Baseline Socio-Economic Data for Queensland East Coast Inshore and Rocky Reef Fishery Stakeholders. Part B: Charter Fishers
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AbstractQueensland’s East Coast Inshore and Rocky Reef Finfish Fisheries are important for commercial, charter and recreational fisheries, as well as Queensland seafood consumers. With a new Management Plan in development during this project for the East Coast Inshore Finish Fishery (the ‘Inshore Fishery’), and a revision of management for the Rocky Reef Finfish Fishery (the ‘Rocky Reef Fishery’) planned for the future, an opportunity arose to collect baseline socio-economic data for these fisheries prior to management change. This baseline data would provide the opportunity to assess the impacts of management change, and to also initiate a process of long-term socio-economic monitoring. Such monitoring would allow ongoing assessment of the socio-economic status of the fishery in terms of fisher resilience and ongoing fishery viability. This report (Part B) outlines the baseline data for the Inshore and Rocky Reef Charter Fisheries. Baseline data were collected via fisher surveys in 2008 plus collation of existing data from other sources, prior to implementation of the new Inshore Fishery Management Plan. The baseline data also provide a test of many of the socio-economic indicators listed by fishery stakeholders in a workshop prior to the surveys. A brief summary of the most pertinent findings are provided here. The Inshore Charter Fishery Resilience is defined as the ability to cope with and adapt to change (Folke et al. 2002). For inshore charter fishers the ‘resilience statements’ (developed by (Marshall and Marshall 2007) on their own did not give a reliable estimate of resilience level; Hence resilience was explored through a combination of demographic, patterns of use and economic indicators as well as the individual resilience statements. These indicators revealed that charter fishers’ resilience within the Inshore Fishery specifically and charter fishing in general (socio-ecological resilience) is low: Great Barrier Reef (GBR) fishers in particular had a high dependence on a single species (barramundi) and fished in a limited area. South-east Queensland (SEQ) fishers had a slightly more diverse target species list, but also fished in a very restricted area. Most fishers (50% of GBR fishers and 75% of SEQ fishers) were also dependent solely on the Inshore Fishery, suggesting limited capacity to diversify into other fisheries if needed. Further, current estimates of only 20% return on invested capital suggest economic viability is questionable. Resilience statements revealed fishers perceive their ability to adapt as low: most fishers did not believe they were competitive enough to survive in the industry much longer, and fishers from the GBR region in particular agreed that if there are any more changes they would not survive in the industry. It is likely that diversity and reliability of clients is important for the charter fishery in determining resilience: SEQ fishers had a diverse client base, while GBR fishers were more reliant on interstate clients (48%). Future research should address the current void in knowledge about charter fishing clients, exploring client expectations, satisfaction and return (and the interaction between these) as indicators of stability of income source for the charter fishery. Resilience outside of the fishery (social resilience) is high: Fishers had been in the industry a relatively short time (10 years) and were spread between older and younger age groups. GBR fishers were younger than SEQ fishers and were less likely to agree they were too old to find work elsewhere. Most fishers were well educated and had other training, and felt they could get work of equivalent income outside of fishing if they needed to. Most SEQ fishers had a low personal and household dependence on charter fishing. GBR fishers had a high personal dependence on charter fishing, but less dependence at a household level. Most fishers in both regions had planned for their financial security. However, while fishers may be able to adapt outside of the industry, many may prefer not to, stating they intend to remain in the industry in the next three years. Ongoing socio-economic viability of the fishery is likely given the high rate of recruitment, although there is high turnover of fishers as well. While this may further support the finding that social resilience is high, the high turnover needs investigating to determine why so many fishers are exiting the fishery and how well they are adapting once they exit (to confirm social resilience). High turnover could be related to satisfaction with various aspects of fishing. Aspects fishers weren’t satisfied with include the number of commercial fishers who fish in the same area, and their clients’ ability to catch a fish and the size and number of fish caught. Fishers also stated fishing quality had decreased in recent years. Further investigation is needed into these aspects and whether they are affect fishers’ decisions to exit the fishery. Inshore charter fishers were generally supportive of current regulation concepts, but did not agree that current (at the time of the survey) regulations were sufficient to ensure long-term sustainability of inshore fish stocks. Consequently they believed there needed to be stricter regulations on both recreational and commercial fishing, although they were concerned about the negative impacts of management change on the charter industry. There was a current lack of engagement and social networking with inshore charter fishers: While most charter fishers were aware a draft plan was being developed and open for comment at the time of the surveys, only half got involved in public consultation and many fishers disagreed or were unsure if the reasons given for the suggested management changes were transparent or clear. In addition, most charter fishers did not speak with Fisheries Queensland or any charter fishing representatives about fisheries related issues at all in the previous 12 months. The Rocky Reef Charter Fishery When measured via ‘resilience statements’, resilience of rocky reef charter fishers was found to be ‘medium’ for all dimensions (risk, planning, coping, learning). When exploring resilience via a range of additional socio-economic variables, however, results suggested that fishers’ ability to adapt to change within the Rocky Reef Fishery specifically is low (i.e. they have low socio-ecological resilience): fishers were highly dependent on snapper and pearl perch, and fishing area was very restricted likely due to distribution of these species. Socio-ecological resilience within charter fishing in general is higher, with most fishers utilising other fisheries as well as the Rocky Reef Fishery. Fishers’ client base was also fairly diverse, indicating some capacity to cope if one of the client sources were reduced. Income in the fishery was low, however, despite high investment, and most fishers were dissatisfied with their fishing and household income. Further exploration is needed to confirm whether (or not) fishers are socio-ecologically resilient within the fishery. Resilience outside of fishing (social resilience) appears mixed for rocky reef charter fishers: most are less than 50 years of age, but most stated they felt too old to find work elsewhere. Fishers had been in the industry for 12 years on average, and had training in other fields. However, more than half the fishers had low education levels and most were not interested or not confident in finding equivalent work outside of fishing and intended to still be fishing in three years time. So while previous experience and training may assist in adaptation, many may prefer not to leave the industry. Further, rocky reef charter fishers surveyed had a high personal and household income dependence on charter fishing, a low household income and at least one dependent child, further indicating low social resilience for these fishers. Just over half (58%) stated they had planned for their financial security, however. The Rocky Reef Charter Fishery appears to have a high level of recruitment of new fishers; although the actual turnover in the industry is unknown. The baseline data would benefit from exploration of licence sales to determine the proportion of new and exiting fishers in the industry. Turnover rates may be related to satisfaction with fishing: in contrast to inshore charter fishers, rocky reef fishers were divided in their satisfaction with access to fishing areas and were generally satisfied with their clients’ catch. Rocky reef fishers were concerned about the number of recreational fishers who fish in the same area as them – a concern mirrored by commercial rocky reef fishers (Part A of this report series) but contrasted to inshore charter fishers who were concerned about commercial fishing. Rocky reef charter fishers were generally supportive of current and potential regulation concepts. Very few fishers thought their concerns would be addressed by current public consultation processes. Positively, however, rocky reef charter fishers appeared to have good social networks, particularly compared to the Inshore Charter Fishery, in terms of where they got their information and how often they spoke to their Charter representative or Fisheries Queensland personnel. The information collected through the fisher surveys and collated from other sources provides a baseline of the current (as of 2008) socio-economic status of the Inshore and Rocky Reef Charter Fisheries. There are significant quantities of data provided in the results from which to compare post-Management Plan implementation, to explore the positive and negative impacts of management change and whether the socio-economic goals of management are being fulfilled. In the long-term, the data will provide a starting point for socio-economic monitoring. While a multitude of socio-economic indicators have been tested here, long-term monitoring surveys are unlikely to be as detailed. Stakeholders need to now choose the most important and relevant information to collect with which to monitor the socio-economic health, resilience and viability of the Inshore and Rocky Reef Charter Fisheries.
Tobin, R.C., Beggs, K., Sutton, S.G., Penny, A., Maroske, J., and Williams, L. (2010) Baseline Socio-Economic Data for Queensland East Coast Inshore and Rocky Reef Fishery Stakeholders. Part B: Charter Fishers. Report. Fishing and Fisheries Research Centre, Townsville, QLD, Australia.