The Social in Assessing for Sustainability. Fisheries in Australia.

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Kate Barclay


The notion that sustainability rests on three pillars – economic, environmental and social – has been widely accepted since the 1990s. In practice, however, the economic and environmental aspects have tended to dominate the sustainability agenda, and social aspects have been sidelined. Two reasons for this are: 1) there is a lack of data collected about which to build meaningful pictures of social aspects of sustainability for populations over time, and 2) there is a lack of recognition of the role of social factors in sustainability, and a related lack of understanding of how to analyse them in conjunction with economic and environmental factors. This paper surveys the literature about sustainability in fisheries, focussing on Australia, and focussing on the way social aspects have been treated. The paper finds that the problems that have been identified for assessing the social in sustainability in general are certainly manifest in fisheries. Management of Australian fisheries has arguably made great improvements to biological sustainability over the last decade, but much remains to be done to generate similar improvements in social sustainability for fishing communities. This is the case for government-run resource management as well as for initiatives from the private sector and conservation organizations as part of movements for corporate social responsibility and ethical consumerism. A significant challenge for improving sustainability in Australian fisheries, therefore, lies in improving data collection on social factors, and in bridging disciplinary divides to better integrate social with economic and biological assessments of sustainability.

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Articles (refereed)
Author Biography

Kate Barclay, University of Technology Sydney

Kate Barclay researches the international political economy of food, focusing particularly on tuna fisheries in the Asia Pacific Region. The main themes of her work include the development potential of tuna resources for Pacific Island countries and governing for sustainability along global tuna commodity chains. Kate has acted as researcher for several international organizations, including the WWF and the United Nations Development Programme. Her major publications include a A Japanese Joint Venture in the Pacific (Routledge 2008) and Capturing Wealth From Tuna (ANU ePress 2007). Kate is a Senior Lecturer teaching in the International Studies Program at the University of Technology Sydney.