Programme 1.4 Fishing industry

​​Programme objective

  • foster and enable productive, profitable, internationally competitive and sustainable Australian fishing and aquaculture industries.

Programme description

We worked closely with the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) on the management of Australia's Commonwealth fisheries. We also engaged state and territory agencies and consulted a range of stakeholders on national approaches to sustainable management of the fishing industry.

The department represented Australia's interests overseas to promote responsible fishing practices, combat illegal fishing and cooperate in the management of shared fish stocks both in the Australian exclusive economic zone and on the high seas.

More information is available on the department's website.

Key performance indicators

Table 5 Programme 1.4—Fishing industry—key performance indicators
Key performance indicator2013–14 targetPerformance
Timely finalisation of a revised Harvest Strategy Policy StatementStrategy releasedPartially metMetMet
Timely finalisation of a revised Commonwealth Fisheries Bycatch PolicyStrategy releasedPartially metMet-
Provide timely advice on policies for fish certification and major retailers' requirements for certified fish product aAdvice providedMet--
Provide timely advice on AFMA's levy charges and the reasons for variability aAdvice providedMet--
Briefing papers for international negotiations on fisheries trade and marine conservation prepared in a timely manner100%MetMet-
Implement Borthwick Review recommendations aRecommendations implementedPartially met--
All levy funds paid to the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC)100%MetMet-
Engage with FRDC and the Australian Fisheries Management Authority to ensure compliance with statutory funding agreement and relevant legislation and to discuss industry activities2 meetingsMetMet-
Integrated scientific and economic research–underpinning research, advice, forecast, projects, products and data services meet stakeholder expectations and are delivered within agreed timelines and in line with international research standards85%MetMet-

a New performance indicator.


Developing policy

Implementing the findings of the Fisheries Management Review

Following the 2013 review of Commonwealth fisheries management and legislation (the Borthwick review), we worked with AFMA to identify legislation and regulation that either could be streamlined or was redundant and outdated legislation. We also initiated work with the Department of the Environment, the states and the Northern Territory on reforms to reduce the regulatory burden on industry through measures such as simplifying licensing and fisheries assessments, making greater use of electronic transactions and moving to co-management in more fisheries.

The Government continues to consider the review's recommendations as part of its commitment to cut red tape and reduce the compliance burden on industry.

The department's target for this key performance indicator was 'partially met' in 2013–14.

Finalising revised Harvest Strategy and Bycatch policies

The reviews of the Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy Policy and Guidelines and the Commonwealth Policy on Fisheries Bycatch were released in May 2013. The reviews sought to identify policies to improve the management of commercial species in Commonwealth fisheries, including developing an integrated policy and implementation framework that supports fisheries and environmental legislation.

The reviews were undertaken with support from the then Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, AFMA, the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) and stakeholders representing commercial fishing, recreational fishing, research, scientific and environmental non-government organisations.

Development of updated policies will be considered in light of the Government's priorities, including its deregulation agenda.

The department's targets for these key performance indicators were 'partially met' in 2013–14.

International engagement

Regional fisheries management

In January 2014, we led Australia's delegation to the second meeting of the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation. Australia successfully proposed the adoption of a measure to manage bottom fishing in the region and to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems. ABARES contributed to the agreement on this measure with scientific analyses of historical high-seas trawl fishing effort and encounter thresholds, and move-on rules for encounters with vulnerable marine ecosystems.

In the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, Australia and other Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency members agreed to ensure small island developing states do not carry a disproportionate burden in the development of measures by the commission. This was a landmark achievement and a result of Australia's ongoing work to achieve regional solidarity and cooperation on fisheries management.

We continued to lead Australia's efforts to improve the capacity of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) to manage Indian Ocean fisheries resources. The Australian Government supported a workshop to assist coastal states to build skills in fisheries management systems. We also supported and facilitated the 3rd Indian Ocean Coastal States Meeting in Sri Lanka.

Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna

In October 2013, we led the Australian delegation to the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna and hosted the commission's 20th meeting. The commission agreed to increase the global total allowable catch for this species based on the outcomes of the commission's management procedure and indications of a positive outlook for the species.

This is a significant achievement for all members working to ensure the catch is at sustainable levels.

Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement

Australia hosted the first meeting of parties to the Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement (SIOFA). The department is the lead Australian agency on engagement in SIOFA. Parties to the agreement comprise Australia, the Cook Islands, the European Union, France, Mauritius and the Republic of Seychelles.

The first SIOFA meeting was held in Melbourne in October 2013. The meeting focused on developing foundation documents, including rules of procedure and financial regulations to help ensure the long-term conservation and sustainable use of non-highly migratory fish stocks in the high seas of the southern Indian Ocean.

Scientific and economic research

Our leading role in scientific committees

The 2013 Scientific Committee meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna ran the southern bluefin tuna management procedure for the second time. The procedure is similar to a harvest strategy and is the only formal management procedure in use among tuna regional fisheries management organisations. It provides the scientific basis for setting global total allowable catches at sustainable levels.

The scientific committees of the Western and Central Pacific Fishery Commission and the IOTC reviewed fisheries indicators and stock assessments to provide management advice for target species. ABARES gave a presentation to the IOTC's scientific committee on the weight-of-evidence approach to assessing fish stock status. This approach aims to help generate advice for data-poor fisheries.


Large fishing vessels

Concern continued in some parts of the community about the role of large fishing vessels potentially operating in Australian fisheries. This debate has highlighted the need for meaningful engagement with the community about practices in Commonwealth fisheries management.

Cutting red tape in fisheries management

While the department is making incremental changes to reduce regulation, Commonwealth fisheries management includes 59 cross-jurisdictional arrangements and three joint fisheries authorities. The commercial fishing industry bears a part of this large regulatory burden by paying government cost-recovery charges.

Significantly reducing the complexity of the regulatory environment requires the agreement of the Commonwealth with the states and the Northern Territory. In 2013-14, work commenced on finding ways to streamline fisheries management and the associated regulatory burden across all jurisdictions.

Establishing a national commercial fishing peak body

Commercial seafood industry sectors are not represented at a national level by a single peak body operating under a sustainable funding model. The Government has tasked the department to work with the industry to develop a viable national peak body.

The department has consulted non-national industry groups about helping them to develop a funding model that will be sustainable beyond seed funding. Industry is working on a proposal for the development of such a body.

Establishing a national recreational fishing peak body

The recreational fishing sector is not represented at a national level by a recognised peak body. We commenced work to support the establishment of a national recreational fishing council to facilitate communication between the Government and the recreational fishing sector on matters such as resource sharing.

The department will also work with the recreational fishing sector to develop sustainable funding and governance arrangements to ensure the peak body provides effective representation into the future.

Improving engagement with Indigenous communities

The department worked closely with the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation Indigenous Reference Group, providing information, advice and dialogue through the FRDC and the group's secretariat and meetings.

A key area of focus was Torres Strait fisheries, after the High Court decision in the Akiba case found a continuing non-exclusive native title right to take marine resources for commercial purposes (see External scrutiny).

In April 2014, the parliamentary secretary convened the 23rd meeting of the Torres Strait Protected Zone Joint Authority on Thursday Island. The meeting discussed the management of Torres Strait fisheries. Discussion at the meeting included the aspiration of traditional inhabitants for full ownership of the region's fisheries, and a roadmap for managing tropical rock-lobster.

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Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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