Sustaining more than fish stocks: advances in holistic assessments of the human dimensions of Australian fisheries

Dr Emily Ogier1,2, Dr Alistair Hobday2,3, Dr Jason Hartog3, Dr Aysha Flemming2,3, Linda Thomas3

1Institute For Marine & Antarctic Studies (imas ), Utas, Hobart, Australia, 2Centre for Marine Socioecology, Hobart, Australia, 3CSIRO, Hobart, Australia


What is a healthy fishery? We manage fish mainly through managing people, so Kelvin Cochrane said. The concept of sustainability when applied to natural resources, such as fisheries, was always intended to entail consideration of social and economic, as well as ecological, dimensions.

Historically, formal and third party sustainability assessments of Australian fisheries have focused on stocks, rather than on the human systems supporting the value, capture and use of those stocks. Social and economic factors and their consideration in fisheries governance have been relegated to the political sphere, where decisions about who can catch the fish, and how these and other benefits flow from these shared resources have, in many cases, been made outside of the public management and assessment process.

Recent public debates about the sustainability of coastal fisheries have focused on multiple dimensions of performance and impact, beyond the amount extracted. These have included the distribution of access and allocation across recreational, customary and professional fishers; interactions with listed species; ethical fish welfare practices; ethical labour practices;  food security; energy demand; and economic rent dissipation through tradeable quasi property right systems.

In this presentation we provide a synthesis of a number of initiatives aimed at expanding the scope of fisheries assessment to include human dimensions. We illustrate these new information flows with examples from recent studies, including the Healthcheck for Australian Fisheries, and the Social and Economic Assessment of Tasmanian Fisheries. We then examine how these assessments can support more holistic fisheries governance.


Dr Emily Ogier is a Fisheries Social Science Research Fellow at the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies.  She is interested in the human dimension of marine systems, and the way this interaction is governed through both formal institutions and social processes. She manages the Human Dimensions Research Subprogram, which is a national program funded by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation.