Following the initial groundwork to assess community support and approaches for a non-commercial fishery monitoring program in the Torres Strait (Bedford et al 2021 - https://www.pzja.gov.au/sites/default/files/final_report_-_monitoring_the_non-commercial_catch_in_torres_strait_update_06042021.pdf ), the following five steps were proposed:
1. Community consultation and sign on (engaging community re support for the suggested monitoring method).
2. Assess self-reporting web-based tool/APP platform design and development options (including data collection and storage options), through co-design with communities and Government to meet stakeholder needs.
3. Develop self-reporting web-based tool/APP platform, database and data flow infrastructure.
4. Community rollout – pilot (in some communities).
5. Community rollout – full-scale (to all communities).
The Torres Strait Scientific Advisory Committee (TSSAC) recommended that steps 1 and 2 (above) be undertaken first and they form the scope of this proposal.
As also noted in the TSSAC committee meeting of June 2021, the project was an initiative of the quota working group subcommittee of the Torres Strait Regional Authority Board, and identified as a priority by the Traditional Inhabitants (https://www.pzja.gov.au/sites/default/files/tssac_79_meeting_record_final.pdf). In particular, by ‘improving estimates of non-commercial catch of commercial species to inform stock assessment and set sustainable catch levels, as well as determine the catch sharing between the sunset sector, and how much to allocate for community consumption, in order to protect Traditional non-commercial catches and help ensure sustainable management.’
As noted in the ‘Opportunity’ section of this proposal, this project help fill a range of needs for Torres Strait communities, including:
• More accurate assessment of the Recommended Biological Catches of commercial species from all sources of fishing in the Torres Strait
• Reliable assessments of ongoing catches from the substantial non-commercial sectors in the Torres Strait, including knowledge of future change in catches that may be due to pressures from fishing, coastal industry, climate change, other ecosystem regime change
• Stronger ownership of marine resource management by Torres Strait communities, including ownership of non-commercial catch information, and supported by improved knowledge of the temporal and spatial dynamics of non-commercial catches.
The previous project also concluded that a non-commercial fishery monitoring program would have the best chance of success by gaining broad and committed acceptance by local communities and their leaders, with a strong co-design component. The need for this level of consultation was re-iterated by Traditional Inhabitants in several PZJA fishery management fora, including the TSSAC. This project is designed to meet that need.
The proposed project aligns strongly with the Torres Strait Fisheries Strategic Research Plan (https://www.pzja.gov.au/sites/default/files/tssac_srp_2018-2022_post_tssac_final.pdf). In particular:
• Theme 1: Protecting the Torres Strait marine environment for the benefit of Traditional Inhabitants; which is based on improving effective management of fishery stocks in order to support Traditional Inhabitant social and economic needs; which is an expectation of the improved fishery data outputs from the project.
• Theme 2: Social and Economic Benefits; which promotes social and economic benefits for Traditional Inhabitants from Torres Strait fisheries; for example, through increased capacity required to manage the program and increased knowledge of any future changes in catches through space and time in the Torres Strait.
• Theme 3: Technology and Innovation; which promotes the development of technology to support the economic, environmental and social benefits from the fishing sector.
This research project is co funded by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority of the Australian Government. Project co- investigators are Kenny Bedford, David Brewer and Timothy Skewes.