A Tale of Two Fisheries: on co-management in the Torres Strait

A Tale of Two Fisheries: on co-management in the Torres Strait
Image by Sai Abhinivesh Burla via Unsplash.com

This paper examines the assumptions, institutions and politics of fisheries co-management as they are actualised in the Torres Strait region. In the 1980s, central governments around the world instituted co-management arrangements in response to the limits and flaws of centralised, command-and-control, and bio-economic approaches to fisheries management. Acknowledging that fisheries are complex socio-ecological systems, collaborative management models purported to be more inclusive of fishers’ knowledge and preoccupations. Co-management arrangements between central governments and Indigenous polities have been widely promoted as opportunities to empower Indigenous peoples and to access and incorporate their knowledge. Today, Indigenous and government relations are largely described as embracing this collaborative managerial paradigm.

The paper documents the affordances and obstacles embedded in the managerial structures that frame Indigenous peoples’ rights in and capacities for decision-making and brings attention to their agency within and outside of the co-management relationship. It argues for the renegotiation of management relationships in a way that genuinely engages with Indigenous ways of being in the world and interrogates management and its bureaucracy as cultural perspectives and practices in themselves. Ultimately, it is argued, collaborative approaches alone are not sufficient to shift the assumptions underpinning bio-economic managerial models and the mechanisms that enable their reproduction.

Dr Annick Thomassin has over 16-years of experience working across a range of topics including co-management of natural resources, social exclusion policies and Indigenous-driven development. Her research and studies have largely focused on the political structures and mechanisms that contribute to making Indigenous/minority groups’ perspectives invisible. She has notably work at documenting and theorising a range of conflicts and collaborations underpinning fisheries management arrangements involving Indigenous/minority groups and central governments. She is the primary investigator of the ‘Seachange: Aboriginal marine pathways to social inclusion’, a grassroots research-action project developed in collaboration with Mogo and Batemans Bay Local Aboriginal Land Councils. This project aims at co-developing new research methodologies combining biological and cultural knowledge and data.

Zoom Link:
Meeting ID: 812 1179 0732
Password: 968025

Date & time

Mon 27 Mar 2023, 3–4pm


Rm 3.369 HC Coombs Building ANU


Dr Annick Thomassin, ANU


Natasha Fijn


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