Steps Australia has taken to address illegal fishing

​​Australia is party to a range of conventions that establish global, regional and subregional management organisations that manage highly migratory, straddling, pelagic and demersal fish stocks. These instruments include the Convention on the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna, which establishes the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna, the Agreement for the Establishment of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission, which establishes the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission, and the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, which establishes the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. Australia plays an active role in these organisations. Australia has also signed the Convention on the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific.

Many of these organisations are focusing on the problem of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing as a major threat to the effective management and conservation of regional fish stocks and are consequently seeking to identify vessels engaged in IUU fishing within respective areas of competence in order to effectively combat and eliminate these operations.

In 2007, Australia and Indonesia were instrumental in establishing The Regional Plan of Action to Promote Responsible Fishing Practices Including Combating Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (RPOA-IUU).  The RPOA-IUU consists of 11 members (eight ASEAN member states, Timor-Leste, PNG and Australia). Its objective is to enhance and strengthen the overall level of fisheries management in the region and promote adoption of responsible fishing practices. A Coordination Committee meets annually to renew the strategic directions and priorities for fulfilling the objectives of the Plan.  The RPOA-IUU is widely recognised as a best-practice model for regional cooperation in combating IUU fishing.

Australia continues to seek the strengthening of existing fisheries management and conservation arrangements, the development and adoption of new measures to combat IUU fishing and urges other countries to fully implement key international instruments aimed at combating IUU fishing.

International Plan of Action

Australia was a driving force behind the development and implementation of the International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IPOA-IUU), adopted by FAO members in 2001. Australia is committed to continuing its efforts to eliminate IUU fishing, in concert with other concerned members of the international community.
At the national management level, Australia already applies a stringent management regime to vessels operating under its flag within the Exclusive Economic Zone and on the high seas. The fishing operations of Australian-flagged vessels within the Australian Fishing Zone (AFZ) are controlled by federal, state and territory fisheries legislation. Fishing operations are authorised through the issue of licences and concessions that are subject to specific rules aimed at ensuring the long-term sustainability of fisheries resources. Risk-based fisheries monitoring and compliance regimes are developed and implemented by federal and state governments to ensure the integrity of the fisheries management arrangements. The nature of each compliance program depends on the requirements for each fishery and involves a mixture of physical surveillance, monitoring catches unloaded in port, auditing paper trails to determine catch landings and Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS).
Australian legislation requires Australian flagged fishing vessels to be authorised to fish in waters outside the AFZ. Consequently, it is an offence for an Australian flagged fishing vessel to operate on the high seas without appropriate authorisation. Operators using Australian-flagged vessels on the high seas are required to mark their vessels in accordance with the FAO standard specifications, facilitate the carriage of observers, complete catch and effort logs and operate a VMS which reports to the Australian Fisheries Management Authority. In addition, Australian-flagged vessels are required to operate in a manner that does not contravene Australia’s obligations under international agreements and other arrangements to which Australia is a party.

National Plan of Action

Australia has produced a National Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (NPOA-IUU) in line with the IPOA-IUU. The NPOA-IUU was presented at the FAO Ministerial Meeting in Rome on 12 March 2005 and a second NPOA-IUU was presented to the FAO in 2014, building on earlier successes. Australia already implements many of the measures contained in the NPOA-IUU through its domestic legislative framework, including through provisions in the Fisheries Management Act 1991. The NPOA-IUU reflects Australia’s determined approach to address IUU fishing and the Australian Government and state and territory governments will continue to work together in its implementation.

FAO Agreement on Port State Measures

Australia played a major role in the negotiations on the text of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing. The Agreement was negotiated under the auspices of a Technical Consultation convened by the FAO at the request of the FAO’s Committee on Fisheries and was presented to the 36th Conference of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in November 2009, where it was adopted and opened for signature. Australia signed the Agreement on 27 April 2010 and ratified it on 20 July 2015.

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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