2018 Torres Strait Fisheries Summit

Tagai Management Consultants facilitated "the most comprehensive fishing summit the [Torres Strait] region has seen for over a decade..."
on Thursday Island.

“The most-comprehensive fishing summit the region has seen for over a decade was held this week, with several controversial issues discussed.”
— Aaron Smith, Torres News, 31 August to 6 September 2018

The Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) Fisheries team engaged Tagai Management Consultants (TMC) to work together to develop and facilitate the 2018 TSRA Fisheries Summit (Summit). TMC worked closely with the TSRA Fisheries team for just over a month prior to the event to refine and formalise the Summit.

The Summit agenda consisted of various sessions that stemmed from branding, marine safety to the discussion on Tropical Rock Lobster Management Plan and strategies to manage the Torres Strait region fisheries industry including beche de mer, finfish supply chain from the sea to the marketplace.

The Summit was held over three days at the Torres Strait Sports Complex and approximately 120 participants which consisted of Torres Strait Fishers, Councillors, Academics, Consultants, and community leaders. TMC and the TSRA summit team was supported by Torres Strait based cultural consultant and community leader, Gabriel Bani.

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It is important to share the debate of the Torres Strait fisheries management has been ongoing for over 15 years and has impacted to varying degrees the region from a community, social, financial and ecological perspective.  Chairman of the TSRA, Napau Pedro Stephen summed up the importance of the summit by describing the Summit as "a long time coming".

As with all TMC projects, ensuring skilled, professional and culturally in tune team members is a key priority.  The TMC summit delivery team have strong cultural and family ties to the Torres Strait. The TMC team worked seamlessly together to ensure that our client, the Summit speakers and participants were provided a culturally appropriate, and professional environment to create a respectful collaborative action oriented forum. 

Day 1 of the Summit provided an opportunity for the most contentious issues to be shared with the Summit, and the participants did not hold back with thoughts about the key topic of the ongoing Tropical Rock Lobster management situation. Various leaders and fishers from all over the Torres Strait stood up and in some instances for the first time were able to share their concerns, ideas and the cost of the legacy issue on them personally and their communities.

 Fisheries Summit participants working together

Fisheries Summit participants working together

After resetting after Day 1 with the Summit delivery team, I took sometime to sit by the Esplanade overlooking the surrounding pristine waters and reflected on the days' events. I realised that we had to alter our approach and an inkling of an idea was surfacing in my mind. At 3:00 am the next day, I awoke with a brain wave and set about writing notes on a new way for us to draw the participants together and start to gain traction on working towards our Summit goals. What gave me strength to go with the formulated idea was the TMC team and the support of Mr Bani, and an internal calm that I knew that the approach would be effective.

You may be asking, Murray what did you and the team do?  Or maybe you are not wondering? The team was briefed and we hit the Summit with full momentum and committed to the approach.  When I shared with the Summit our approach and outline what we were about to do, there was obvious resistance that had carried over from Day 1. But, by listening to the leaders, fishers, the TSRA chair and his staff, Summit speakers we applied local cultural protocols and decision making processes to understand the concerns and ideas from all parts of the Torres Strait.  Then we had each group own their discussions and share respectfully with all the Summit.  What was provided was clarity on the issues and ideas shared by all groups to the most part were aligned.

This momentum of Summit unity continued throughout the day and after a intense deliberation the day's end brought renewed hope and a consensus decision owned by all Summit participants.  We had achieved 3 of the 4 Summit goals. The intellectual and spiritual contribution of the TMC team, Mr Bani and leaders cannot be understated, and at key points on Day 2 there was a lot of emotion circling in the Stadium. But, I was thinking to myself, "we got this!".

As you can image we all slept a little better that evening. 

Day 3 was not without action but in the stadium there was a focus on where everyone was going.  The day was filled with informative sessions and an election process for key fishery management positions.  I am downplaying the continued momentum that was in the room but the sea of conversation was a little calmer throughout the day. 

In conclusion, there was so much to celebrate from the Summit but there is still a long road ahead to ensure the continued sustainability of the Torres Strait fisheries. The Summit achievements highlighted the value of a co-existing cultural and business approach, along with the value of great team work, communication, focused experience, and keeping the eye on the goal can empower our communities to own and realise.

Tagai Management Consultants would like to acknowledge and thank the TSRA Fisheries team, Gabriel Bani (Bani Consultancy and all our Zenadth Kes (Torres Strait) fishers and leaders for providing us the opportunity to facilitate the 2018 TSRA Fisheries Summit. Au esoau


Tagai Management Consultants is a dynamic management consultancy specialising in procurement, business development and community development services focused on empowering relationships and achieving results that meet and exceed our clients requirements in Australia and the Asia/Pacific region.  Get in contact with us today.