Managing Australian fisheries

In Australia, fisheries management responsibilities are spread across multiple jurisdictions (the Commonwealth, states and the Northern Territory). The Commonwealth manages commercial fisheries within the Australian Fishing Zone, which generally extends from 3 to 200 nautical miles off the coast. The Commonwealth also manages the activities of Australian-flagged fishing vessels operating on the high seas (beyond 200 nautical miles). The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) is responsible for the day-to-day management and compliance of Commonwealth fisheries.

Under the Offshore Constitutional Settlement (OCS), state and Northern Territory governments are generally responsible for managing fisheries out to 3 nautical miles from the coast. However, these default management responsibilities can be varied through the OCS arrangements.

In some fisheries off northern and western Australia the responsibility for management is jointly managed by Joint Authorities with representation between the Commonwealth and the relevant states and territories, and the Torres Strait Regional Authority.

The Commonwealth has generally limited its jurisdiction to commercial fishing, with state and Northern Territory governments assuming responsibility for recreational and Indigenous fishing.

The Australian Government cooperates internationally through regional fisheries management organisations to support the management of internationally straddling and highly migratory fish stocks. For more information on Australia’s internal fisheries management and cooperation see the department’s illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and international fisheries web​pages. ​

The Australian Government ensures Commonwealth fisheries are managed sustainably for the benefit of all Australians. The Australian Government is committed to the sustainable use of fisheries resources and the conservation of marine ecosystems and biodiversity. Commonwealth fisheries management considers both the biological and economic consequences of fishing, including the effects on the broader marine environment.

Key commercial stocks in Commonwealth fisheries are managed under the Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy Policy and Guidelines and the Commonwealth Fisheries Bycatch Policy. These policies guide an evidence–based, precautionary approach to setting catch levels to ensure that fisheries provide maximum economic returns while maintaining stocks at sustainable levels.

Last reviewed: 5 February 2021
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