Determinates of socially-supported wild-catch fisheries and aquaculture in Australia

Dr Karen Alexander1, Dr Kirsten Abernethy2

1University Of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia

2Sea Change Consulting, Port Fairy, Australia


To secure the future of wild-catch and aquaculture fisheries, it is increasingly clear that, alongside effective and responsible management and production, building and maintaining societal support is vital. There are several recent examples in Australia where fisheries have been threatened, even shut down, by not having a ‘social license to operate’. This is despite having good ecological, economic and management credentials.

Drawing together knowledge from existing literature and an expert survey, we developed a strawman definition and a list of determinants of societal support. We then tested and refined the strawman against four Australian case studies using literature, media and key informant interviews. We identified 16 determinants of societal support ranging from external factors (which cannot be influenced, but which operations should be aware of) to inward- and stakeholder-facing (which can be influenced). Based on these findings, we developed a self-audit tool for use by operations to establish which determinants they should focus on improving. Overall, the determinants of social license are likely very similar across all industries. Social license is also largely based on perception, and therefore, what may be most beneficial is a regular perceptions survey addressing the determinates identified in this project.


Dr Karen Alexander is a political ecologist with wide-ranging interests, centring on marine governance. Karen specialises in issues around the transition to a blue economy and her recent research at the University of Tasmania has focused on ocean and coastal conflict, societal support for sectors such as offshore energy and aquaculture, coastal ecosystem-based management, and marine spatial planning.

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