Adapt or Fail: Risk management and business resilience in Queensland commercial fisheries

Project Number:



James Cook University (JCU)

Principal Investigator:

Renae Tobin

Project Status:


FRDC Expenditure:



Communities, Environment, Industry


Change is inevitable, whether it be management, environmental, or economic change. Improving how industries cope with and adapt to change becomes increasingly important as rates and cumulative impacts of change escalate. Some commercial fishing operators are better able to cope with, and adapt to change than others. In part this is due to the inherent capabilities of some individuals to cope with change, learn, plan, and manage risk – elements we can measure through resilience frameworks (Marshall and Marshall, 2007). Other differences relate to access to adaptation options, which may rely on factors such as business structure, diversity of operation, access to information and financial capacity. We do not yet know the specific role such factors play in improving adaption options and hence resilience. What we do know is that more resilient operators are better able to cope with change and adapt to it, and that these operators are less likely to seek compensation when change occurs (Sutton and Tobin 2012). Given these findings, it is vital that we identify factors that improve access to and uptake of adaption options, and that factors constraining uptake of these options are identified. We need to develop appropriate communication tools that relate to the nature of risks faced by fishing operations depending on their current behaviour and business structure, options for change, and access to / uptake of information. We also need to assess possible management options which could reduce some constraints on adaptation and hence increase resilience. This proposal meets QFRAB priority #2 (business models in relation to resilience), and FRDC’s “Resilient and supportive communities” Strategic Challenge.


1. Document the current diversity and develop typologies of business models and operation types employed across all commercial fisheries on Queensland's east coast

2. Explore the current adaptation options for different business model types regarding risks associated with economic, management and environmental changes

3. Document the common constraints affecting uptake of adaptation options between and across business model types

4. Provide information tools regarding adaptation options for different business model types to fishers and managers, to enable the improvement of adaptive capacity and hence resilience