This page provides information about AFMA’s objectives, functions and powers.

Our objectives are listed in the Fisheries Administration Act 1991 and the Fisheries Management Act 1991 which cover all AFMA’s operations.

Legislative objectives govern all of AFMA’s activities. The following objectives must be pursued by the minister in the administration of the Fisheries Management Act 1991 and by AFMA in the performance of its functions:

  1. Implementing efficient and cost effective fisheries management on behalf of the Commonwealth.
  2. Ensuring that the exploitation of fisheries resources and the carrying on of any related activities are conducted in a manner consistent with the principles of ecologically sustainable development (which include the exercise of the precautionary principle), in particular the need to have regard to the impact of fishing activities on non-target species and the long-term sustainability of the marine environment.
  3. Maximising net economic returns to the Australian community from the management of Australian fisheries.
  4. Ensuring accountability to the fishing industry and to the Australian community in AFMA’s management of fisheries resources.
  5. Achieving government targets in relation to the recovery of AFMA’s costs.

In addition to the objectives mentioned in subsection 3(1) of the Fisheries Management Act 1991, the minister, AFMA (and Joint Authorities under s78) are to have regard to the objectives of:

  1. Ensuring, through proper conservation and management measures, that the living resources of the AFZ are not endangered by over-exploitation.
  2. Achieving the optimum utilisation of the living resources of the AFZ.
  3. Ensuring that conservation and management measures in the AFZ and the high seas implement Australia’s obligations under international agreements that deal with fish stocks.
  4. To the extent that Australia has obligations:
    • i) under international law; or
    • ii) under the Compliance Agreement or any other international agreement; in relation to fishing activities by Australian-flagged boats on the high seas that are additional to the obligations referred to in paragraph (c) – ensuring that Australia implements those first‑mentioned obligations.

but must ensure, as far as practicable, that measures adopted in pursuit of those objectives must not be inconsistent with the preservation, conservation and protection of all species of whales.

The Fisheries Administration Act 1991 also requires AFMA to pursue the objective of ensuring that:

  1. The exploitation in the Australian Fishing Zone (as defined in the Fisheries Management Act) and the high seas of fish stocks in relation to which Australia has obligations under international agreements.
  1. Related activities; are carried on consistently with those obligations.
  2. To the extent that Australia has obligations:
  • under international law; or
  • under the Compliance Agreement or any other international agreement.

In relation to fishing activities by Australian‑flagged boats on the high seas ensuring that those activities are carried on consistently with those obligations, and

  1. Ensuring that the exploitation in the Australian fishing zone (as defined in the Fisheries Management Act 1991) and the high seas of fish stocks in relation to which Australia has obligations under international agreements and related activities are carried on consistently with those obligations.

In pursuing all of these objectives under both the Fisheries Management Act and the Fisheries Administration Act, AFMA must place equal emphasis on all of the objectives and not pursue some at the expense of others. However, varying degrees of weight and emphasis may be given to a particular objective depending on the circumstances.  This position has been confirmed where AFMA’s approach to pursuing these objectives has been tested before the courts.

AFMA is the Commonwealth agency which, jointly with Queensland, co-ordinates and delivers fisheries management and surveillance/enforcement programs in the Torres Strait Protected Zone on behalf of the Torres Strait Protected Zone Joint Authority (PZJA).

The PZJA comprises the Commonwealth and Queensland ministers responsible for fisheries and was established under the Torres Strait Fisheries Act 1984. The PZJA is responsible for the management of fisheries in the Australian section of the Zone, with a primary obligation to manage the fisheries in a manner that protects the way of life and livelihood of the traditional inhabitants. A significant emphasis is also placed on environmental monitoring and conservation of Torres Strait fisheries.

As set out in Section 7 of the Fisheries Administration Act 1991, AFMA has the following functions:

  • to devise management regimes in relation to Australian fisheries
  • to devise and implement management regimes that:
    • relate to fishing for fish stocks in relation to which Australia has obligations under international agreements; and
    • are consistent with those obligations.
  • to the extent that Australia has obligations:
    • under international law; or
    • under the Compliance Agreement or any other international agreement.

In relation to fishing activities by Australian‑flagged boats on the high seas to devise and implement management regimes in relation to those activities that are consistent with those obligations:

  • to advise and assist in relation to the exercise of powers and the performance of functions under the Torres Strait Fisheries Act 1984;
  • to devise fisheries adjustment programs and fisheries restructuring programs and to manage and carry out such programs
  • to manage and carry out:
    • management regimes and exploratory and feasibility programs that are devised by the Authority; and
    • programs of a similar nature that are devised by other persons or bodies;
  • to liaise and co‑operate with and, where obliged under the Act or any associated law or under international law or international agreements to do so, to give information to, overseas and international bodies on matters relating to global, regional or subregional fisheries management organisations or arrangements;
  • in addition to the collection of information in the exercise or performance of its other powers and functions, to collect, as authorised information relating to:
    • possible breaches of the laws of Australia or of a foreign country;
    • the control and protection of Australia’s borders;
    • the administration and management of fisheries or marine environments;
    • research or monitoring conducted, or proposed to be conducted, into fisheries or marine environments;
  • to disclose, as authorised information, including personal information, relating to:
    • possible breaches of the laws of Australia or of a foreign country;
    • the control and protection of Australia’s borders;
    • the administration and management of fisheries or marine environments;
    • research or monitoring conducted, or proposed to be conducted, into fisheries or marine environments;
  • to take action in accordance with international law to deter the use of vessels on the high seas for activities that contravene or reduce the effectiveness of measures that are for the conservation and management of fish stocks and are established by:
    • a subregional or regional fisheries management organisation that Australia is a member of; or
    • a subregional or regional fisheries management arrangement that Australia participates in;
  • to consult, and cooperate with, the industry and members of the public generally in relation to the activities of AFMA
  • to devise exploratory and feasibility programs relating to fishing and to manage and carry out such programs
  • to establish priorities for research relating to fisheries managed by AFMA and arrange for the undertaking of such research;
  • to make arrangements in relation to the placement of persons as observers on board boats used for commercial fishing, including foreign fishing boats operating, or intended to operate, outside the Australian fishing zone if such placements are consistent with Australia’s international obligations
  • to consult, and negotiate with, foreign Government and foreign business interests in relation to access by foreign fishing vessels to Australian fisheries and Australian ports
  • to consult and exchange information with, and make its expertise in fisheries management available to, State, Territory or overseas bodies having functions similar to AFMA’s functions
  • to consult other persons on the performance of AFMA
  • to develop Corporate and annual Operational Plans
  • the functions specified in the Act relating to reporting
  • as provided by an associated law
    • to establish and allocate fishing rights
    • to establish and maintain a register of fishing rights
    • functions relating to plans of management
    • functions relating to recreational fishing
    • to undertake, on behalf of the Commonwealth, management responsibilities in relation to fisheries management arrangements entered into with the States and Territories
    • to collect, on behalf of the Commonwealth, a payment in the nature of a community return payable by persons exploiting fisheries resources
  • such other functions conferred on AFMA by or under associated laws.
AFMA has powers set out in Section 8 of the Fisheries Administration Act 1991. Under the legislation AFMA may do all things that are necessary or convenient to be done for, or in connection with, the performance of its functions.

The Authority, however, as a Commonwealth Government Agency, under s8(2) does NOT have power to:

  • acquire hold and dispose of real or personal property
  • enter contracts
  • lease land or buildings.

These financial functions are performed for and on behalf of the Commonwealth by the Chief Executive Officer.