Programme 1.4: Fishing industry

​Programme objective

This programme’s objective in 2014–15 was to: 
  • foster and enable productive, profitable, internationally competitive and sustainable Australian fishing and aquaculture industries.

Programme description

We work with the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) on managing Australia’s Commonwealth fisheries. We also engage state and territory agencies and consult stakeholders on national approaches to sustainable management of the fishing industry. The department represents Australia’s interests overseas to promote responsible fishing practices and to combat illegal fishing.

More information is available on the department's website.​​​ ​​​ ​​​

Table 5 Programme 1.4—Fishing industry—key performance indicators
Key performance indicator2014–15 targetPerformance
Effective policies, programmes and regulations that contribute to enhanced productivity, profitability, competitiveness and sustainability Accurate and timely advice provided aMet
Develop a National Aquaculture Strategy Consult with all state jurisdictions and industry aMet
Prepare briefing papers prior to meetings for regional negotiations on fisheries management, trade and marine conservation to advance Australia’s interests Attend relevant meetings aMet
Develop arrangements for efficiencies in fisheries management Provide advice to government aPartially met​
Participate in the review of marine protected areas Attend 5 meetings aMet
Establish national representative bodies for commercial fishing and recreational fishing Provide options to parliamentary secretary aMet
Establish a National Recreational Fishing Council Provide options to parliamentary secretary aMet
Promote Indigenous engagement in commercial and/or customary fisheries and aquaculture Consult with the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) Indigenous Reference Group on research, development and extension priorities and develop a project proposal aMet
All levy funds paid to FRDC100%MetMetMet
Progress the domestic process in relation to the Niue Treaty Subsidiary Agreement and ongoing cooperation with Pacific Island countries to combat illegal foreign fishing Arrange for government consideration of signing the agreement aMet
Assist commercial and recreational fishing organisations to adapt to national maritime safety standards Provide support to commercial and recreational fishing organisations aMet
Underpinning research, advice, forecast, projects, products and data services meet stakeholder expectations, and are delivered within agreed timelines85% bMetMetMet

a New performance indicator. b Client satisfaction as measured by an annual survey of ABARES clients.


Developing policy

Fisheries policy framework

In October 2014, the government advised key stakeholders of its intention to develop a new fisheries policy framework. The new framework will respond to the recommendations of the Fisheries Management Review and the findings of the reviews of the Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy Policy and Guidelines, and the Commonwealth Policy on Fisheries Bycatch.

We have developed an overarching Australian fisheries policy and have revised the harvest strategy and bycatch policies. We are consulting key Australian Government agencies before consultation on the new framework in the second half of 2015.

This reform programme supports the government’s policy commitment to making regulatory improvements, increasing transparency and consultation in fisheries management decisions and strengthening the connection between science, research and development, and fishing.

National Aquaculture Strategy

The parliamentary secretary released the National Aquaculture Statement in June 2014. This was the first step in developing a national aquaculture strategy.

The strategy terms of reference were finalised and published in April 2015. We will consult widely to develop a strategy for release in early 2016.

Fisheries management

Ministers and senior officials from the Australian, state and Northern Territory governments met in December 2014 to discuss a collaborative approach to managing commercial wild-catch, recreational and Indigenous fisheries and aquaculture.

The Australian Fisheries Management Forum will develop principles for prioritising and reforming offshore constitutional settlement agreements and explore opportunities for shared services to reduce the costs of fisheries management.

Engaging the community

We worked on a new communication strategy on fisheries management. The parliamentary secretary hosted two industry roundtable meetings to discuss ways to better communicate with the public about the quality of Australian fisheries and issues of sustainability throughout the seafood supply chain. We also conducted market research on community attitudes towards Australian fisheries and seafood.

Outcomes from the strategy and new communication materials for industry are planned to be presented at the Seafood Directions conference in late 2015.

Supporting stakeholders

Support for representative bodies

The government has committed to supporting national representative organisations for commercial and recreational fishers.

We provided a grant to the National Seafood Industry Alliance to support the development of a strong and representative industry peak body that will include an ongoing sustainable funding mechanism.

We also provided funding to the recreational fishing sector through the Australian Recreational Fishing Foundations for activities including a revised code of practice to promote sustainable recreational fishing practices and behaviours.

Promoting maritime safety

We commissioned the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) to develop resources to help vessel owners and masters implement an on-board safety management system aligned with national maritime safety standards.

The $100,000 project is aimed at small vessel operators, but it will be useful to all commercial wild-catch fishers and recreational fishing charter operators.

Supporting Torres Strait communities

The parliamentary secretary is the Commonwealth Member on the Torres Strait Protected Zone Joint Authority (PZJA). The PZJA is responsible for management of commercial and traditional fishing in the Australian area of the Torres Strait Protected Zone and designated adjacent Torres Strait waters. The PZJA has acknowledged the aspirations of traditional inhabitants for 100 per cent ownership of all Torres Strait fisheries.

In February 2015, to facilitate higher levels of ownership, the Australian Government provided a grant of $1.3 million of grant funding to the Torres Strait Regional Authority to assist with the purchase of the remaining non-traditional owner bêche de mer licence in the Torres Strait for $1.5 million. The bêche de mer fishery is now the second commercial fishery in the Torres Strait to be completely owned by the traditional owners. This is an important step towards achieving a commercially viable fishing industry for Torres Strait communities.

International engagement

Regional fisheries management

Western and central Pacific

In December 2014, we led Australia’s delegation to the regular session of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. Australia obtained agreement on a new harvest strategy conservation and management measure to support sustainable management of key fisheries and in the western and central Pacific Ocean. ABARES developed the technical basis for the new measure.

We continued to lead work on the timeframes to develop harvest strategies for the commission. Other outcomes included extending the compliance monitoring scheme for another year and new measures for sharks and Pacific bluefin tuna.

South Pacific

In February 2015, we led Australia’s delegation to the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation. The organisation adopted two important measures to regulate trans-shipment and to establish a compliance and monitoring scheme. An Australian representative was elected as the commission chair and will serve for the next two years.

Indian Ocean

We continued to lead Australia’s efforts to improve the capacity of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) to manage its fisheries resources.

In 2014, the government supported a workshop to assist coastal states to build skills in fisheries management science. We also supported and facilitated the meeting of the G16 Indian Ocean coastal states in the Republic of Korea. Participants developed skills to assist them in defending the interests of the coastal states, including Australia.

At the IOTC annual session in April 2015, Australia obtained agreement on a measure to revise fishery reference points in accordance with scientific advice, to underpin the development of harvest strategies.

Southern Indian Ocean

In March 2015, we led Australia’s delegation to the second meeting of parties to the Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement (SIOFA), which aims to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of non-highly migratory fish stocks. We drafted the SIOFA Rules of Procedure, which is a critical foundation document, and negotiated its approval by all parties. Australia also played an active role in negotiating a successful recommendation to not allow the use of deep-water gillnets in the SIOFA area.

Southern bluefin tuna

In October 2014, we led the Australian delegation to the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna. The commission confirmed the global total allowable catch for 2016 and 2017, after considering research indicating a positive outlook for the species. Members continued discussions on methods to account for all sources of mortality of the species.

Action on illegal fishing

Regional plan of action

In November 2014, we hosted the coordination committee meeting of the Regional Plan of Action to Promote Responsible Fishing Practices.

During the meeting, the parliamentary secretary released Australia’s Second National Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing. The plan builds on the work of the first plan released in 2005 and outlines Australia’s domestic, regional and international measures to combat IUU fishing.

The member countries agreed to establish a vessel watch-list, strengthen control over their flagged vessels, and deregister any IUU-listed vessel.

Niue Treaty Subsidiary Agreement

In July 2014, the government signed the Niue Treaty Subsidiary Agreement. The agreement will strengthen fisheries surveillance and enforcement to, reduce IUU fishing. The agreement incorporates innovative legal solutions to combat IUU fishing and provisions on the exchange of fisheries data for broader law enforcement purposes.

Global action

In May 2015, Australia ratified the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate IUU Fishing. This is the first global legally-binding instrument aimed at combating IUU fishing.

The agreement requires parties to deny port access to foreign vessels that may have engaged in or supported IUU fishing, to conduct regular inspections of vessels entering their ports and to share details on vessels associated with IUU fishing.

Scientific and economic research

Supporting fisheries policy development

ABARES continued to provide data, information and technical advice to support fisheries policy development. ABARES provided an independent assessment of the performance of Commonwealth fisheries against the biological and economic objectives, published in the Fishery status reports 2013–14.

ABARES also released the second national Status of key Australian fish stocks report, developed in partnership with the FRDC, state and territory agencies and the CSIRO. The reports assess the status of 68 fish species that contribute around 90 per cent of the value of Australian wild-catch fisheries through a consistent national framework.

Supporting recreational fishing

In 2014–15, ABARES focused on research into recreational fishing, including testing approaches to estimating the national recreational catch of southern bluefin tuna. This species is the basis of one of the Commonwealth’s most valuable wild-catch fisheries, with an estimated gross value of production (GVP) of $38 million in 2012–13. Most of the catch is transferred to aquaculture farms in South Australian waters, generating a GVP of $114 million.

ABARES’ work, in collaboration with state agencies and the FRDC, supports the management of the fish stock, which is listed as ‘conservation dependent’ under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, and helps meet Australia’s international obligations under the Convention for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna.

ABARES also led the development of a methodology for regular recreational fishing surveys. This was part of the government’s commitment to collect data on the social and economic impact of recreational fishing. ABARES developed the methodology in collaboration with the FRDC, the Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation and state and territory agencies.


Large fishing vessels

In April 2015, the Fisheries Management Amendment (Super Trawlers) Regulation 2015 was registered. The amended regulation permanently bans all boats more than 130 metres in length from undertaking fishing-related activities in the Australian fishing zone.

Cutting red tape

Reducing regulatory burden on commercial fishers, recreational fishers and processors requires agreement across the Australian, state and Northern Territory governments. We continued work with AFMA and other agencies on regulatory reform. This included facilitating the transition from joint authorities to a single jurisdiction through amendments to offshore constitutional settlement agreements.

The department’s target for this key performance indicator was ‘partially met’ in 2014–15.

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Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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