Part 1 – Summary


Chairman’s and CEO’s review

The gross value of production for Commonwealth fisheries rose to approximately $400 million in 2015–16. This emphasises the importance of the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) continuing to deliver an efficient and responsive regulatory approach that supports a profitable and competitive Commonwealth commercial fishing industry. At the same time, AFMA has successfully pursued the sustainability of Australia’s fisheries for the benefit of present and future generations of Australians.

In this report AFMA presents, for the first time, an Annual Performance Statement in accordance with the requirements of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013. The statement in Part 2 of this report provides details of our operational objectives, our performance results and, together with Part 3 ‘Fishery reports’, an analysis of those results.

Ecological sustainability

The most recent Fishery Status Report 2016 (released by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences) found that, for the third consecutive year, no stocks managed solely by the Commonwealth (AFMA) were subject to overfishing (i.e. a stock that is experiencing too much fishing and the removal rate from the stock is unsustainable). However, seven stocks were listed as overfished (i.e. a fish stock below the biomass limit reference point), and we will continue to pursue comprehensive management strategies to rebuild these stocks. More detail is provided in the fishery reports in Part 3 of this report.

During 2015–16 AFMA placed significant effort into reviewing its ecological risk assessment and ecological risk management system. This system is a holistic approach for assessing and managing the impact of Commonwealth fisheries on marine species, habitats and communities. The review was supported by the Ecological Risk Assessment Technical Working Group, management advisory committees and resource assessment groups. The ecological risk assessment and ecological risk management guide for AFMA fishery managers is the main product of the review and will be presented to the AFMA Commission for approval later in 2016. AFMA will implement the revised ecological risk assessment and ecological risk management system in 2016–17. A short ‘plain English’ summary of the guide will be produced for stakeholders and the public.

We take our role to protect species incidentally caught by commercial fishers seriously. In 2015–16 the Commission approved two new seabird mitigation methods to reduce the risk of seabird interactions. We have introduced improved marine mammal mitigation options in fishery Management Plans. In June 2016 we participated in a workshop to discuss options for mitigating marine mammal interactions with mid-water trawl gear in the Small Pelagic Fishery. In addition, fifty people have completed a bycatch and discards e-learning course developed by AFMA in collaboration with the South East Trawl Fishing Industry Association.

As part of our efforts to promote and embrace innovative approaches to fisheries management and to broaden engagement with stakeholders, AFMA sponsored ‘Fishackathon 2016’, at the University of New South Wales, Sydney. This was a global initiative of the United States Department of State designed to raise awareness and help develop innovative solutions to address overfishing and marine sustainability issues. This was the first year that it was held in Australia. Fishackathon 2016 brought together a range of participants from multidisciplinary backgrounds, for the love of a challenge and a desire to improve sustainability. The five person team, ‘Fillet Finder’, of Angus Yuen, Benjamin Mo, Edwin Li, Emma Young and Mendel Liang was successful with their innovation giving seafood lovers an app to help identify fillets and to be sure what they were buying matched the label.

Efficient fisheries management and compliance

Removing unnecessary and/or redundant regulation has allowed operators to modify their practices to increase efficiencies. These improvements have been complemented by our effective compliance regime.

From May 2016 more than one million square kilometres of additional offshore waters near southern and eastern Australia were opened to mid-water trawling in the Small Pelagic Fishery. This reflected AFMA’s findings that the Small Pelagic Fishery mid-water trawlers pose a low risk to deep water species such as orange roughy and gulper sharks. Many of the existing closures were not required to protect these species during trawler operations.

In April 2016 the AFMA Commission agreed that gillnet length restrictions in the shark gillnet sector of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery would be removed in Commonwealth waters (excluding State waters and for fishers without e-monitoring), following implementation of measures to minimise interactions with dolphins across the entire gillnet fishery. Removing limits on net lengths will provide fishers with more flexibility to catch the sustainable total allowable catch for gummy shark. We will continue to monitor the impacts of removing gillnet length restrictions on other species including school shark and snapper, along with threatened, endangered and protected species.

In 2015–16 we implemented 15 of the 39 red-tape reduction initiatives identified in earlier years. Our red tape reduction efforts focused on simplifying licensing arrangements, reviewing closure directions and simplifying management advisory committee and resource assessment group arrangements.

The roll out of AFMA’s camera-based electronic monitoring program (e-monitoring) has been completed in several fisheries with approximately one quarter of all Commonwealth fishing vessels now fully using this system. This provides a more cost effective method of monitoring operator performance, and collecting and reviewing data. The program continues to draw international interest as a way of using new technology to improve fisheries management. Taiwan is developing an e-monitoring system and is seeking our expert advice before taking its program further. A visit by a Taiwanese expert in March 2016 followed visits last year from Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and the South Pacific Community based in Noumea, who are also considering adopting e-monitoring for use in their fisheries.

Amendments to statutory fisheries Management Plans continued in 2015–16. These will see a consistent approach applied across all Commonwealth fisheries for managing uncaught fishing quota and removing the need to carry fishing concessions on board boats. The amendments also provide the mechanism for AFMA to transition individual transferable quota units to statutory fishing rights in the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery which, when complete, will see a single quota management system apply across Commonwealth fisheries.

AFMA’s risk based compliance programs use intelligence driven and targeted operations to deter illegal fishing in Commonwealth fisheries and the Australian Fishing Zone. High priorities in 2015–16 were minimising quota evasion and reviewing compliance with AFMA’s Vessel Monitoring System to ensure all boats were reporting at all times. Vessel Monitoring Systems compliance rates continued to be high with an average rate of 97 per cent in 2015–16.

We also continued to engage with our international networks, Maritime Border Command and the Australian Border Force in combating illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. In 2015–16 a total of 20 boats were apprehended as suspected illegal foreign fishing vessels. Sanctions imposed ranged from being placed on good behaviour bonds to fines totalling $10 000 for an individual and suspended jail sentences of up to seven months.

In addition, we continued to build regional capacity to reduce the risk of illegal fishing in Australian waters and on stocks of interest to Australian operators. For example, AFMA officers worked with fisheries officials in Samoa, Tuvalu and the Cook Islands to assist in developing country specific procedures to facilitate cooperative fisheries surveillance programs under the Niue Treaty Subsidiary Agreement framework. Also in the Pacific, AFMA delivered in-country training on monitoring, control and surveillance techniques, participated in patrol activities and assisted in investigating breaches of legislation.

Effective, cost efficient and transparent management and regulator arrangements

With about one third of our annual budget cost-recovered from industry, and most of the remainder sourced from allocations of public funds, AFMA recognises the importance of delivering effective, cost efficient and transparent management and regulator arrangements.

In 2010 AFMA made a commitment to industry that it would keep cost recovery at or below the rate applied in 2005–06 once adjusted for Consumer Price Index changes. Since making this undertaking in 2010, we have out-performed the cumulative Consumer Price Index by more than $27.8 million (as at 2015–16).

In April 2016 AFMA held a meeting with interested State, Territory and Commonwealth stakeholders to discuss and develop technical specifications and requirements for a broad based Vessel Monitoring System. The intention is for AFMA to offer our Vessel Monitoring System platform to host such a service on behalf of other jurisdictions. Increasing the number of boats hosted on our Vessel Monitoring System platform, whether they are State or Commonwealth vessels, will reduce the cost of providing Vessel Monitoring System services. To date two States have accepted AFMA’s offer and a number of others have indicated interest.

In addition to such initiatives, we continued to focus on cost-efficient service delivery and have worked closely with industry over many years to minimise costs whilst successfully maintaining service levels.

AFMA has an ongoing focus on cost-effective delivery of its activities and has continued to drive efficiencies in its operations. AFMA reported a deficit of $0.6 million for 2015–16. AFMA had an approved operating loss, relating to depreciation and amortisation expenses of $2.2 million for the year. AFMA’s total departmental expenditure was $38.3 million, which was $1.6 million lower than the previous year. AFMA’s administered expenditure was $2.1 million, relating to the caretaking and disposal of illegal foreign fishing vessels. This was some $0.2 million lower compared with the previous year; however, there was considerable interception activity in the latter part of the year.


Again in 2015–16 our success was built on the dedication, skills and knowledge of our staff, who together with the Executive and Commissioners, have worked hard to deliver on the expectations of the government, commercial and recreational fishers and other stakeholders. Members of the commercial and recreational fishing sectors, environment and conservation organisations and government agencies continued to provide valuable insights and advice that enhanced fisheries management outcomes.


AFMA’s Enterprise Agreement 2016 was agreed with the majority of AFMA staff who participated in voting in May 2016. It includes a two per cent annual pay increase and makes improvements to flexible working conditions while reducing some leave entitlements.

AFMA staff numbers have steadily declined from a peak of 252 staff in 2008–09 to 187 staff in 2015–16. Reductions are expected to continue as regulatory and other service delivery models continue to adopt new technology.

Our Corporate Plan 2016–19 was approved by the Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources in April 2016. Over the next four years we will have an increased focus on:

  • managing the impact of fishing on marine wildlife (particularly on sea birds and mammals) and managing biological habitats and communities.
  • examining the influences of catch rates on fishing industry viability.
  • further examining opportunities for the deployment of electronic and digital solutions and services to improve efficiency of operations.
  • refining policies (for example addressing overlapping and adjacent fishery quota management), reviewing opportunities to improve the efficiency and impact of legislation or regulations and engaging more extensively with our partners and regional contacts.
  • increasing transparency in AFMA data and information systems that support decision making.

Further information is available from our website


Figure 3: Domestic boat boarding.

Our agency

History and establishment

AFMA was established under the Fisheries Administration Act 1991 in February 1992 to manage Australia’s Commonwealth fisheries and to apply 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 commercial fisheries.

Our portfolio department, the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, retains responsibility for strategic fisheries policy advice and leading international negotiations.

AFMA’s Commission is responsible for domestic fisheries management, and the Chief Executive Officer (who is also a Commissioner) is responsible for foreign compliance and assisting the Commission to implement its decisions. AFMA is governed by the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 and the Public Service Act 1999.

During the reporting period our Minister was the Hon. Barnaby Joyce MP, Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources. On 21 September 2015 responsibility for fisheries passed from Senator the Hon. Richard Colbeck (the Parliamentary Secretary) to Senator the Hon. Anne Ruston (Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources).

Role and functions

AFMA is the Australian Government agency responsible for the provision of regulatory and other services to ensure efficient and sustainable management of Commonwealth commercial fisheries on behalf of the Australian community. The challenge in delivering these services is to find the right balance between ensuring a profitable and competitive fishing industry while keeping the impacts of commercial fishing on Australia’s marine ecosystem within sustainable and acceptable risk levels.

Our fisheries management practices aim to maintain the ecological sustainability and profitability of Commonwealth commercial fisheries for Australians both now and into the future. These practices have regard to the impact of fishing on non-target species and the long-term sustainability of the broader marine environment.

AFMA generally manages commercial fisheries from three nautical miles offshore to the boundary of the Australian Fishing Zone (200 nautical miles offshore), as well as Australian boats fishing on the high seas. State and Territory governments generally manage fisheries within their borders and inside three nautical miles from shore, except where Offshore Constitutional Settlement agreements exist for the management of fish species between the Commonwealth and State and Territory governments.

The Commonwealth is also responsible for international fisheries matters, including preventing illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in the Australian Fishing Zone. Since ratifying the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement in 1999, Australia has been negotiating regional arrangements to manage a range of highly migratory, straddling stocks and international stocks. AFMA participates in management, monitoring, control and surveillance activities as well as developing capacity building activities and providing advice and training to neighbouring countries and our regional partners.

As a regulatory agency, AFMA pursues efficient and cost effective fisheries management in a way that accounts for the effects of fishing and ensures ecologically sustainable development. AFMA also regulates the use of these fisheries with the aim of maximising net economic returns to the Australian community. In doing so we are accountable to the community and the fishing industry.

Australia’s Commonwealth commercial 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 Australian community.

Our key stakeholders include the commercial fishing industry, researchers, environment/conservation organisations, recreational fishers, Indigenous communities and other government agencies. We have built a partnership approach with our stakeholders and involve them in developing policies and actions and encouraging them to share responsibility for fisheries management (and the associated risks) where appropriate.

We also provide fisheries management services to Joint Authorities of the Commonwealth and State governments, including the Torres Strait Protected Zone Joint Authority under the Torres Strait Fisheries Act 1984.

Outcome and programme

Our outcome is:

‘Ecologically sustainable and economically efficient Commonwealth fisheries, through understanding and monitoring Australia’s marine living resources and regulating and monitoring commercial fishing, including domestic licensing and deterrence of illegal foreign fishing.’

AFMA has a single programme with the objective of ‘to sustainably manage Commonwealth fisheries and deter illegal fishing’.

AFMA’s purposes

AFMA’s Corporate Plan 2015–18 describes that we are responsible for the efficient and sustainable management of Commonwealth commercial fisheries.

The Annual Performance Statement is structured to throw light on the major elements of AFMA’s purposes:

  • pursuing the ecological sustainability of Commonwealth fisheries
  • improving net economic returns from Commonwealth fisheries (including compliance activities)
  • delivering effective, cost efficient and transparent management and regulatory arrangements.

Our Values

AFMA staff individually and collectively underpin our service, partnerships and accountability to stakeholders by adhering to the principles of public sector governance.

We are:

  • Impartial – we are apolitical and provide the government with advice that is frank, honest, timely and based on the best available evidence.
  • Committed to service – we are professional, objective, innovative and efficient, and we work collaboratively to achieve the best results for the Australian community and the government.
  • Accountable – we are open and accountable to the Australian community under the law and within the framework of ministerial responsibility.
  • Respectful – we respect all people, including their rights and their heritage.
  • Ethical – we demonstrate leadership, are trustworthy, and act with integrity, in all that we do.

AFMA’s Client Service Charter also expresses our ongoing commitment to providing stakeholders with quality service.

Organisational structure

AFMA’s organisational structure as at 30 June 2016 is presented below.

Minister for Agriculture
and Water Resources

Assistant Minister for Agriculture
and Water Resources

AFMA Commission

AFMA Chief Executive Officer
Dr James Findlay

Fisheries Management Branch

Executive Manager
Dr Nick Rayns

Fisheries Operations Branch

General Manager
Mr Peter Venslovas

Corporate Services Branch

Acting General Manager
Mr John Andersen

Northern Fisheries

Senior Manager
Mr Steve Bolton

National Compliance Strategy

Senior Manager
Mr Tod Spencer

Executive Secretariat

Senior Manager
Mr Andrew Pearson

Demersal and Midwater Fisheries

Senior Manager
Mr George Day

Compliance Operations (Darwin)

Senior Manager
Mr John Davis


Chief Finance Office
Mr Robert Gehrig

Tuna and International Fisheries

Senior Manager
Mr Trent Timmiss

Foreign Compliance Policy

Senior Manager
Ms Kerry Smith


Senior Manager
Mr Paul Halliday

Policy, Environment, Economics, Co-management and Research

Senior Manager
Ms Beth Gibson


Human Resources
Senior Manager
Ms Libby Jenkins

Property, Risk and Security
Senior Manager
Mr Scott Connors

Service One

Senior Manager
Mr Ryan Murphy

Service Delivery

Senior Manager
Mr Jeremy Richter

Where we operate

AFMA has offices at three locations: Canberra, Darwin and Thursday Island. Details of AFMA’s office locations are provided below.

AFMA office locations

Canberra office

Street address

Postal address


Level 6

73 Northbourne Avenue


PO BOX 7051

Canberra Business Centre


Ph: (02) 6225 5555

Fax: (02) 6225 5500

AFMA Direct: 1300 723 621

Darwin office

Street address

Postal address


Level 6

Jacana House

39–41 Woods Street


GPO Box 131


Ph: (08) 8943 0333

Fax: (08) 8942 2897

Thursday Island office

Street address

Postal address


Level 2

Pearls Building

38 Victoria Parade


PO Box 376


QLD 4875

Ph: (07) 4069 1990

Fax: (07) 4069 1277

AFMA Thursday Island Office

Figure 4: AFMA Thursday Island Office - Photo courtesy of Lauren Posmyk, AFMA.