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International fisheries

Several of Australia’s most valuable fisheries are managed at an international level because the stocks are either migratory or straddle Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and the high seas. UN treaties which Australia has ratified require us to cooperate with other countries in the management of those fish stocks.

Australia has targeted engagement on international fisheries issues, principally driven through regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs). RFMOs manage fishery resources that migrate between the jurisdictional waters of different States and the high seas.

Our participation in RFMOs is enacted through various treaties. RFMOs are rule-making organisations which make decisions affecting Australia, fishing within our national waters and our fishing industry.

Why we participate

Australia has significant tonnage claims to fishery resources in the areas managed by RFMOs. Our industry relies on continued access to these resources. Our participation in RFMOs ensures we can:

  • defend and maintain those limits where possible
  • increase Australia’s limits when scientific advice supports higher catch levels
  • importantly, preserve as much opportunity as possible for our industry where scientific advice indicates overall catch levels should decrease.

Australia’s engagement in RFMOs is underpinned by the need to balance its commercial and environmental interests. Key pieces of Australia’s domestic policy and legislation(including the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy Policy 2007 and Commonwealth Policy on Fisheries Bycatch 2000) form a framework for the ecologically sustainable management of fisheries and the marine environment, which Australia seeks to replicate through its work in RFMOs.

Australia faces pressure in international fisheries as larger economic powers exert influence over RFMOs and seek to drive through new rules into RFMOs which may disadvantage Australia.

The overarching goal of our engagement in RFMOs is the same: to protect our sovereign rights, secure access for industry, protect the sustainability of marine biodiversity and ensure that RFMO rules and measures work for Australia.

Our international engagements

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources​ leads Aust​ralia's engagement in the following RFMOs:

The department is also active in a range of other multilateral and regional forums that consider fisheries issues. These include:

The department also takes a strong interest in

  • combating Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing, including taking an active role in the development of the Regional Plan of Action to Promote Responsible Fishing Practices Including to Combating Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing in the Region (RPOA-IUU) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s Port State Measures Agreement