Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page

Community participation: The key to managing Queensland's freshwater fishery

Michelle Hollaway

Queensland Fisheries Service, Department of Primary Industries
GPO Box 46, Brisbane, QLD 4001


Community-based fish stocking groups have established in Queensland to help manage each local freshwater fishery, effectively creating a recreational fishery on a co-operative basis between the Queensland Fisheries Service of the Department of Primary Industries and the Queensland community. The Queensland fish stocking program is unique within Australia in its approach, in that the community has various roles to play in the management of the fishery.

Both Queensland Fisheries Service and the community have expectations of the program. In order to meet these expectations, a need to implement change in our approach to community participation was identified. These changes are discussed, through an example, the Freshwater Recreational Fishing and Stocking Workshop. As a result, a shift in community attitude has been apparent. This forum now fosters a positive atmosphere, constructive discussion, and recognition that Queensland Fisheries Service and the community can solve issues together.

Community participation occurs, to varying degrees, within many of the activities that impact on the management of Queensland’s freshwater fishery. Types of participation are often qualified against a Typology of Participation. Adjustments to this typology has allowed for the development of a model applicable to fisheries management. This model is presented as a guideline for describing levels of community participation within recreational fisheries management.

Queensland’s freshwater recreational fishery

Queensland's fish stocking program, officially known as the Recreational Fishing Enhancement Program, has been operating for approximately 15 years and has developed from a small focused initiative to a state-wide community based program.

The Queensland Government introduced the program, with input and support from recreational fishing groups such as Sunfish Queensland, Australian National Sportfishing Association (ANSA) and the Anglers Fish Stocking Association of Queensland. The aims of the program were to stock and restock inland water storages (dams and weirs) with native fish species, to create an inland recreational fishing resource and tourism attraction, and to remove pressure on saltwater estuary fishing.

The Queensland program is unique within Australia, in that the community plays a major role in fish stocking activities. Community-based fish stocking groups have evolved to help manage each local fishery, effectively creating a recreational fishery on a co-operative basis. The role of the community is central to the development of these fisheries, in that no site is considered for stocking unless a stocking group is in place to oversee the development of the site.

Stocking groups attract a diverse cross-section of the community including young anglers and students, local workers and business people, local government employees and retired members of the community, as well as keen anglers. They are typically male and have a common interest in freshwater fisheries and the sustainable use of this resource.

Both Queensland Fisheries Service (QFS) and the community have expectations of the program. Stocking groups have evolved to:

  • raise funds so as to purchase fish for annual stockings,
  • co-ordinate monitoring of the fishery at a local level,
  • help departmental liaison officers with netting, trapping and electrofishing surveys,
  • assist with angler education programs,
  • develop and operate their own fish hatcheries,
  • provide information for developing stocking and management plans.
  • undertake to:
  • stock each water body at least once every two years,
  • assess fish stocking applications and issue stocking permits where appropriate,
  • process and regularly report results of monitoring programs,
  • facilitate annual workshops with fish stocking groups,
  • develop educational products and programs,
  • facilitate the development of stocking and management plans with each stocking group.

In recent years, the program has expanded rapidly to the extent that nearly every suitable site has been stocked with fish to create quality angling experiences throughout Queensland. The popularity of freshwater fishing has been shown by the Recreational Fishing Survey: between 1996 and 1998 there was a 25% increase in the number of people fishing in dams (Roy Morgan Research, 1999).

Extension within Queensland Fisheries Service

When the stocking program was introduced in 1986, the Department was focussed on extension activities to encourage community ownership (Hamlyn, pers. com.). Hence the development of a stocking program on a co-operative basis with community groups.

More recently, the Extension Strategy for Fisheries 1998-2000 states ‘extension uses adult learning approaches and communication activities to further change and develop the knowledge, skills, practices and motivation of the people involved in primary industries so that improvements can be achieved in their enterprises, businesses, and approaches to sustainable use of resources’. Therefore the role of fisheries extension in successful resource management can be interpreted as working with clients to ensure they identify and implement ecologically sustainable use of fisheries resources.

In line with the introduction of the Extension Strategy for Fisheries, staff have been encouraged to enhance their skills and knowledge in providing creative and positive learning environments within the community. This has led to an examination of the term participation, and implementation of new methods to foster positive working relationships with the community. Underlying this, is an implication that our roles are also changing. A change is needed in the attitudes and skills of professional staff (Hinchcliffe, 1999) to enable staff to create these environments. Pretty (1994) states that professionals should be either multi-disciplinary or working closely with other disciplines, not intimidated by the complexities of close dialogue with rural people, and continually aware of the context of inquiry and development.

Community participation

Pretty et. al. (1995) noted that there have been an increasing number of analyses of development projects showing that participation is one of the critical components of success in irrigation, livestock, health, water, sanitation and agriculture. They state that success comes about when people’s ideas and knowledge are valued, and power is given to them to make decisions independently of external agencies.

Community participation occurs, to varying degrees, within many of the activities that impact on the management of Queensland’s freshwater recreational fishery. This fishery developed as a direct result of the fish stocking program, where community groups have enlisted certain roles. In recent years, changes to participation approaches by QFS have enabled the community to further develop their role in the management of the recreational fishery. These changes and subsequent results are discussed, through the use of an example, the Freshwater Recreational Fishing and Stocking Workshop. To allow for qualification of the term participation, a Typology of Participation (Pretty, 1995) is referred to in this paper (Table 1).

Table 1. Typology of participation (Pretty, 1995)


Characteristics of Each Type

1. Passive Participation

People participate by being told what is going to happen or has already happened. It is a unilateral announcement by an administration or project management without listening to people’s responses. The information being shared belongs only to external professionals

2. Participation in Information Giving

People participate by answering questions posed by extractive researchers using questionnaire surveys or similar approaches. People do not have the opportunity to influence proceedings, as the findings of the research are neither shared nor checked for accuracy.

3. Participation by Consultation

People participate by being consulted, and external people listen to views. These external professionals define both problems and solutions, and may modify these in the light of people’s responses. Such a consultative process does not concede any share in decision-making, and professionals are under no obligation to take on board people’s views.

4. Participation for Material Incentives

People participate by providing resources, for example labour, in return for food, cash or other material incentives. Much on-farm research falls into this category, as farmers provide the fields but are not involved in the experimentation of the process of learning. It is very common to see this called participation, people have no stake in prolonging activities when the incentives end.

5.Functional Participation

People participate by forming groups to meet predetermined objectives related to the project, which can involve the development or promotion of externally initiated social organisation. Such involvement does not tend to be at early stages of project cycles or planning, but rather after major decisions have been made. These institutions tend to be dependent on external initiators and facilitators, but may become self-dependent.

6. Interactive Participation

People participate in joint analysis, which leads to action plans and formation of new local institutions or the strengthening of existing ones. It tends to involve interdisciplinary methodologies that seek multiple perspectives and make use of systematic and structured learning processes. These groups take control over local decisions, and so people have a stake in maintaining structures or practices.


People participate by taking initiatives independently of external institutions to change systems. They develop contacts with external institutions for resources and technical advice they need, but retain control over how resources are used. Such self-initiated mobilisation and collective action may or may not challenge existing inequitable distribution of wealth and power.

Freshwater Recreational Fishing and Stocking Workshop

This is an annual workshop attended primarily by members of Queensland’s fish stocking groups, as well as representative bodies such as Freshwater Fishing and Stocking Association of Queensland (FFSAQ), Sunfish Queensland, ANSA, Freshwater Fishermen’s Assembly and Boating Industry Association of Queensland, representatives of waterboards and government departments, and hatcheries that supply fish for stocking. The workshop occurs over a weekend and in a different location each year.

The workshop was initiated to provide a forum for stocking groups to raise their issues and concerns related to the fish stocking program (Hamlyn, While attending this workshop it was observed that people were being told what was going to happen or had already happened with the program. Under the Typology of Participation it can be recognised that the workshop encouraged passive participation.

The workshop has been operating for about ten years. In past years the workshop centred around a discussion session held on the second day, which had become extremely negative. It had developed into a forum of conflict and anger, with a widely held view of scepticism for the government. The main outcome of these discussion sessions, and the workshop as a whole, was a lowering of staff morale. Why did this develop? Community views, ideas and responses were being ignored and they had no input into projects associated with the program. Understandably, the participants came along to these workshops with a preset attitude of mistrust. This was a direct result of a workshop designed around minimum participation. The aim of such a workshop should be to encourage participation within a positive environment in order to achieve acceptable solutions to issues raised by stocking groups.

Reflecting on these past workshops it was identified that there was a need to implement change in our approach to alleviate negativity. Additionally it was recognised that the workshops were not meeting community expectations of the program, in that the program was initiated on a co-operative basis. Consequently, three years ago the workshop format was reviewed and the Development Framework for Extension Programs (Foster, 2001) was adopted as a design base, with a higher level of participation the key focus. The format has been reviewed after each of the last three workshops in an attempt to focus on continuous improvement. Currently the workshop encourages participation by consultation (Pretty, 1995) but with a twist. The participants define the problems, provide their views and are asked to answer particular questions. Most of the workshop does not concede any share in decision-making, although a few activities have been included to allow participants to view problems through the eyes of government and then discuss solutions. Through continuous improvement, the aim is to develop the workshop to a higher level of participation by introducing activities that enhance learner development over time.

The Foster (2001) framework involves an examination of the client's needs, the situation in which the workshop will occur, expected participation levels and learning principles. This information is taken into consideration to design objectives, create a process to follow, develop resources for use by participants and select evaluation tools. The framework is continuous in that feedback from participants is used to refine the next workshop.

Techniques that have been implemented, to allow for a greater level of participation include:

  • Allowing participants to nominate issues and activities that will form the content of the workshop,
  • Gaining a greater understanding of nominated issues before the workshop,
  • Designing outdoor activities and tours that allow participants to learn through information exchange,
  • Encouraging presenters to focus their talks around the questions raised by the participants,
  • Allowing adequate time to discuss major issues,
  • Increasing involvement from the local stocking group and FFSAQ when designing the workshop,
  • Developing an agenda booklet that provides background information on the workshop content,
  • Developing a written responses booklet that provides the current position on any issue that was nominated but is not on the workshop agenda,
  • Encouraging groups to discuss issues with staff during the workshop,
  • Encouraging groups to provide suggestions for improving the workshop,
  • Facilitating a fisheries quiz as an after dinner activity,
  • Implementing processes to enable information exchange throughout the year,
  • Producing a proceedings document for participants.
  • a result, a substantial change in participant's attitudes has been apparent. The workshop has fostered a positive atmosphere with constructive and logical discussion, and recognition that QFS and the community can solve issues together. During the feedback activity at this year’s workshop an attendee stated, ‘it is good to see that everyone's input to the discussion is calm and focussed'. An abundance of positive verbal feedback was also forthcoming during the workshop as well as written feedback after the workshop in the form of thank you cards and letters.

Similar techniques have been implemented in other forums, to encourage community participation in management of the freshwater fishery. The Freshwater Management Advisory Committee provides expert advice and recommendations on the management, use, protection and development of the fishery (Queensland Fisheries Management Authority, 1998). The Future Directions Group allows for the co-operative development of a strategy for the next ten years of the stocking program.

Community participation and managing Queensland’s freshwater fishery

Examination of the Typology of Participation (Table 1) revealed that the characteristics of each type of participation were related to experiences within agricultural communities. When dealing with recreational fishing communities, characteristics that may be relevant to agriculture cannot always be transposed to fisheries management (eg. it is difficult to involve anglers in research trials, the community cannot readily examine the resource in its natural environment). Adjustments to this typology has allowed for the development of a model applicable to fisheries management. This model is presented as a guideline for describing levels of community participation within recreational fisheries management.

As demonstrated with the example in this paper, qualification of the level of participation in the workshop provided an understanding to participant’s reactions. Appropriate participation levels will change with differing situations and differing audiences. Aiming for a high participation level may not necessarily be appropriate and some situations may require little community participation. Understanding levels of community participation, participant’s needs and expectations, program objectives and techniques for encouraging participation is necessary for each individual situation. Encouraging participation at the appropriate level is the key to managing Queensland's freshwater fishery.

Table 2. A model for community participation in recreational fisheries management

Level of participation

Characteristics of level

Passive participation

The community is presented information on what is going to happen (or has happened) in a project, how and when it will happen. The community has no input into fisheries management.

Participation through provision of data

The community provides data by answering a set of pre-determined questions. Often the data is not validated through further contact with the data provider. The community queries how the information will contribute to fisheries management.

Participation for emotional reward

The community provides resources, such as money, people or time, in return for emotional comfort. They feel their contribution will help to sustain the fishery resource. The community feels there is no need for continuous involvement in fisheries management.

Participation by consultation

The community provides feedback on proposed changes to policy. The issues and solutions are pre-defined within a government document. Solutions may be modified in light of the community response. The community has no role in decision-making for fisheries management.

Functional participation

The community is represented on a committee to provide advice to fishery managers. The committee has been formed with pre-determined objectives to meet a pre-determined purpose. The committee tends to be dependent on the initiators. The community provides expert advice for consideration in fisheries management.

Interactive participation

The community is represented on a committee that jointly provides input, analyses information, and develops strategies and actions. Objectives of the committee are determined by its members. Results in the strengthening of local groups through information exchange. The community takes a lead role in local decisions that contribute to fisheries management.


The community takes the initiative to form groups to meet their own objectives. They develop contacts within government departments, source funding to achieve their objectives and have control over the use of the funds. Their success strengthens the community. The community provides the resources to accomplish fisheries management.


  1. Department of Primary Industries (1998) Extension Strategy for Fisheries, Department of Primary Industries, Brisbane
  2. Foster (2001) Developing Extension Processes, Rural Extension Centre, Gatton
  3. Hinchcliffe, F., Thompson, J., Pretty, J., Guijt, I. and Shah, P. (1999) Fertile Ground – the Impacts of Participatory Watershed Management, IT Publications, London
  4. Pretty, J. (1994) Training for Learning, Special Issues on Training, RRA Notes, IIED Sustainable Agriculture Programme, London
  5. Pretty, J., Guilt, I., Thompson, J. and Scoones, I. (1995) A Trainer’s Guide for Participatory Learning and Action, International Institute for Environment and Development, London
  6. Queensland Fisheries Management Authority (1998) Queensland Fisheries News, Issue 1 March, Queensland Fisheries Management Authority and Department of Primary Industries, Brisbane
  7. Roy Morgan Research (1999) Recreational Fishing in Queensland - a Survey of Queensland Residents, Queensland Fisheries Management Authority, Brisbane

Previous PageTop Of PageNext Page