Coastal communities and fisheries reform – what is ‘fair’?

Crawford School of Public Policy | Executive course
Policy Fundamentals


A deep understanding of Natural Resource Management (NRM) is crucial to the effective management of the system. Throughout the program participants will be guided by experts in the field to plan strategic policy interventions and broaden their knowledge of NRM to skilfully identify opportunities free from path dependence, ethical dimensions and manage NRM contracts and relationships.

Course overview


The wild-catch sector of Australia’s commercial fishing industry operates in a difficult environment that is characterised by dynamic global economic forces, diverse environmental conditions, and complex and competing interests of diverse stakeholders. Resource conflict is a common feature of coastal management generally and fisheries management in particular. In coastal communities, professional fishing, recreational fishing, and coastal tourism have competed for resource access. There have been frequent calls for (and actual reforms that) close some areas to professional fishing so that greater economic benefits can be achieved for local communities and ecological integrity of coastal waters can be preserved.


Like any primary industry, the wild-catch sector’s sustainability ultimately depends on what is ecologically possible, how well that industry generates benefits in excess of costs, and how consistent the industry’s practices are with prevailing social customs and norms (social acceptability). It is popular to believe that those ‘three pillars’ of sustainability can be met equally. However, there are important ways in which those objectives contradict each other and therefore some trade-offs must be made among them (e.g. catch greater quantities of fish to maximise profits then fish stocks drop away and changes to ecosystems, reduce fishing areas and reduce employment/profit, etc). Poor decision-making on appropriate reforms to overall fishing effort is often due to people neglecting the moral and ethical dimensions of making trade-offs among social, economic, and ecological components of sustainability – not least of which is how to weight preferences, under what conditions, and who gets to help make decisions.

Learning outcomes:

  • Demonstrate an improved understanding of the moral and ethical dimensions of fisheries resource allocation in particular and natural resource allocation in general;
  • Analyze and evaluate how these dimensions play out in their particular field of interest; and
  • Improve their capacity for issues management.

Updated:  17 October 2021/Responsible Officer:  Crawford Engagement/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team