Social Licence to Fish – Changing Tack

Posted in Industry News

Because obtaining and retaining a social licence to operate (SLO) has remained a significant challenge for the wild catch commercial fishing industry, the Queensland Seafood Industry Association (QSIA) is collaborating with the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) to investigate how to improve the social acceptance of Southeast Queensland’s wild catch fishing industry – and you are invited to participate in our research.

When we talk about SLO, we are referring to society’s acceptance of our industry and the strength of public trust surrounding it. Too often the wild catch commercial fishing industry is misunderstood so, we are changing tack.

The project, funded by the Fisheries Research & Development Corporation (FRDC), aims to improve industry engagement with the broader community and in turn, improve SEQ’s wild catch fishing industry’s SLO.

According to a 2016 Industry Report ‘fishers, fishing businesses and the seafood industry as a whole, need to improve the community’s trust in them to be enduring responsible stewards of the marine resource’. Licence to Fish: Photovoices of SEQ coastal wild catch commercial fishing industry is a valuable component of current research addressing this need.

Licence to Fish is a candid display of photos taken by SEQ’s commercial fishermen. Designed to promote discussion about our wild catch commercial fishing industry, the exhibition combines these photos with captions expressing our region’s fishers’ views and concerns.

The exhibition, curated by USC researchers, is a product of Photovoice research; a research approach that involves participants providing photos, combined with their stories. As a research method it is particularly engaging, innovative and effective for gaining insight into deeply held values.

The term ‘a picture paints a thousand words’ reflects how photographic images can also be powerful for the observer, conveying messages more effectively than words. The Licence to Fish exhibition, in addition to providing opportunities for commercial fishers to express their views, offers researchers opportunities to obtain community perspectives on SEQ’s wild catch commercial fishing industry.

USC researcher, Associate Professor Claudia Baldwin, invites community members, fishers, and their families and friends, to view the exhibition, on display in each of the fishing communities participating in our research. All visitors are encouraged to voice their own thoughts about SEQ’s wild catch commercial fishing industry, via a survey accompanying the display.

In putting together the display, Dr Baldwin says she is impressed with the efforts made by the fishing industry to reduce by-catch, work within complex environmental and regulatory conditions, as well as the multitude of skills needed to function professionally.

Licence to Fish, has been on display at Southport and Tin Can Bay libraries and is scheduled for display at Bribie Island Seaside Museum for one week and Moreton Bay Discovery Centre for two weeks.

Launched at Southport Community Centre on Tuesday 23rd October 2018, the display has already provoked significant discussion.

Getting your feedback on this display will help the commercial fishing industry know how to engage the community and better secure the industry’s social licence to operate.

Licence to Fish is displayed at:

Bribie Island Seaside Museum – 1 South Esplanade, Bongaree  – 20 to 27 November.

Moreton Bay Discovery Centre on the William Gunn Jetty,  Wyvernleigh Cl, Manly – 30 November to 14 December.

Author: Associate Professor, Dr Claudia Baldwin.


  1. Perez, E, 2016, ‘Social License to Operate: What does it mean for the Australian commercial seafood industry?’, Industry Research Report, viewed 30 October 2018 at https://qsia.com.au/content/uploads/2018/01/Attachment-43.pdf.
  2. Baldwin & Chandler, n.d., under review, ‘Ripples and Reflections: Photovoice and Community Narratives of Climate Change’ in Sharing qualitative research: Showing lived experiences and community narratives.

Image: Millstream Productions

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The Community Connect Team