PhD Oral Exam - Annie Lalancette, Individualized Program
When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.
Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.
The thesis aims to gain a better understanding of opportunities for and constraints to the advancement of indigenous rights and aspirations in State-controlled fisheries. It explores the perspectives of Torres Strait (TS) Islanders in the context of expected shifts in governance of the tropical rock lobster (TRL) fishery. This fishery is shared between traditional inhabitants, non-indigenous Australians and neighboring Papua New Guinea; each with differing objectives, interests and capacities. In 2005, the highest governance Australian body for fisheries in TS decided to introduce a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) and quotas for each sector. Implementation of quotas has been systematically delayed due to initial problems with setting the TAC and difficult allocation negotiations. In parallel, the High Court recognized in 2013 the native title rights of TS Islanders to ≈ 37,800 km2 of sea territory and non-exclusive commercial fishing rights.
This study is informed by 13 months of field work undertaken in 2008-2011 involving a core component of standard ethnographic methods and three supplementary components consisting of preference interviews and rankings, cognitive mapping and future scenarios. Methods used were assessed in terms of their usefulness and appropriateness in the TS context. While recent methodological developments offer exciting opportunities, this thesis contends that these methods can only achieve their full potential when combined with other complementary methods, are well-tailored to the context and are conducted in an atmosphere of trust which can require significant prior involvement in communities.
It is argued in this thesis that Islander practices contribute to social-ecological resilience and all dimensions of Islander well-being. This thesis highlights how fisheries in TS are largely influenced by conventional management and neoliberal principles. It is shown that the current structure greatly favors Western views and has generally not considered the potential contributions of Islander perspectives to fisheries management. It is argued that the current regime has the potential to erode Islander institutions and practices and is at odds with Islander realities, values and aspiration. It concludes that in the wake of the Sea Claim, significant changes are needed to the current governance structure for the actualization of Islanders’ newly recognized rights.