The CRC Reef Research Centre’s second student stakeholder workshop in November 2004, “Fishing for More”, demonstrated the continued recognition of the importance and acceptance of stakeholder engagement in scientific research. The CRC Reef has fostered an ethos and commitment to collaborative, applied and integrative stakeholder-driven research of which its postgraduate students are encouraged to develop and embrace. The workshop and subsequent proceedings presented here are testimony to the adoption of this culture.
Postgraduate students of the CRC Reef Fishing and Fisheries Project and James Cook University built upon the first successful student stakeholder workshop in 2001, “Bridging the Gap”. This workshop focused upon linking student research with fisheries stakeholders (i.e., effectively “bridging the gap” between the research and end users of that research). In contrast, the second workshop promoted a dialogue between stakeholders and students so as to not only link their research, but to enable stakeholders to inform their research (i.e., effectively “fishing for more” information to better interpret research findings). Outcomes from both these workshops emphasised the genuine commitment of the respective students to ensure their research is relevant and has direct implications to the assessment and sustainable management of Queensland fisheries and its stakeholders.
The overall aim of the second student stakeholder workshop was to facilitate the effective transfer of information to stakeholders about current CRC Reef postgraduate research on Queensland east coast and Torres Strait fisheries. A diverse array of stakeholders with interests across these fisheries contributed to achieving this aim. The workshop consisted of six PhD presentations, in various stages of candidature, encompassing three broad research topics: 1) biology and management of reef fish; 2) incorporating social and economic information into fisheries management; and 3) traditional fisheries and their management in Torres Strait. The diversity of these research topics captures the essence of modern fisheries management and its need to incorporate aspects of biology, ecology, sociology and economics in a holistic manner.
Bergenius, Marriott and Pears provided information on the biology of important target and by-catch species of the Coral Reef Fin Fish Fishery of the Great Barrier Reef, and insights into their effective management. All of these studies are contributions from the CRC Reef Effects of Line Fishing (ELF) Project, where significant value-adding in the form of auxiliary information to the ELF Project has been gained from these, and other, student studies. As with all of the ELF research, the student research is dependent on stakeholder engagement and consultation.
Bergenius compared vital life history characteristics of the main target species, common coral trout (Plectropomus leopardus), across broad spatial and temporal scales. Results revealed large variations in growth, mean age and survivorship of common coral trout among regions of the Great Barrier Reef, although the patterns were not consistent among years. Regional variation in life history characteristics can lead to differences in productivity and reproductive output that can be used to infer stock structure. Currently, common coral trout (and all other reef fish), however, are managed as a single stock on the Great Barrier Reef with no consideration of regional differences in vital life history characteristics; albeit that these results suggest several stocks are evident and a precautionary approach to regional management may be warranted.
Marriott examined the biology and potential impacts of fishing on populations of red bass (Lutjanus bohar); a long lived reef fish that has recently been regulated as a no-take species in the Coral Reef Fin Fish Fishery. Although red bass is no longer harvested for consumption on the Queensland east coast, changing regulations have resulted in it becoming an important by-catch species in the fishery. In addition, red bass is still a target species in other fisheries and regions such as the Torres Strait. The species longevity, late maturation, slow growth and unknown post-release mortality are all characteristics indicative of its high vulnerability to over-fishing that need to be considered in the management of multi-species fisheries of which it is a component.
Pears described demographic and life history characteristics of flowery cod (Epinephelus fuscoguttatus), and the closely related, camouflage cod (E. polyphekadion). These species are an important component of the Asian live reef food fish trade and the Coral Reef Fin Fish Fishery of the Great Barrier Reef. Similar to red bass, flowery cod and camouflage cod are relatively long lived, slow growing and late maturing species that are vulnerable to over-fishing. Results from this study suggest the effectiveness of recent size limits implemented in the fishery as a measure to protect the species need to be reviewed, particularly for flowery cod, as little protection is afforded to the reproductive component of its population.
The need to incorporate social science in fisheries management has been debated for some time, but is now gaining momentum under legislative requirements for total systems approaches to management. Traditionally, fisheries have been managed using ecological information, but evidence is now showing that incorporating social science into the decision-making process may improve resource protection through increased compliance and decreased conflict (Marshall, these proceedings). Likewise, CRC Reef and its students have recognised the benefits of multi-disciplinary research and demonstrated their progressive thinking and commitment towards social science. Although we have a long way to go in effectively using social science in a pragmatic fisheries management framework, the studies of Marshall and Tobin reported in these proceedings provides some insights to this on-going commitment.
Marshall investigated the resilience of the commercial fishing industry in Queensland to changes in fisheries management policy. Considering the significant management changes that have recently been implemented throughout Queensland (i.e., RAP, Trawl Plan, Reef Line Plan, etc) results from this study are particularly timely. The level of dependency on fisheries resources, the way in which policies are interpreted, and personal and family characteristics were found to be important social factors in determining how resilient a fishing family may be to policy change. Future decision-making processes need to consider social information to ensure management strategies are designed to not only protect fisheries resources, but minimise conflicts and other social impacts.
Tobin discussed the apparent ubiquitous and growing conflict between stakeholders for shared fish stocks, with a focus on recreational anglers and commercial gillnet fishers targeting barramundi (Lates calcarifer) in north Queensland estuaries. Results from structured questionnaires indicated that fishers from each sector hold negative opinions of the competing sector, and positive opinions of their own sector, for aspects of fishery health and productivity. Negative opinions, however, appeared to be based on perceptions rather than research, suggesting that the general fishing public is poorly informed. Current conflict between sectors may be eased through increased education and communication, emphasising the importance of social science in understanding and ultimately, improving such situations.
Another relatively new area of research focus for the CRC Reef and its students involves traditional fishing practices and resource dependency of indigenous communities in the Torres Strait. In this research, consultation is perhaps even more important given the social and cultural considerations that need to be addressed. Busilacchi introduced ongoing research designed to characterise the traditional subsistence fishing (kaikai) practices in the eastern Torres Strait. Preliminary results suggested that there have been changes over time in the species harvested for consumption in response to changing motivations for fishing. Information on fishing practices of the subsistence sector will be integrated with results from a complementary study examining the commercial sector of the fishery to provide an exhaustive and reliable assessment of reef fish in the Torres Strait.
The student research presented at the workshop and in these proceedings are all CRC Reef funded tasks, demonstrating their applied focus to stakeholder interests. CRC Reef offers many opportunities for students to become involved in stakeholder engagement and develop all aspects of their profession including good communication and collaboration skills, although it is up to them to embrace these opportunities. This workshop was entirely organised by the students of the CRC Reef Fishing and Fisheries Project, who viewed this as a unique opportunity to discuss with stakeholders their research, whilst gaining invaluable feedback on their findings. These actions demonstrate the traits and philosophy to applied fisheries research that is inherent in CRC Reef students. Notably, their research and motivations are driven by a desire to provide stakeholders with relevant outcomes for management; attributes that are not necessarily common place in traditional academia.
The second CRC Reef student stakeholder workshop, “Fishing for More”, and the resulting proceedings documented in this report, therefore, continue the genuine commitment of the CRC Reef and its students to stakeholder engagement and consultation. The workshop was intended to involve a wide array of stakeholders, and these proceedings are likewise intended to be accessible to a broad audience with interests in Queensland east coast and Torres Strait fisheries. These proceedings express the views of stakeholders at the workshop, and demonstrate the value of effective stakeholder engagement that is built on reciprocal trust and respect.
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