Impacts of the 2004 rezoning of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park on commercial line, trawl and charter fishers
Project Leader: Dr Steve Sutton, JCU
Commercial line, charter, and trawl fishers were interviewed face-to-face in 2008 and 2009 to investigate their attitudes and perceptions regarding the 2004 Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Zoning Plan, the effects of the plan on their fishing activity and fishing business, their beliefs about the zoning plan and management of the Great Barrier Reef, and their resilience to changes in Great Barrier Reef fisheries. The study aimed to understand (a) fishers’ perceptions of the costs and benefits of the zoning plan, and (b) the redistribution of commercial fishing effort in response to the increase in no-fishing areas within the Park. The study concluded that:
- Despite positive attitudes towards environmental protection, most commercial fishers did not believe the 2004 zoning plan was necessary for biodiversity protection in the Park, and most report being unsupportive of the Plan five years after its implementation.
- The reasons underlying fishers lack of support for the 2004 Zoning Plan are related primarily to (a) their perception that they were not meaningfully engaged or consulted in the process of developing and implementing the zoning plan, and (b) the impacts that the zoning plan has had on fishers and their fishing businesses.
- Commercial fishing effort has been concentrated in remaining open areas of the Marine Park since implementation of the Zoning Plan, which has potentially resulted in increased crowding and competition among fishers, and increased impacts of fishing in localized, high-effort areas.
Despite the impacts that commercial fishers have experienced, most fishers reported that they have adapted their fishing activity and fishing business at least moderately well to the new zoning plan in the five years since its implementation. These results suggest that many of the impacts experienced by fishers are likely to be short-term and will decline over time as fishers continue to adapt to the new zoning system. More research is necessary to better understand the strategies that fishers use to adapt to change and the social and economic factors that facilitate or constrain their capacity to adapt to changing environmental or management conditions. The results of this study contribute to our understanding of the overall costs and benefits of the Plan and will be useful as a basis for further monitoring of social impacts on commercial fishing industries in the Park.