Program 1.4: Fishing industry

​Program objective

The objective of this program is to support and encourage productive, sustainable and competitive fishing and aquaculture industries.

Review of performance

This review addresses the deliverables identified in the 2011–12 Portfolio Budget Statements. Table 5 summarises the extent to which we have met key performance indicators.

Managing Australia's fisheries

Australia's fisheries are acknowledged among the best managed in the world. The Australian Government's investments in fisheries include support for scientific and economic assessments, research and development and the day-to-day management of fisheries through stock assessments, management plans and compliance programs.

We work closely with the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) on issues relating to the management of Commonwealth fisheries, such as:

  • participation in international fisheries management organisations arrangements and their implications for domestic fisheries
  • measures to improve the productivity and sustainability of fisheries, including through amendments to the Fisheries Management Act 1991
  • improving and applying the Commonwealth harvest strategy and bycatch policy.

The department also engages other jurisdictions, through the Australian Fisheries Management Forum, on national approaches to cross-sectoral resource sharing.

Electronic monitoring (e-monitoring) is being implemented for data collection and compliance monitoring in Commonwealth fisheries. New legislation was introduced in 2012 to enable AFMA to fully implement e-monitoring, by requiring fishers to record their activities through technology such as video cameras, global positioning systems and sensors. This will be more cost-effective for fishers and for AFMA and will help to improve the collection of scientific and other information for sustainable fisheries management.

Commonwealth Harvest Strategy

The Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy Policy and Guidelines were developed in 2007 to provide a framework for a more strategic, science-based approach to setting catch levels in all Commonwealth fisheries on a fishery-by-fishery basis. The policy provides for review within five years of its commencement.

On 28 March 2012, the minister released the terms of reference for the review of the Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy Policy and Guidelines. A separate but coordinated review of the Commonwealth Policy on Fisheries Bycatch was announced at the same time. We are leading the review of the harvest strategy policy and guidelines in consultation with the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (SEWPaC) and AFMA.

A stakeholder advisory committee met in May 2012 to identify and seek resolution for issues and to consider the arrangements for the conduct of the review. The committee represents government, the commercial fishing industry, the recreational fishing sector, environmental non-government organisations and research funders and providers. The committee advised on the development of a draft discussion paper, released for public comment in mid-2012.

The review report is expected to be completed in early 2013. The review's terms of reference are available on our website.

Commonwealth Policy on Fisheries Bycatch

The Commonwealth Policy on Fisheries Bycatch was released in June 2000. The policy aims to manage direct and indirect impacts on marine systems. This is done through mechanisms that reduce bycatch, improve the protection for threatened, endangered and protected species and minimise the impacts of fishing on the marine environment.

Since the policy was developed, the social and economic circumstances of fisheries have changed, both domestically and internationally, and the broader legislative and policy environment covering Australia's oceans and their sustainable use has evolved.

In response to the changing environment, we have begun a review of the Commonwealth Policy on Fisheries Bycatch concurrently with the review of the Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy Policy and Guidelines.

The aim of the bycatch review is to provide a more effective and streamlined approach to the management of bycatch in Commonwealth fisheries by developing an integrated policy and implementation framework that links with the harvest strategy policy and supports environmental and fisheries legislative requirements.

The bycatch review is being undertaken in close consultation with SEWPaC and AFMA. An advisory committee met in May 2012 to discuss the scope and process for the review. A workshop was held in June 2012 to further facilitate stakeholder engagement, discuss issues and review options for a revised policy.

The review report is expected to be completed in early 2013. The review's te​rms of reference are available on our website.

Marine bioregional planning

As part of the Australian Government's marine bioregional planning process, a number of new Commonwealth marine reserves are being established. We continued to provide policy, scientific and economic advice on the implications of marine reserves for the commercial and recreational fishing sectors and for food security. This advice helped to inform the work of SEWPaC, which leads the marine bioregional planning process.

In June 2012, the government released details of its final Commonwealth Marine Reserves Networks Proposals. The proposals include the development of a fisheries adjustment assistance package to support fishers and fishing-dependent communities that are significantly affected by the introduction of marine reserves. ABARES prepared social and economic analyses for SEWPaC on the predicted impacts of the new reserves on individual fisheries and regions, which will be an important input to the development of the adjustment assistance package.

Shark-plan 2

In mid-2012, the minister released the second iteration of Australia's National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks—Shark-plan 2. We developed Shark-plan 2 through the Shark-plan Implementation and Review Committee, which includes state and Northern Territory fisheries agencies, AFMA, SEWPaC and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. The plan draws on a commissioned review of Australia's first shark plan and the 2009 shark assessment report.

Shark-plan 2 provides an updated assessment of shark conservation and management issues. It identifies the research and management actions to be pursued across Australia's jurisdictions. The plan includes an operational strategy that identifies the actions that the Australian, state and Northern Territory governments will individually or collectively pursue, as well as the monitoring, evaluation and reporting processes.

Recreational fishing

In 2010–11, the government provided $1.74 million for 10 recreational fishing projects in support of the Recreational Fishing Industry Development Strategy. In 2011–12, we continued to manage three of these projects through ABARES, with the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) managing the other seven.

Preparation continued for one of the projects, the National Recreational Fishing Conference, to be held from 17–19 August 2012 on the Gold Coast. The conference is a joint venture between Recfish Australia and the Australian Fishing Trade Association and will host keynote speakers including the minister, as well as industry presenters, a fishing competition and trade exhibition.

We continued to support the Recreational Fishing Roundtable meetings as a forum to discuss current issues of importance and provide feedback on findings of the projects funded under the strategy. Three meetings were held, chaired in 2011 by the then parliamentary secretary and in 2012 by the minister.


We continued to work with the Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia–Pacific to develop and implement aquaculture policy and activities at a regional level. The department appointed a new Australian representative to the network's Technical Advisory Committee, which met in Bangkok in March 2012. Australia's representative has been nominated as the chair of this committee for the next three years.

Five work programs were established in 2012 to inform the development of a five-year work plan for the network:

  • Sustainable Farming Systems
  • Aquatic Animal Health
  • Food Safety, Quality and Certification
  • Response to Impacts of Climate Change
  • Genetics and Biodiversity.

Australian representatives provided technical expertise to each of these programs. The network's governing council endorsed the work plan in March 2012.

During 2011–12, we continued to work through the Aquaculture Committee of the Australian Fisheries Management Forum on national aquaculture policy, regulation and governance issues. We also collaborated with state and Northern Territory government agencies in exploring options for the regulation of aquaculture in Commonwealth waters.

Under Caring for our Country (see Program 1.2), support is available to assist improved management practices in aquaculture. Eligible aquaculture activities include the development of industry guidelines, extension activities and trialling practices to adapt them to local conditions. These activities support outcomes including improved water exchange and treatment, increased efficiencies in input use and stocking rates to minimise waste, and reduced impact of chemical, nutrient and sediment discharge.

International engagement

Engaging our northern neighbours

The Regional Plan of Action to Promote Responsible Fishing Practices and Combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing in the South East Asian Region continues to be the principal forum to improve fisheries' governance in the region. The forum, led jointly by Australia and Indonesia, comprises 11 countries.

Actions in 2011–12 included:

  • agreement by countries to review their fisheries legislation consistent with studies on model legislation initiated by DAFF
  • agreement by countries to provide information on illegal fishing to the forum secretariat, to update its illegal fishing vessel list
  • an undertaking to deny port access to vessels on such illegal fishing vessel lists
  • an undertaking to continue action consistent with international instruments and measures, such as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Port State Measures Agreement (2009).

We helped organise and co-chaired the forum's annual coordination and work plan review meeting hosted by Cambodia in November 2011.

Strong bilateral cooperation continued with Indonesia through the senior officials' Working Group on Marine Affairs and Fisheries. Major achievements included:

  • a continuing decline in illegal fishing incursions into Australia's northern waters (down from 365 vessels apprehended in 2005–06 to 12 in 2011–12)
  • continuing successful delivery of the Australia–Indonesia Public Information Campaign (PIC), which targets fishing communities in eastern Indonesia
  • substantial progress towards improved management arrangements for Indonesian traditional fishers accessing certain waters off north-west Western Australia
  • collaboration between ABARES, CSIRO and Indonesian agencies on a strategic plan for the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, to facilitate its engagement in Indonesian fisheries research.

The PIC was reviewed during the year. The program was first implemented in 2006 and has focused on outreach visits and other public relations efforts in target regions of Indonesia. The review found that the PIC has been a successful component of the efforts that have significantly reduced illegal fishing in Australian waters. The review recommended the program be continued and has recommended a number of changes to increase its effectiveness.

Bilateral cooperation with Malaysia on fisheries continued through the Malaysia–Australia Agricultural Cooperation Working Group. Collaborative action continued against suspected illegal industrial fishing vessels seeking to unload in Malaysian ports. The fisheries sub-working group has agreed to develop case studies of such actions, which will be used as educational material in other regional countries. It will also develop operational procedures to improve communications between agencies and countries when undertaking action against illegal fishing vessels.

Engagement with Pacific island nations

Australia continued to strengthen its cooperative relationships with Pacific island nations through engagement on fisheries issues. This included direct engagement in relevant forums, such as the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), and targeted funding to address strategic issues.

We led the process to draft a multilateral Niue Treaty Subsidiary Agreement and provided funding to the FFA to allow delegates from 11 Pacific island nations to attend four meetings of the drafting group. The agreement will facilitate closer cooperation in fisheries enforcement, enabling Pacific island countries to work together to protect the region's tuna stocks from illegal fishing.

The Multilateral Treaty on Fisheries between the Governments of certain Pacific Island States and the Government of the United States of America was another forum for Australia's engagement in the Pacific. The treaty provides US purse seine net vessels with long-term access to fish for tuna in the waters of the 16 Pacific island parties. The current phase of the treaty is scheduled to remain in force until June 2013. Australia's engagement in the treaty through DAFF is part of our commitment to assist Pacific island countries to maximise their return from the tuna resource and ensure that appropriate measures are in place for the long-term conservation and sustainability of this resource.

Other international engagement

We were active in all of the regional fisheries management organisations to which Australia is a party. Australia proposed and supported conservation and management measures on a range of issues that reflect our domestic fisheries policies and management arrangements. In the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), we successfully negotiated the adoption of conservation and management measures for minimum data standards for key fishing gear types and measures to mitigate the impact of fishing on turtles.

In the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, we successfully negotiated the adoption of a compliance monitoring scheme and measures to mitigate the impact of fishing cetaceans (for example, whales and dolphins). ABARES continues to lead Australia's scientific engagement in these regional fisheries management organisations, ensuring there is a sound evidence base for the decision making.

In 2011–12, the department led Australia's efforts to engage more closely with neighbouring countries in the Indian Ocean through the IOTC. This marked a commitment to advocating the rights of coastal states in the allocation of tuna resources in the Indian Ocean and building the capacity of coastal states through the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation.

The Australian Government hosted the 30 IOTC members in Fremantle in April 2012 at their 16th session and facilitated a meeting of Indian Ocean coastal states in advance of the IOTC meeting. The government's Public Sector Linkages Program contributed $65 000 to the IOTC to facilitate the engagement of developing coastal states.

Australia continued to lead efforts to adopt a rebuilding strategy for the global southern bluefin tuna stock through the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT). At the commission's 18th annual meeting in October 2011, the department successfully negotiated the adoption of a formal management procedure, committing members to an interim target reference point of 20 per cent of the original spawning stock biomass by 2035.

Case study

New hope for the 'Porsche' of the sea

The 18th meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT) delivered new hope for the critically endangered southern bluefin tuna when it adopted a management procedure to recover spawning stocks to 20 per cent of unfished levels by 2035. This follows a report by CCSBT's Scientific Committee, in July 2011, that spawning stocks had dropped to about 5 per cent of unfished levels.

Sometimes called the 'Porsche' of the sea because it can travel at speeds of up to 70 km per hour and vast distances, the southern bluefin tuna has been managed globally by the CCSBT since 1994. Australia is a member of the Extended Commission with Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Indonesia and the Fishing Entity of Taiwan.

Ms Anna Willock and Dr Gavin Begg played crucial roles in achieving the outcome. With an in-depth knowledge of the key issues and experience in international negotiations. Ms Willock, Director of International Fisheries in DAFF, was the lead policy advisor in the development and adoption of CCSBT's strategy to rebuild southern bluefin tuna stocks. Dr Begg, a former Assistant Secretary of Fisheries and Quantitative Sciences with ABARES, was the lead scientist involved in the development and adoption of the management procedure, working with CSIRO scientists to develop a scientific approach that other members understood and that the Australian industry and non-government conservation organisations trusted.

The management procedure (analogous to the harvest strategies in place for Australia's domestic fisheries under the Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy Policy and Guidelines) is one of the first of its kind for an internationally managed species and is the culmination of 10 years work by Australian officials. It is a significant success, achieving consensus among the six CCSBT members in spite of their very diverse approaches to fisheries conservation and management. The management procedure will be used as the basis for setting the global total allowable catch of southern bluefin tuna over the long term.

Underwater image of a school of bluefin tuna swimming.
Southern bluefin tuna
Photo: Thinkstock.

We also led Australia's engagement in the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. At the commission's 8th regular session in March 2012, Australia achieved two of its key objectives:

  • gaining endorsement for an additional one-year trial of the Compliance Monitoring Scheme, originally adopted at the 7th regular session
  • adoption of a conservation and management measure for the protection of cetaceans from purse seine fishing operations.

In March 2012, Australia ratified two treaties:

  • Convention on the Conservation and Management of High Seas Fishery Resources in the South Pacific Ocean
  • Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement.

The treaties establish a mandate for the conservation and management of non-highly migratory living marine resources on the high seas of the South Pacific Ocean and the Southern Indian Ocean. Ratification provides an opportunity to influence conservation and management measures for non-highly migratory fisheries resources on the high seas and ensure ongoing access to these resources for the Australian fishing industry. As a result of Australia's ratification, the Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement came into force in June 2012.

Australia's regulatory framework was updated to implement measures adopted by international fisheries management organisations to which Australia is a party, including:

  • measures made under the IOTC to protect thresher sharks
  • measures made under the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources to improve catch reporting
  • a variety of restrictions on fishing methods and locations to ensure sustainability of target stocks within relevant convention areas.

The Australian Government is maintaining strong deterrence of illegal foreign fishing to protect our fisheries and maximise the benefits for our fishing industry. The department commenced processes for Australia to ratify the FAO Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate IUU Fishing. IUU fishing is recognised globally as a threat to sustainable fisheries, the conservation of marine diversity and the aspirations of legitimate fishers. The agreement promotes measures, such as denial of access to ports, port inspections, prohibition of landing and detention for sanctions, to assist port states to prevent IUU catches from reaching markets.

Fisheries research

The Fisheries Resources Research Fund supports research to inform the government's policies and investments in pursuit of the sustainable development of our fisheries resources. The fund includes support for fisheries economic surveys, which provide a basis for understanding the impact and effectiveness of management and policy changes. The fund supports the annual reporting of the biological status of fish stocks managed by the Commonwealth and the economic performance of Commonwealth fisheries. It also funds targeted biological, economic and social research to support the development of fisheries policy.

In 2011–12, the fund engaged ABARES to provide expert scientific advice in support of the department's policy engagement in, and understanding of, the management of domestic fisheries. ABARES also led our scientific engagement in policy issues in high seas fisheries management and our involvement in fisheries related international obligations that have a direct impact on Australian domestic fisheries.

The fund has also supported ABARES' work in support of the review of the Commonwealth Harvest Strategy Policy. ABARES provided advice and reviewed the draft terms of reference for the review, including scientific and technical input to a range of approaches and options, development of draft work plans and cost estimates for implementing elements of the review.

Other ABARES activities supported by the fund included:

  • the Fishery status reports 2010, which assessed the biological and economic status of all Commonwealth fisheries and 100 fish stocks to assure and inform the management of Commonwealth fish stocks
  • the estimation of the annual gross value of production of Australian fisheries and the Australian fisheries survey report
  • the development of the first State of Australian fish stocks report, to be released in 2012–13
  • input to the review of the Commonwealth Policy on Fisheries Bycatch
  • the incorporation of public comments into Shark-plan 2.

The department continued to provide policy support to manage the impacts of climate change on fisheries. This was done through the National Climate Change Action Plan for Fisheries and Aquaculture. Implementation of the plan was coordinated through the Australian Fisheries Management Forum. More than $5 million has been committed under the plan for 16 research projects.

ABARES continues to lead Australia's scientific engagement in regional fisheries management organisations. This scientific engagement contributed to the implementation of an agreed management procedure by the CCSBT and the adoption of a bottom-fishing impact assessment standard by the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation. The bureau continues to assist in meeting Australia's data submission and reporting requirements for regional organisations.

ABARES continued to provide analyses and advice on management strategies for rebuilding depleted fish stocks or interactions with protected species. ABARES provided analysis and advice to AFMA on the Australian sea lion management strategy and to SEWPaC, which is finalising the Australian sea lion recovery plan. ABARES also assisted AFMA with the review of the draft upper-slope dogfish management strategy, including advice on assessments of the distribution and abundance of upper-slope dogfish. Advice on these two issues led to an improved understanding of risks and uncertainties associated with the strategies and management measures.

Fisheries Research and Development Corporation

The FRDC is the statutory research and development corporation that supports the development of Australia's fisheries by planning, investing in, and managing fisheries research, development and extension. We work with FRDC to ensure it meets its legislative requirements, including facilitating the minister's approval of FRDC's 2012–13 annual operational plan to commence on 1 July 2012. The FRDC met all of its obligations in 2011–12.

Key performance indicators

Table 5  Program 1.4: Fishing industry—key performance indicators
Key performance indicator 2011–12 target Achievement
2011–12 2010–11 2009–10

Agreed National Recreational Fishing Strategy projects implemented on time and within budget



Performance: All 10 projects continued during the year, with DAFF managing three, including one project which was completed, and the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation managing the other seven. This is a new indicator.

Review of the Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy Policy



Performance: The review was underway in 2011–12, with the final review report expected to be completed in early 2013. This is a new indicator.

Negotiation positions and briefing papers for programmed trade and other international negotiations endorsed by the government




Performance: The government endorsed all negotiation positions.

Minister/parliamentary secretary and executive satisfied with the quality and timeliness of policy advice and support

High level of satisfaction achieved


Performance: DAFF has provided extensive policy advice and support to the minister and parliamentary secretary. This advice has been received with a high level of satisfaction. This is a new indicator.

Outlook for 2012–13

We will continue to foster productive, profitable, internationally competitive and sustainable Australian fishing and aquaculture industries.

The department will complete the review of the Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy Policy and Commonwealth Bycatch Policy to ensure sustainable fisheries. We will also continue to provide effective and timely advice on issues such as fisheries research priorities, fisheries accreditations and product labelling, and climate change. We will consult stakeholders on Commonwealth fisheries legislative frameworks.

We will also engage domestic stakeholders and fisheries agencies on resource sharing principles and continue to examine resource sharing issues related to specific species.

The department will consult AFMA and the FRDC to discuss industry activities and ensure compliance with statutory financial arrangements and relevant legislation. We will also work with the states and territories to deliver and complete projects that support a National Recreational Fishing Industry Development Strategy.

To advance Australia's interests in international fisheries, we will maintain and continue to strengthen relationships with international stakeholders through our engagement in regional fisheries management organisations and associated bodies. This will include engaging Pacific island countries on fisheries issues to reduce the impact of illegal foreign fishing on Australian fisheries.

We will continue to work on international issues including:

  • ratifying the FAO Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate IUU Fishing
  • revising the National Plan of Action to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing
  • participating in bilateral cooperation with Indonesia
  • engaging our northern neighbours as part of the Regional Plan of Action to promote responsible fishing practices and combat IUU fishing in the Southeast Asian region.

Research and development is a major focus of the government's fisheries investment. In 2012–13, the government expects to direct more than $15 million to the FRDC to support work across all fishing sectors, including commercial wild capture fisheries, aquaculture and recreational fishing. The government will also provide $2.114 million through the Fisheries Resources Research Fund to support scientific and economic research into Australia's fisheries.

The department will continue to provide scientific and economic research and evidence-based information, analysis and research to improve productivity, profitability, competitiveness and sustainability of Australia's fisheries industries, including information on the status of Commonwealth fish stocks through the Fishery status reports.

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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