
This analysis should be undertaken before further FRDC and other agency or authority funds are committed to R&D or other funding that supports the development of Indigenous seafood brands.
IRG Members considered how best to approach the challenge. Members supported that the Priority 2 (Benefits of an Indigenous brand) should be funded as a project immediately.
They agreed a technical analysis of the economic benefit of such a brand should be undertaken via a desktop international audit to capture information on successes and failures using such brands, understanding the whys, the costs, governance involved and if successful where is the benefit captured (at the supplier, middle person or the end point.
The executive summary comprises three parts:
1. Research framework and limitations,
2. Issues and drivers for Indigenous seafood branding,
3. Conclusions from case studies and review.