The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) was established as a statutory authority in February 1992.

The Fisheries Administration Act 1991 established AFMA to manage Australia’s Commonwealth fisheries, mainly by applying the provisions of the Fisheries Management Act 1991. Together, these two Acts created a statutory authority model for the day-to-day management of Commonwealth fisheries.

Our portfolio department, the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry retained responsibility for strategic fisheries policy advice, and leading international and inter jurisdictional negotiations.

On 1 July 2008, new governance arrangements for AFMA came into effect. The existing board of directors was replaced with a commission, responsible for domestic fisheries management, and Chief Executive Officer, responsible for foreign compliance and assisting the commission. The Chief Executive Officer is also a commissioner. The new arrangements also brought the agency under the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 and the Public Service Act 1999.

From July 2010 to September 2010, our Minister was the Hon. Tony Burke MP, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

On 11 September 2010 Senator the Hon. Joe Ludwig was appointed as the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. In addition, the Hon. Dr Mike Kelly AM MP, was appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. 

Senator the Hon. Joe Ludwig Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

Senator the Hon. Joe Ludwig Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

The Hon. Dr Mike Kelly AM MP Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

The Hon. Dr Mike Kelly AM MP Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.


Our role is to manage Australia’s Commonwealth fisheries on behalf of the Australian community and people with an interest in Commonwealth fisheries.

AFMA manages commercial fisheries from three nautical miles offshore to the boundary of the Australian Fishing Zone. State and territory governments manage fisheries within their borders and inside three nautical miles from shore, except where Offshore Constitutional Settlements exist between AFMA and state governments to rationalise management arrangements for straddling stocks.

The Commonwealth is also responsible for international fisheries matters, including preventing illegal foreign fishing in the Australian Fishing Zone and managing high seas fishing by Australian operators. We have an increasing involvement in managing fish stocks on the high seas. Since ratifying the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement, Australia has been actively involved in negotiating regional arrangements to manage a range of highly migratory, straddling stocks and international stocks.

We act as a resource manager, making sure we manage our fisheries efficiently and cost effectively in a way that takes into account the impact of fishing activities and encourages ecologically sustainable development. At the same time, we regulate the use of these fisheries with the aim of maximising their economic value. We are accountable to stakeholders and the broader Australian community.

Australia’s Commonwealth fisheries are managed in accordance with government cost recovery policy. The commercial fishing industry pays for costs directly attributed to, and recoverable from, the fishing industry, while the government pays for activities that benefit the broader community. Costs are recovered on a fishery by fishery basis.

AFMA has a number of stakeholders including the commercial fishing industry, researchers, environment/ conservation organisations, recreational fishing and Indigenous interests, and other government agencies. We have built a co-management approach with our stakeholders, particularly industry, involving them in developing policies and actions and encouraging them to share responsibility for fisheries management. Stakeholders and stakeholder consultation are discussed further on page 64.

In December 2005, the then Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation issued a formal direction to AFMA to take decisive action to ensure the sustainability of our fish stocks and to secure the Australian fishing industry’s future.

The Direction aimed to:

1. Cease overfishing and enable the recovery of overfished stocks to a level in the near future that ensures long term sustainability and productivity

2. Avoid further species from becoming overfished in the short and long term

3. Manage the broader environmental impacts of fishing, including threatened, endangered and protected species.

A full report on AFMA’s progress in implementing the Direction is on pages 157–162.


The Fisheries Administration Act 1991 states the objectives AFMA must pursue in performing its functions. In summary these are:

    • Implement efficient and cost-effective fisheries management arrangements, and
    • Ensure such arrangements and related activities implement Australia’s obligations under relevant international agreements.
  • ECOLOGICALLY SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT: Ensure fishing and related activity is consistent with the principles of ecologically sustainable development, including exercise of the precautionary principle, with regard to the long term sustainability of the marine environment.
  • MAXIMISE NET ECONOMIC RETURNS: Maximise net economic returns to the Australian community from the management of Australian fisheries.
  • ACCOUNTABILITY: Ensure accountability to the fishing industry and to the Australian community in AFMA’s management of fisheries resources.
  • COST RECOVERY: Achieve government targets in relation to recovery of AFMA’s costs.


AFMA underpins its service, partnerships and accountability to stakeholders by adhering to the principles of public sector governance:

  • accountability
  • transparency/openness
  • integrity
  • stewardship
  • leadership
  • efficiency

As part of the Australian Public Service (APS), AFMA and its staff are guided by the APS Values and Code of Conduct.

AFMA has offices at three locations - Canberra, Darwin and Thursday Island.

The largest of these is the Canberra office, employing 156 people and managing most of AFMA’s functions including fisheries management, licensing, environment and research, domestic compliance, foreign compliance policy, and corporate governance.

The Darwin office employs 36 staff, with a focus on AFMA’s foreign compliance function. The Thursday Island office manages the Torres Strait fisheries and employs 5 staff. We also employed 27 casual field observers.