Programme Overview

The aim of the TSRA’s Fisheries Programme is to enhance the region’s wealth by creating and managing an economically and environmentally sustainable fishing industry and increasing employment opportunities for the Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal people in the Torres Strait region which is equivalent to the wider Australian community. The Fisheries Programme outcomes are:

  • Improved wealth of Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal people in the region.
  • A sustainable fishing industry owned and operated by Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal people.
  • Sustainable management of natural resources.

Commercial fishing has a long history in the Torres Strait. The Torres Strait Commercial Fisheries Brochure outlines some of the important decisions and events relating to fisheries in the region.

History of the Torres Strait Commercial fisheries

Torres Strait Fisheries Community Management Framework

The Fisheries Programme supports Traditional Inhabitants to gain greater access to the region’s commercial fisheries.  This includes supporting the aspiration for a sustainable fishery that is 100 per cent owned by Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal traditional owners.  This aspiration is also acknowledged by the Protected Zone Joint Authority (PZJA), the Authority responsible for the management of fisheries in the Torres Strait.

The TSRA currently holds some fisheries assets (catch allocations and commercial licences) on behalf of all Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal people in the Torres Strait. The Community Management Framework project has been established to investigate the best way for fisheries assets to be managed in the Torres Strait to benefit Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal people in the region

Torres Strait Community Framework for fisheries assets – Phase One

From January to March 2018 the TSRA travelled to communities in the Torres Straits to consult on the potential development of a community-owned fisheries entity in the Torres Strait. The purpose of these visits were to explain:

  • the nature and extent of Torres Strait Islanders and Aboriginal interests in commercial fishing rights within the Torres Strait region
  • an outline of the fisheries assets held in trust by TSRA
  • how those assets are currently administered by TSRA
  • an overview of the 2017 visit to New Zealand and the Maori development model/s and approach pre and post the 1992 Fisheries Settlement
  • a potential way forward for self-management of the assets through a new commercial entity owned and operated by Torres Strait Islanders and Aboriginal people in the region.

Meeting participants were asked to consider four key questions associated with ongoing ownership and management of the assets to gain community endorsement on a potential approach going forward.

  • Do you believe the ownership, control and management of the fisheries assets should rest with Torres Strait Islanders?
  • Do you believe the assets should be kept together (not split up) under a single entity?
  • Do you believe the assets should be grown for the benefit of all communities?
  • Do you give the TSRA permission to identify the best structure to deliver a solution to the previous questions and report back to communities?

The final report delivered by Terra Moana Ltd. outlining the outcomes of community consultations is being finalised.  Overall, the consultation process has provided a significant mandate from which the TSRA will now move to Phase 2 of the Fisheries Community Management Framework project.

Assessment of New Zealand Framework for management of fisheries assets

New Zealand has a well-established framework to manage and build on the fisheries entitlements belonging to the Maori people, which provides a fair distribution of benefits to tribal groups (Iwi).

For this reason the TSRA commissioned a study to look across the Tasman Sea to determine how the Maori achieved their objectives and what lessons could be learned from the New Zealand experience. The Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security to undertake a lessons learned study of the community management model developed by Maori in New Zealand and make recommendations relevant to the Torres Strait.  The report outlines:

  • how a Commission was set up to administer fishing entitlements on behalf of all the Iwi groups
  • how fishery assets and management of those assets are distributed between Iwi
  • the success of building increased ownership using existing entitlements
  • the similarities and differences between Maori and Torres Strait community structures.

In July 2017, a delegation of the TSRA and Malu Lamar visited New Zealand to better understand the evolution of Maori involvement in the business and activity of fishing pre-, during and post- their fisheries settlement in 1992. The objective of the study tour was for the TSRA Board members and the Malu Lamar representative to see how the Maori people of NZ have been able to position themselves and their communities to benefit now and in the future from the quota management system in NZ fisheries.


Community Resources

The TSRA Fisheries Programme has developed the resources below to support participation of Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal fishers in the region’s commercial fishing industry.

Fisheries Programme Newsletter

The Torres Strait Fisheries Newsletter has been developed to provide periodic updates on the TSRA Fisheries Programme's activities. Fisheries Programme activities include engagement with the Protected Zone Joint Authority, capacity building initiatives, administration of fishing entitlements held by the TSRA and projects to support the sustainable development of commercial fishing in the Torres Strait.

See the latest newsletter to catch up on recent activities of the Fisheries Programme.

If you would like any more information about anything in the Newsletter, please email or call (07) 4069 0700.