Project number: 2022-027
Project Status:
Budget expenditure: $99,359.00
Principal Investigator: Rachel Kelly
Organisation: Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) Hobart
Project start/end date: 30 Jul 2023 - 29 Jun 2024


The uptake of best practice approaches in fisheries and aquaculture is influenced by factors that inhibit or enable behaviour change, including psycho-sociological factors (i.e. how change or approaches are framed).
Previous FRDC research has indicated a need to identify how and where behavioural insights/interventions – which draw on psycho-sociological factors such as cognitive biases, social norms, and emotions – can be used to steer behaviour change towards preferred outcomes (e.g. stewardship, safety) in marine sectors. This project builds on current and emerging research on behaviour change in fisheries and aquaculture to consolidate a review of published literature and available grey literature and R&D (from academic and industry domains, including recent FRDC projects relating to behaviour change) that has identified psycho-sociological factors influencing behavioural change. The aim of this literature review is to identify the types of behavioural interventions that can (or potentially, cannot) achieve preferred outcomes for fishing and aquaculture sectors in Australia. Specifically, the review seeks to explore i) which kinds of behavioural interventions can be effective in achieving positive change, ii) where (and just as importantly, where not) these interventions may be applied in fisheries and aquaculture sectors, iii) identify (potential) limitations of interventions, and to iii) bring these findings together to inform and underpin development of two relevant and engaging training webinars and associated resource materials, and iv) make recommendations for further focused trials/intervention research which could be undertaken to further support and expedite desired outcomes in Australian fisheries and aquaculture.

There is rapidly growing interest in the development, application and evaluation of behavioural interventions and they show great potential, however, they are also complex to design, test, and implement. Individuals are more likely to change their behaviours if they have the necessary skills and perceive they can do so (capability), if their environment (physical as well as social) provides an opportunity to do so (opportunity), and if they are motivated to achieve a particular endpoint through this behaviour (motivation), either through conscious decision-making or automatic processes, such as momentary cues. Further, the use of behavioural interventions has not been without critique, with concerns about ethics, manipulation, or risk to human agency. There are also concerns about the effectiveness of behavioural interventions, which may derive from several reasons: for example, due to misunderstanding the behaviour that is intended to be changed and the expected response by the audience. A behavioural intervention will be ineffective if the messaging or delivery causes confusion or if it only has a short-term effect. Some interventions can cause unintended consequences or compensating behaviours resulting in no net effect. These reasons highlight the importance of appropriate contextual understanding and well-defined outcomes for the design of effective behavioural interventions.

There are also different avenues for intervention beyond cognitive biases: education, persuasion, incentivisation, coercion, training, restriction, environmental restructuring, modelling and enablement, and the framing and implementation of these can differ depending on who the intervention is targeted at and under what context. Targeting behaviours in fisheries and aquaculture may enhance engagement and sustainable changes in the longer term (e.g. via development of new social norms), but to achieve this, changes in the determinants of behaviour are required. Actions (e.g. citizen science projects, local management practices), feelings, values (e.g. connectedness to oceans, the realisation of links between ocean health and human health) and social norms are embedded in and influenced by, local environments and social spheres that can transcend geographical boundaries. Our project will explore these nuances and convey concise summaries of behaviour change interventions for end-users via webinars, fact sheets, a simple decision tree tool (described below) and several short videos. The project intentionally has a broad focus (across fisheries and aquaculture sectors) in its review and outputs, as it is designed to equip potential developers and implementers of behavioural interventions with the skills and knowledge to do so in their own unique context. However, we will engage with industry partners (including FRDC extension officers and the industry advisory groups) to specifically ensure that the knowledge and tools produced (i.e. extension products) will be accessible and adaptable to the diversity of relevant contexts across these sectors - and useful for end-users seeking to motivate behaviour change whilst still retaining industry trust and engagement.

The project brings together necessary interdisciplinary research expertise (details outlined below) in the fields of behavioural economics, resource and fisheries economics, socio-ecology, fisheries ecology, science communication and cognitive psychology. In addition, the transdisciplinary potential of this project will be achieved via collaboration with a research advisory panel (to ensure rigorous research outcomes) and an industry level advisory panel (to ensure that the results and suggested interventions/activities are fit-for-purpose and accessible to the sector). Working with these panels (which would ideally include FRDC partners), we will ensure that the research is co-designed – and thus, project outputs are fit-for-purpose/context. Our team’s existing collective research on adoption and uptake of interventions clearly shows that engaging and involving end-user at creation stages increases uptake of results – hence, the value of our industry advisory panel. In addition, by engaging with industry leaders, we will create industry champions for the project who may assist with the dissemination of outputs. Together, the advisory groups will help to further define/adapt the scope of the project to achieve impact.

Overall, these collaborations and contributions will ensure that this project will deliver a comprehensive and industry-relevant overview of current understanding of behaviour change interventions, that addresses end-users’ identified needs, and that inspires community trust, in formats that are palatable and accessible to them and the fisheries and aquaculture sectors more broadly..


1. Conduct a systematic review of behavioural interventions for positive outcomes in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors.
2. Develop a two-part webinar series targeted at the FRDC community that aims to provide accessible and implementable knowledge on the theory and practice of behavioural interventions in fisheries.
3. Provide open-access knowledge about behavioural interventions with/to stakeholders via supporting materials (including a decision tree tool), fact-sheets, visual aids, and video.
4. Identify areas for future focused work and interventions that can be implemented to support the fisheries and aquaculture sectors

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