Building Community Trust

This page is a guide to FRDC’s RD&E and other resources for building community trust for fisheries and aquaculture.

Being trusted is core to Australia’s fisheries and aquaculture’s operating environment now and into the future. Building community trust is an important step towards improving the acceptability of fisheries and aquaculture to key parts of the Australian community, and addressing issues that impact the ‘social license to operate’ of particular fisheries and aquaculture activities.

For an overview of social acceptability and social license issues in Australian fisheries and aquaculture, see the following reports:

  • The Australian Seafood Industry and the Social License to Operate (2016-407). Steven Davies’ report looks at fishmongering and fearmongering in the modern market to better understand what the industry is confronting through a number of case studies, and what steps it can take to be and demonstrate its responsible practices. Watch Steven's talk about his report.
  • Let’s Talk Fish (2012-301). This report is aimed at assisting industry to understand and inform conversations about the sustainability of wild-catch fishing. It reports on research that found a link between the level of community trust of wild catch fishing industries and levels of social acceptability.

What builds trust?

Factors that build trust and acceptability have been identified through work by CSIRO, the Centre for Food Integrity and FRDC’s RDE (see figure below). Trust is based on the level to which:

  • fisheries and aquaculture activity are well regulated and managed for sustainability
  • community sentiment is recognised and responded to
  • benefits to the Australian public outweigh the costs
  • values are similar between operators, public management agencies, and the Australian community

diagram of trust building

Resources and guides are listed below against each factor.

Demonstrating sustainable management 

Fisheries and aquaculture in Australia are sustainable because of recognized best practice management and regulation to protect and maintain fish stocks, and maintain ecological wellbeing of the marine environment. Management of Australia’s fisheries and aquaculture continues to adapt to ensure sustainability in response to challenges such as climate-driven change and increased competition for marine resources. This is the focus of FRDC’s National Priority 1 Program. Relevant resources include:

  • Status of Australian Fish Stocks reports, which reports on the biological sustainability status of Australia’s key wild fish stocks
  • Community perceptions of sustainability of the fishing industry in Australia. These surveys track measures of the perceived trustworthiness of the fishing and aquaculture industry and its management.

Responding to community sentiment

Listening to community concerns and interests, and undertaking to understand and respond to these concerns are the goals of community engagement that aims to build trust and acceptability. Engaging with communities is the focus of a growing amount of industry activity, and knowing how to engage so that everyone benefits is a knowledge gap FRDC’s RDE is working to address. Industry initiatives such as Seafood Industry Australia's Our Pledge (2017-242) are demonstrations that communities’ sentiments are being listened to and respected by the industry. Relevant resources and current projects include:

  • FRDC’s License to Engage Handbook is a guide to available knowledge, including stages and tools to follow, for effective seafood industry engagement with communities.
  • Identifying what determines levels of community support for fisheries and aquaculture (2017-158). This project aims to identify what factors most affect the level of community acceptance and support a commercial fishing or aquaculture activity experiences, using a range of case studies. It also aims to determine how these factors can be measured and monitored, and help industry self-assess its current position.
  • Stakeholder analysis and engagement strategy for the South East Queensland commercial fishing industry (2017-012). This project included an analysis of who are the current stakeholders for SEQ commercial wild catch fisheries, and what factors affect the SEQ commercial fishing industry’s social acceptability, and how an engagement strategy should reflect this to be effective.

Positive contribution to communities

Fisheries and aquaculture activities contribute to local, regional and national well-being in many forms. These include through economic activity but also through providing local seafood, employment, training, social capital, and recreational experience. These contributions are an important part of the interactions fisheries and aquaculture has with different parts of the Australian community. Relevant resources and current projects include:

  • Understanding social and economic contributions of fisheries and aquaculture to community wellbeing. There are various projects examining commercial fisheries and aquaculture contributions at state and regional level (2013-301; 2014-301; 2015-302; 2017-092) and at national and state level (2017-210), as well as of recreational fishing to fisher wellbeing (2018-095)

Common values

Fisheries and aquaculture are part of the broad Australian community. Recognising similar values and committing to strengthening what fisheries and aquaculture can contribute to values held in common is emerging as a way to demonstrate the place fisheries and aquaculture seek to hold in the Australian community.

  • Our Pledge (2017-242) is a project being undertaken by Seafood Industry Australia to establish industry response to community values and expectations of industry behaviours and performance.
  • Consumer values and media messages about sustainable seafood (2017-131). This project aims to identify how media influencers shape consumer values and beliefs about the sustainability of seafood.