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Understanding of the links between coral reef ecosystems, the goods and services they provide to people, and the wellbeing of human societies.


Ecosystem dynamics: past, present and future

Examining the multi-scale dynamics of reefs, from population dynamics to macroevolution


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Advancing the fundamental understanding of the key processes underpinning reef resilience.

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Coral Reef Studies

From 2005 to 2022, the main node of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies was headquartered at James Cook University in Townsville, Queensland (Australia)

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Stop, change or move: Practical adaptation of commercial fishers to spatial changes in fish abundance due to extreme weather events


12pm - 1pm Thursday 31 May 2012

Sir George Fisher Building Conference Room #114 (DB32 upstairs)
Renae Tobin, Centre for Sustainable Tropical Fisheries and Aquaculture, and the School of Earth and Environmental Science, James Cook University

Abstract:  Climate change is resulting in alterations to the distribution of key fishery species. Regardless of whether species shifts are temporary or permanent, these changes have important implications for commercial fisheries. In tropical areas, climate change is predicted to result in an increased frequency of intense cyclones. Such events affect the abundance of the key fishery species in the area affected by the cyclone, and provide an opportunity to explore adaptive response of fisheries to distribution or abundance changes. In 2009, Cyclone Hamish (category 5) tracked along the southern Great Barrier Reef, Australia, dramatically reducing catches of commercially important coral trout. Commercial fishers in the affected area had a number of practical adaptation options: stop fishing temporarily until catches returned to normal, diversify their marketed catch, diversify into other fisheries, or move areas to where key species remained unaffected by the cyclone. We repeatedly surveyed affected fishers for 12 months following the cyclone, to explore if and how fishers adapted to this extreme weather event. Few fishers had the financial capacity to stop fishing, and most fishers were highly specialized and unwilling or able to diversify their catch or fishery, meaning the most viable option was to move. Regulations allowed fishers to move to any area within the 345,000 km2 Great Barrier Reef Marine Park; However, fishers showed a high attachment to place, with numerous economic and social reasons limiting the distance they could move from the affected area. This study reveals that limitations for adaptation extend beyond policy and governance issues, highlighting the importance of understanding the economic and social drivers of fishers’ behavior.

Biography:  Dr Renae Tobin is a Research Fellow with the Centre for Sustainable Tropical Fisheries and Aquaculture, within the School of Earth and Environmental Science, James Cook University, Townsville. She specialises in social science, but with a background in ecology also undertakes multi-disciplinary research, providing essential links between social and ecological science in fisheries. Dr Tobin’s research is generally stakeholder (industry and management) driven, and hence very diverse within the social sciences. Recent research includes exploring regional co-management options for inshore fisheries, social network analysis for co-management and community stewardship,  developing socio-economic indicators for long-term monitoring of fishery stakeholders (including fishers and consumers), exploring impacts of Marine Park zoning and fisheries management change on fishers, highlighting the importance of effective engagement of stakeholders in management decisions, exploring perceptions of climate change and its impacts on the Great Barrier Reef, and documenting the adaptive capacity of fishers to environmental events (e.g. intense cyclones). Much of Dr Tobin’s research has direct application to fisheries and marine park management, and is collaborative with other researchers within and outside of JCU.


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