Sustaining Pacific fisheries and fishing communities

Fields of Research

  • 18 - Law and legal studies

Socio-Economic Objectives

  • 94 - Law, politics and community services
  • 93 - Education and training
  • 97 - Environment
  • 96 - Cultural understanding
  • 83 - Animal production and animal primary products
  • 81 - Defence
  • 92 - Health
  • 91 - Economic framework


  • Coastal fisheries
  • Fisheries management
  • Food security
  • International law
  • Law of the sea
  • Marine resource management
  • Ocean governance
  • Pacific
  • Pacific Island States
  • Policy

UN Sustainable Development Goals

  • 1 - No poverty
  • 8 - Decent work and economic growth
  • 9 - Industry, innovation and infrastructure
  • 10 - Reduced inequalities
  • 11 - Sustainable cities and communities
  • 12 - Responsible consumption and production
  • 13 - Climate action
  • 15 - Life on land
  • 16 - Peace, justice and strong institutions


Impact Summary

University of Wollongong (UOW) legal, governance and policy research delivered sustained impact safeguarding Pacific fisheries at regional, national and community levels. UOW researchers shaped the content of fisheries management measures and facilitated policy change through the provision of expert advice to institutions across jurisdictions. Collaboration with national governments, sub-national authorities and stakeholders at the local level effected legislative, regulatory and management changes benefiting Australia and numerous Pacific states and territories. Specifically, research accelerated legal changes and the uptake of policy, strengthened governance and raised capacity, effecting economic, social and environmental impacts across disciplines, jurisdictions and scales.

Related United Nations Sustainable Development Goals:

1. No poverty
8. Decent work and economic growth
9. Industry, innovation and infrastructure
10. Reduced inequalities
11. Sustainable cities and communities
12. Responsible consumption and production
13. Climate action
15. Life on land
16. Peace, justice and strong institutions

Read details of the impact in full

Details of the Impact

Research by UOW’s Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security (ANCORS), delivered tangible benefits to safeguard Pacific Fisheries. ANCORS, a designated University Research Strength, conducts research spanning law, social and environmental sciences. Our work was realised across geographic scales and legal jurisdictions by forging links between marginal fishing communities and governments, influencing regional and national fisheries legislative and policy development, and the establishment of community-led governance and management plans.

Development and implementation of regional fisheries policies was directly influenced by ANCORS research. Work presented to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) Scientific Committee in 2012 on legal frameworks and national interests [1] led to the adoption in 2013 of two legally binding measures (CMM 2013-06/07, [2]) designed to tackle the disproportionate transfer of burdens to Pacific island states, arising from fisheries conservation measures [3].

Community-based fisheries research, combined with nutrition and food security outputs [4], led to the development of two regional fisheries management initiatives (Refs 5-6). This critical work was recognised by the Fisheries Development Director of the Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency as an “effective” contribution to the Roadmap initiative. This initiative, approved and adopted by Pacific leaders in 2015, directly led to community-driven management that safeguards offshore and coastal fisheries across the region.

At a national level, our research underpinned the development of the Kiribati National Fisheries Policy, achieved through close collaboration and consultation with Kiribati government officials, leadership of a regional team and facilitation of internal government workshops. This work was praised by the Australian High Commissioner to Kiribati, George Fraser, “ANCORS research was pivotal in the development of a National Fisheries Policy, launched by President Tong in 2013 and has been crucial to the uptake of community-driven approaches to coastal fisheries management in Kiribati”. This policy change delivered financial gains to Kiribati; increasing fishing licence revenue from $58.3m to $197.8m (2012-15).

Within Pacific fishing communities, we examined coastal fisheries governance practices and built new processes from the ground up [7]. The work elicited community spirit, local ownership in the process and empowered community members and local leaders with the knowledge and strength to collaborate with government officials toward achieving a common goal – safeguarding local fish stocks. The results were the first community-based fisheries management (CBFM) plans in Kiribati involving five communities and the establishment of the first Marine Protected Area (MPA) in Kiribati. Mrs Tooreka Taatoa Teemari, Director of the Coastal Fisheries Division of the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resource Development (MFMRD), acknowledged that the “CBFM project effort contributed… to the establishment of this MPA through their continuous follow up consultation and awareness outreaches to communities.”  Ian Cartwright, Commissioner of Australian Fisheries Management Authority also acknowledged the success of our work, stating, “Going from zero base to facilitating development of community-based management plans in five communities in Kiribati was a huge achievement in itself.”

In response to community concerns, we addressed gaps in existing fisheries management laws pertaining to the legitimacy of community-led coastal fisheries initiatives. After careful examination of the national constitutional processes in Kiribati [8], our research team formulated guidelines for stakeholders to develop by-laws – a mechanism that authorises local law at the national level. The guidelines were disseminated in a simplified, easily understood 10-step poster format, instigating the development of by-laws in four of the five CBFM communities.

The success of our research has led to broader application of the participatory community engagement principles, now implemented across all MFMRD activities. One Kiribati village, involved in the initial research, has introduced and gained the support of neighbouring villages in CBFM plans. Another three communities throughout Kiribati have started their own CBFM initiatives. In response to our research, another Kiribati village, supported by neighbouring villages, has closed the harvest of a key species during its spawning season.

Our researchers’ expertise in gender sensitive methods and a commitment to social inclusion in all research activities promoted involvement regardless of social status, age and gender. Women and youth contributed to 40% of CBFM meetings in Kiribati. The ‘maneaba’ way (see Approach) of consultation significantly contributed to this achievement. The Mayor of Tuc on South Tarawa evidenced the success of this process, saying, “I have been to a lot of meetings and this is the first meeting where we discuss freely what we want for our people.”

Our research empowers stakeholders with the tools to influence change. For example, our research-based advice advanced the Global Fishing Watch mission, enhancing transparency in international commercial fishing. Research therefore has longstanding effects safeguarding critically important fisheries from technology in the sky to capacity building on the ground.

Our research contributed not only at the national level, but down to individual community members. A high school dropout recruited to assist in data collection declared that research exposure led to his successful graduation from university. Five project staff progressed to postgraduate studies while two went on to co-found a national volunteer organisation (Kiribati Island Conservation Society).


  • Pacific Island States and Territories
  • Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC)
  • Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC)
  • Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA)
  • United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
  • United Nations Environment Program (UNEP)
  • International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
  • Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT)
  • Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR)
  • Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resource Development (MFMRD), Republic of Kiribati


Impacted Countries
  • Australia
  • Fiji
  • New Caledonia
  • New Zealand
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Solomon Is.
  • Vanuatu

Approach to Impact

Summary of the approaches to impact

Our law and legal research, safeguarding Pacific fisheries for over a decade, is facilitated by innovative university-wide strategies that incentivise multidisciplinary collaboration. We achieve impact through our longstanding funding support, promotion schemes, and state-of-the-art infrastructure delivering sustained capacity through our Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security (ANCORS) and Legal Intersections Research Centre (LIRC). Research is driven by the end-user, facilitated by community participation and open dialogue amongst stakeholders, deepening relations to strengthen impact. We deliver research-based advice through grass-roots capacity building and international advisory committees, achieving fair, equitable and sustainable fisheries policy.

Read the full approach to impact

Approach to Impact

Strategic policies, longstanding programmatic support, state of the art infrastructure, and incentive schemes create an environment at UOW that ensures that all research generated is of the highest quality, relevance, and applicability. UOW’s culture of applied, stakeholder-driven research and challenge-led approach to research integrates with our direct engagements in marginal communities to result in strong policy-making influence. Finally, we maximise yield by capacity building, deepening impact across space and time.

UOW is committed to having an impact on the global scale, manifested in its flagship Global Challenges Program, specifically targeting interdisciplinary research that addresses major world problems. Law and legal studies researchers are active participants in multiple global challenges projects. For example, from 2013-16, ANCORS’ research, under the Sustaining Coastal and Marine Zones challenge-led research theme, received over $AUD100,000 to support burgeoning Pacific fisheries research projects, which enabled workshops, training and other critical engagements in situ that trained local communities in the practice of sustainable fishing practices. These research projects included 26 UOW investigators spanning five faculties. The strategy successfully fostered novel, independent research and empowered our academics with additional resources to contribute when establishing partnerships. These partnerships have since resulted in research partners contributing over $AUD6.6 million to Pacific fisheries projects.

Law and legal studies research is fostered through university and faculty supported centres, such as ANCORS and LIRC. Both of these research institutes prioritise a culture of end-user driven research and encourage staff to engage in research projects with diverse partners. This collaborative strategy has developed partnerships and support from global institutions to philanthropic foundations including World Bank, Pew Charitable Trusts, Packard Foundation, WorldFish, Oceans 5, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, the International Institute for the Sociology of Law and the Canadian and US Law and Society Associations.

Our legal research institutes ensure that UOWs research focus aligns with global concerns. For example, ANCORS contributes to Australia’s support for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDG) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) targets to promote prosperity, reduce poverty and enhance stability with a particular focus on supporting small-island developing states in the Pacific. LIRC also contributes to the UNSDG in partnership with independent and professional bodies and NGOs through its work on gender equality and with vulnerable communities, such as refugees. Our Pacific fisheries research, strengthened by highly qualified researchers and longstanding partnerships in the region, has garnered strong support from the Australian Research Council, the Australian Prime Minister and Cabinet Office, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research.

We use an array of mechanisms to deliver our research findings to key end-users. Internationally, we shape policy and legislation by delivering research-based advice to governments and organisations including Presidential offices, the FAO and the UN Office of Drugs and Crime, and the World Bank. Regionally, we actively contribute to Pacific fisheries stakeholder forums including the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency and the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. At the national level, researchers deliver research-based advice and influence policies through direct engagement with Government agencies and stakeholder organisations. For example, sustained engagement with Unimwane Associations, Island Councils and national Fisheries staff built national capacity for community-based fisheries (Ref 7). In Australia, researchers engaged federal Departments of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Attorney-Generals, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Defence, Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry and Environment, Australian Fisheries Management Authority and ACIAR. Within Australia, our collaboration with local governments and communities has delivered research directly to vulnerable communities which helps shape the provision of pro bono legal services, for example for refugees, forging partnerships between government, NGOs and the legal profession.

Researchers from both ANCORS and LIRC devote particular attention to communicating findings at the grass-roots level to build capacity from the ground up. We deliver training workshops, mentoring and on-the-job training to community leaders, provincial government staff, partner organisations and national staff. For example, ANCORS work contributed to an estimated 1500 person days of training in Pacific island states. We employed intensive participatory research techniques to elicit diagnostic information within Kiribati communities, facilitating community workshops under the ‘maneaba’; the traditional meeting way where everyone is equal and free to express opinions. In this, we held community-based fisheries management stakeholder meetings (involving representatives from study communities, relevant Ministries, local government officials and NGOs), which were drastically different to other meetings wherein community members often felt that they were in a position of ‘inferiority’ and ‘invited’ to listen to government staff. We provided policy making and fisheries science tools and facilitated community-developed and endorsed fisheries management plans, deepening impact.

Associated Research

The longstanding impacts of ANCORS’ research on Pacific fisheries management grew out of legal and policy research that influenced the formation of Pacific fishery institutions and development of governance architecture. ANCORS grew and evolved into a strong nexus of law and policy research, inextricably underpinned and integrated with interdisciplinary research.

In particular, the Director of ANCORS served as Fisheries Law Adviser (1997-1999) to the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency. He provided crucial input as legal counsel (2006-2013) during and after multi-lateral high level conference negotiations, which “contributed to a major reshaping of the regional oceans governance institutional architecture” through the creation of the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) [Glenn Hurry, Inaugural WCPFC Chair 2004-08].

Attributed to his research impact, the Director was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2012: “For service to maritime and fisheries law in the Asia-Pacific region, through the Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security, and to legal education.”

UOW continues to influence Australian policy developments for international aid in fisheries, building on research to strengthen Asia-Pacific fisheries governance. The institutional challenges and successes from working with Pacific islands fisheries has been cited multiple times by the Australian Government Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee [9-10].


1. Hanich, Q.A. (2012) Mapping the Distribution of the Conservation Burden, Working Paper to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, (WCPF-SC8-2012/ MI-WP-05).

2. Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) Conservation and Management Measures (CMMs) and Resolutions of the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), CMM 2013-06 and 2013-07, available at

3. Hanich, Q.A. and Ota, Y. (2013) ‘Moving beyond rights-based management: a transparent approach to distributing the conservation burden and benefit in tuna fisheries’, International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law, 28, 135–170.

4. Bell, J.D., et al., (2015) ‘Diversifying the use of tuna to improve food security and public health in Pacific Island countries and territories’, Marine Policy, 51, 584–591.

5. SPC and FFA Future of Fisheries: A Regional Roadmap for Sustainable Pacific Fisheries, available at

6. A New Song for Coastal Fisheries – Pathways for Change: The Noumea Strategy, available at

7. Delisle, A., Namakin, B. Uriam, T., Cambell, B., and Hanich, Q. (2016) Participatory diagnosis of coastal fisheries for North Tarawa and Butaritari island communities in the Republic of Kiribati. Program Report: 2016-24. Worldfish, Penang, Malaysia.

8. SPC Fisheries Newsletter #153, p. 42, available at

9. Hanich, Q.A., Teo, F. and Tsamenyi, B.M. (2008) Closing the Gaps: Building Capacity in Pacific Fisheries Governance and Institutions, Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security.

10. Australian Senate, Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee, Volume I, Economic challenges facing Papua New Guinea and the island states of the southwest Pacific, November 2009.