Part 2 - Summary


Annual performance statement

Certification by the Chief Executive Officer

I, James Findlay, as the accountable authority of AFMA, present the 2015–16 Annual Performance Statement of AFMA, as required under paragraph 39(1)(a) of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013. In my opinion, this annual performance statement is based on properly maintained records, accurately reflects the performance of the entity and complies with subsection 39(2) of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013.


Dr James Findlay GAICD
Chief Executive Officer and Accountable Authority of AFMA

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.

Pursuing the ecological sustainability of Commonwealth fisheries


The objectives and related corporate goals in AFMA's Corporate Plan 2015–18 and the Annual Operational Plan for 2015–16 aim to pursue the ecological sustainability of Commonwealth fisheries and prevent unacceptable impacts of Commonwealth fisheries on marine ecosystems and organisms. This purpose is achieved by meeting AFMA's legislative objectives including its ecological and sustainable objectives.

Performance results

AFMA pursues its economic objective by setting maximum economic yield (or proxy) targets for key commercial stocks as required by the Commonwealth Harvest Strategy Policy and Guidelines 2007. Maximum economic yield is the sustainable catch or level of fishing effort for a fishery that allows net economic returns to be maximised. We aim to ensure healthy fish stock levels by using this maximum economic yield target to guide our management of with Commonwealth fisheries. The stock level which delivers a maximum economic yield level is generally higher (healthier) than that which delivers maximum sustainable yield.

Criteria sources: The performance criteria below are recorded in AFMA's chapter in the Agriculture and Water Resources Portfolio Budget Statements 2015–16 and in AFMA's Corporate Plan for 2015–18.

Performance criteria

2015–16 Target

2015–16 Actual

For economically significant stocks1:


a) Number of key commercial stocks with harvest strategy targets based on maximum economic yield or the best available proxy.2 3



Of the top 31 stocks ranked by gross value of production there are currently 17 stocks managed to have a biomass level that equates to the maximum economic yield target (or proxy). Of the remaining 14 stocks, 10 are not managed to maximum economic yield as they are subject to international management arrangements and 4 stocks are not currently suited to maximum economic yield for biological or other reasons, so are managed using other sustainability measures.

b) Number of stocks in (a) assessed as being on target.3



Stocks that are 'on target' have assessed biomass levels that are within a range around the maximum economic yield target biomass level.

c) For those stocks in (a) that are assessed as not on target, the numbers that are heading towards their target reference point.



Stocks not included above (explained below).



Source of above information: Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences gross value of production data for Commonwealth fisheries 2012–13 to 2014–15, AFMA stock assessments.

Number of fish stocks subject to overfishing.4



Source: Patterson, H, Noriega, R, Georgeson, L, Stobutzki, I & Curtotti, R, 2016, Fishery status reports 2016, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra. CC BY 3.0.

Minimise the number of species assessed as potentially remaining at high risk after mitigation.5



Source: AFMA's Ecological Risk Assessments.

Assessment of performance against the purpose

While there are some targets which have not been met, overall, we continued to maintain the ecological sustainability of Commonwealth fisheries. The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences' assessments confirm a positive trend for fish stocks. We take action to minimise the unacceptable impacts of Commonwealth fisheries on marine ecosystems and organisms.

Under our ecological risk assessment and ecological risk management framework around 3.6 per cent of species remain at high potential risk across all Commonwealth fisheries (refer appendix 6 of this annual report). AFMA conducts ecological risk assessments for fisheries approximately every five years. The number of species at risk has remained relatively stable in recent years despite a number of species 'at high risk' status being removed due to mitigation actions. However, the use of more precautionary reference points has meant that some species previously rated as medium or low risk are now high risk.

Analysis of performance against the purpose

Status of fish stocks

Seventeen key commercial stockers were managed to maximum economic yield targets in 2015–16. Of these 17 stocks, there are five on target and a further five heading towards the target.

For the remaining seven stocks:

  • three stocks are above the target (meaning economic returns from these stocks could be increased).
  • two stocks are between the target and the limit reference point (also indicating that economic returns are likely to be less than maximum economic yield).
  • one stock (school shark) is below the limit reference point and is subject to a recovery program.
  • the remaining stock (banana prawn) pursues maximum economic yield through dynamic fishery economics and a catch rate trigger rather than using the general biomass targets applied to other key Commonwealth stocks. This approach reflects the difficulty in estimating maximum economic yield for such highly variable and short lived species.

The most recent fisheries stock status report issued by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences shows:

  • For the third year there are no fish stocks in fisheries solely managed by AFMA where the mortality level is likely to result in the stock becoming overfished, or prevent the stock from rebuilding from an overfished state (referred to as 'subject to overfishing').
  • There are seven stocks where biomass levels remain low enough to pose an unacceptable risk to the stock (referred to as 'overfished'). Note that the rebuilding of fish stocks is a long term exercise, often taking decades to complete.

Section 3 of this annual report describes the fisheries management arrangements that operated in 2015–16 for each fishery managed solely or jointly by AFMA. It presents information on the status of the fish stocks in each fishery.

Species potentially at high risk after mitigation

We use ecological risk assessments to quantify the level of possible risk each Commonwealth fishery poses to the ecosystem. These risk assessments help us prioritise which ecological impacts in each fishery require management attention first by identifying potential 'high risk' species from approximately twelve hundred species assessed. The results of recent assessments is shown in graph 1: Species potentially at high risk (after mitigation).

Graph 1: Species potentially at high risk (after mitigation)

Graph 1: Species potentially at high risk

The majority of species that potentially remain at high risk after mitigation are species protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. In most cases these species are impacted by a range of factors, of which commercial fishing in Commonwealth waters is just one, so the species are likely to remain at high risk even when the number of mortalities in Commonwealth fisheries is very low.

While all reasonable steps are taken to reduce the number of species at high risk, the number will vary from year to year due to additional information becoming available often through new technologies employed to monitor fisheries becoming more accurate. We also take a precautionary approach by retaining species on the 'high risk' list when evidence is absent as to whether the species may be high risk or not.

Recent ecological risk assessment

In 2012, we commenced an ecological risk re-assessment in the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery. Due to changes in biological reference points for sharks and rays and teleosts (bony fish) used in the assessment, some species received different risk scores to the earlier (2007) assessment. The results of this assessment were finalised in 2015–16 after consultation with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the relevant management advisory committee and resource assessment group. Some species were removed from and others added to the previous list of high risk species with the outcome being a rise in the number of high risk species from 69 to 72.

Figure 6: A fur seal from the Southern Ocean resting

Figure 6: A fur seal from the Southern Ocean resting – Photo courtesy of David Roberts, AFMA.

Ecological risk assessment and risk management review

For species with which Commonwealth fisheries interact, the primary ecological sustainability objectives that AFMA pursues through its Ecological Risk Management Framework are:

  • to ensure that fishing by Commonwealth commercial fisheries does not reduce any species populations to/below a level at which the probability of recruitment failure is unacceptably high
  • where such impacts have occurred, to recover populations to above that level.

These objectives are consistent with the objectives in existing fisheries and environmental legislation, policies, guidelines and international agreements. A similar intent is maintained with respect to ensuring the sustainability of habitats and communities.

We have developed ecological risk management reports for fisheries that have been assessed using the ecological risk management framework. These reports detail strategies to address species identified as being at high risk. The success of strategies to address these risks will be evaluated at the next reassessment. We are currently reviewing our ecological risk management system and intend to conduct a full reassessment of each fishery over the next five years (that is 2016–17 to 2020–21). The following table shows the categories of species assessed as 'high risk'.

Species at high risk in 2015–16

Species at high risk in 2015–16





Marine reptiles


Bony fish


Marine birds


Marine mammals *




* 29 whales/dolphins, 5 seals/sea lions

Improving net economic returns from Commonwealth fisheries


Objectives and related corporate goals in AFMA's Corporate Plan 2015–18 and the Annual Operational Plan for 2015–16 focus on improving the net economic returns to the Australian community from fisheries. This includes effectively deterring illegal fishing in Commonwealth fisheries, the Australian Fishing Zone and adjacent regions and ensuring domestic fishing arrangements meet international obligations.

Figure 7: AFMA domestic compliance officer

Figure 7: AFMA domestic compliance officer conducting surveillance activity, Ulladulla NSW.

Performance results

Criterion source: The performance indicators below are recorded in AFMA's chapter in the Agriculture and Water Resources Portfolio Budget Statements 2015–16 and in AFMA's Corporate Plan for 2015–18.

Performance criteria

2015–16 Target

2015–16 Actual

Percentage of treatment targets met for all priority domestic compliance risks.



Percentage disposal rate of apprehended foreign illegal

unregulated and unreported vessels and suspected illegal entry vessels.



Assessment of performance against the purpose

Limiting the illegal exploitation of fishery resources supports the net economic returns from Commonwealth fisheries and protect the marine environment. In 2015–16 our compliance and enforcement operations delivered a high rate of compliance by domestic operators (93 per cent of inspections required no further action). A larger number of foreign fishers were caught in Australian waters (in 2015–16, twenty up from six in 2014–15) but numbers remain well down on the hundreds of vessels detained each year a decade ago. The prosecution of crew members and the loss of their vessels deter other illegal foreign operators from attempting to fish illegally in Australian waters. Monitoring, control and surveillance capability building in neighbouring countries reinforces AFMA's effectiveness in safeguarding regional fish stocks for the benefit of the fishing industry and the Australian community.

Analysis of performance against the purpose

Net economic returns from Commonwealth fisheries are improved if AFMA:

  • minimises unnecessary regulatory impediments to fishing operations.
  • safeguards fishing stocks by ensuring compliance with necessary fishing rules. Reductions in fish stocks due to illegal fishing will increase the levels of effort and costs operators use to catch target species.
  • deters illegal fishing to protect the value of assets.

These aims drive our domestic and foreign compliance activities.

National (domestic) compliance

The aim of AFMA's National Compliance and Enforcement Program is to effectively deter illegal fishing in the Australian Fishing Zone. The rules and regulations of Commonwealth fisheries are designed to protect our fish for the future, the property rights of our fishers and the broader marine environment.

Each year we develop and implement a risk based compliance program to protect our fisheries. The 2015–16 program consisted of four key components: communication and education, general deterrence, targeted risk and maintenance.

Communication and education

During 2015–16 we produced monthly, compliance focused, news items aimed at addressing both identified issues and any new emerging risks (see table Summary of compliance news items). Each news item was accompanied by SMS messaging to all fishing concession holders and industry bodies. A number of these items were picked up by media organisations and key industry associations. In addition to news items, fisheries officers undertook face to face education during every inspection as well as attending six pre-fishing-season briefings with fishers.

Summary of compliance news items



Aim of Item


'Fisherman Jack'.

Highlighted the release of the 'Fisherman Jack' video which was developed to raise awareness of the consequences of illegal fishing and quota evasion.


'AFMA targets logbook accuracy this August'

Highlighted the issue of some fishermen not completing logbooks, the impacts that has and the possible offences.

September 2015

'Reminder to operators – reconcile quota within 28 days'

Highlighted the rules and requirements of the 28 day quota reconciliation rules.


'AFMA compliance officers target the Northern Prawn Fishery during October'

Highlighted the rules and requirements relating to Turtle Excluder Devices in the Northern Prawn Fishery.


'Fisheries officers are not just Cops on the Beat'

Highlighted the educational and advisory roles of Fisheries Officers.

2015 and January 2016

'Mind your Bycatch'

Highlighted fishers' obligations when handling bycatch.


'Handle with Care'

Highlighted fishers' obligations when handling bycatch.


'Stay in view this March'

Highlighted the rules and requirements relating to e-monitoring.


'What do bananas and Turtle Excluder Devices have in common'

Highlighted the rules and requirements relating to Turtle Excluder Devices in the Northern Prawn Fishery.


'Don't get caught in the rough'

Highlighted the rules and requirements relating to the Orange Roughy Management Areas


'Changes to Southern Bluefin Tuna zone arrangements for the 2016 season'

Highlighted the rules and requirements relating to Southern Bluefin Tuna Fishery

Through such effective engagement with stakeholders and the reinforcement with the industry of the risks being targeted in 2015–16, we have met the aims of the education and communication component of the National Compliance and Enforcement Program 2015–16.

General deterrence program

In seeking to encourage compliance and deter non-compliance under the general domestic deterrence program, AFMA fisheries officers undertook 55 port visits and conducted 199 vessel inspections and 76 fish receiver inspections. In addition our fisheries officers undertook, or assisted in, five at-sea and 29 aerial patrols. The program saw a high level of compliance, with no breaches detected or no further action required in 93 per cent of the inspections.

AFMA fisheries officer conducting an inspection

Figure 8: AFMA fisheries officer conducting an inspection.

Targeted risk programs

Compliance with AFMA's Vessel Monitoring Systems, e-monitoring, and quota evasion were the identified prioritised risks in the 2015–16 program.

The Vessel Monitoring System compliance program saw compliance rates remain relatively steady at an average of 96.9 per cent over the year. All Commonwealth fishing vessels are required to have the Vessel Monitoring System fitted and operating at all times. Examples of non-compliant activity included the switching off of units without prior approval from AFMA and units not reporting at the required intervals. Only two vessels were required to be ordered to port for Vessel Monitoring System related issues during 2016.

There was also a high level of compliance in relation to the fitting and operating of e-monitoring systems, with only a relatively low number of issues detected. Currently 25 per cent of all Commonwealth fishing vessels (a total fleet of 304 fishing vessels in 2015–16) are now fitted with e-monitoring.

As a result of e-monitoring a new issue in relation to the inappropriate handling of bycatch has been identified, resulting in the establishment of a dedicated risk team to address the issue. This team has formed a targeted program which will be implemented in 2016–17.

Quota evasion can significantly impact the sustainability of fish stocks. We continue to target quota evasion through the further development and use of data analysis tools. In addition a dedicated taskforce continued to work with a range of Commonwealth and State agencies to investigate serious quota evasion.

Maintenance programs

We also maintain a number of maintenance programs to control and monitor risks which require ongoing treatment despite action in previous years. These risks are failing to reconcile/balance quota (against operator's own catch entitlements), fishing in closed areas and failing to fit and use bycatch reduction devices to prevent or reduce interactions with threatened, endangered and protected species.

The rate of quota reconciliation non-compliance increased during 2015–16 with the average rising from 1.5 incidents per month involving an average volume of catch not reconciled of 3 900kg in 2014–15 to 2.5 incidents per month involving an average of 8 000kg. However, it is clear the introduction of the 28 day quota reconciliation program has significantly reduced the seriousness of these matters with virtually all operators immediately reconciling once notified by fisheries officers. This removed the need for further enforcement action, such as the suspension of fishing concessions or ordering vessels to remain in port, as had been the case in previous years.

The 'Show Cause' process (which requires operators identified through AFMA's Vessel Monitoring System as having potentially fished or navigated inside closed fishing areas to provide a satisfactory explanation) continues to be very effective. The level of non-compliance remains at all-time lows with an average rate of less than one per month during 2015–16.

In domestic compliance operations AFMA worked with Parks Australia (23 flights) and Maritime Border Command (five flights) who conducted flights over their areas of interest and provided advice to AFMA on any suspected breaches of fisheries legislation they observed and, in particular, compliance with the requirement to fit bycatch reduction devices to prevent bird interactions. AFMA also conducted its own flight in June 2016. Only one incident was detected as a result of these flights with investigations ongoing. The e-monitoring program has also detected only three incidents of suspected non-compliance with those investigations still continuing.

You will get caught

In 2015–16 we finalised four prosecution matters resulting in a total of $26 100 in fines being handed down. Offences included end of season over quota, logbook offences, contravening authorisations and fishing within the Dolphin Observation Zone without an AFMA observer or e-monitoring system on board. We issued media releases to broadcast these successful prosecutions to further improve the deterrence value of the sanctions imposed.

Foreign Compliance

AFMA's foreign compliance activities ensure that Australia's fish stocks and the marine environment are not adversely affected by illegal foreign fishing. AFMA works closely with other Australian Government agencies in detecting and responding to incidents of illegal foreign fishing.

We also engage in international fora to ensure that Australia's fisheries management is consistent with actions taken regionally and internationally, particularly in relation to straddling or migratory stocks and in areas of water adjacent to the Australian Fishing Zone. Commonwealth fisheries whose species are also subject to measures adopted by a regional fisheries body include the Heard Island and McDonald Islands Fishery, Macquarie Island Toothfish Fishery, the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery, the Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery and the Southern Bluefin Tuna Fishery. Our participation in the work of these regional fishing bodies includes providing annual reports on the implementation of regional measures, sharing information on fisheries management approaches, developing proposals and taking action to deter illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and chairing working groups.

Northern Waters

AFMA supports the Maritime Border Command through the provision of specialist fisheries officers on board Australian Border Force and Royal Australian Navy patrol boats. AFMA's patrol efforts focused on high risk areas for incursions by illegal fishers and deterred fishers operating in close proximity to the Australian Fishing Zone from conducting illegal fishing operations.

During 2015–16, twenty illegal foreign fishing vessels were apprehended in the Australian Fishing Zone and the Torres Strait. Seven vessels were from Papua New Guinea, seven were from Indonesia and six were from Vietnam. Following investigation and prosecution by AFMA the penalties against convicted fishermen ranged from the release on good behaviour bonds through to fines totalling $10 000 for an individual and suspended jail sentences of up to seven months. The maximum aggregate fine handed down for multiple crew from an individual boat was $16 200. All boats were forfeited.

Of the twenty boats apprehended, one sank at sea and the remaining nineteen were delivered to our facilities. Twelve of the nineteen (63 per cent) were destroyed and the remaining seven (37 per cent) are currently being disposed of by sale by tender.

While the twenty foreign fishing vessels apprehended in 2015–16 is an increase over the six apprehended in
2014–15, apprehensions are well down on the record 367 apprehensions a decade ago. This long term decrease in incursions reflects the direct deterrence provided by prosecution of offenders and confiscation of their boats, 'in country' education and outreach programs led by AFMA and cooperative activities carried out with our international counterparts.


Figure 9: The destruction of a Vietnamese fishing vessel – Photo courtesy of Mick Munn, AFMA.

Illegal foreign fishing vessels apprehended in the Coral Sea

During the year 20 illegal foreign fishing boats were apprehended. Although this number represents an increase over the six boats apprehended in 2014–15 the level of apprehensions is well down on the hundreds experienced in the mid-2000s. We continue to work with other government agencies to deliver the fisheries component of Australia's civil maritime surveillance program.

On 2 June 2016, two Vietnamese foreign fishing vessels were apprehended in waters off north Queensland for illegally fishing in Australian waters. Maritime Border Command within the Australian Border Force apprehended the vessels in the Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve in cooperation with AFMA and Parks Australia. The vessels were first spotted by an Australian Border Force surveillance aircraft in the vicinity of Lihou Reef more than 600 kilometres to the northeast of Cairns, Queensland.

HMAS Wollongong with the Australian Defence Force, Australian Border Force and an AFMA officer embarked, responded and boarded the vessels. Officers found diving gear and approximately six tonnes of bêche-de-mer (sea cucumber) on board. The 30 crew members and the two vessels were escorted to Cairns where the vessels were destroyed. All 30 crew were transferred to Darwin where AFMA carried out further investigations. The fishermen subsequently pleaded guilty to charges under Australia's fisheries and environmental laws and received suspended jail sentences ranging from two months for the crew members to five and seven months each for the masters.

These apprehensions are a good example of Australian Government agencies working together to combat illegal fishing from foreign boats in our waters.

More information on how Australia is working to combat illegal fishing can be found at

Capacity building

Our regional cooperation and capacity building initiatives are directed towards assisting our neighbours strengthen their fisheries compliance frameworks. We assisted Samoa, the Cook Islands and Tuvalu to develop procedures to support cooperative surveillance and enforcement activities under the Niue Treaty Subsidiary Agreement.

We also completed a three year fisheries management and compliance program with Kiribati. AFMA Officers trained over 100 Kiribati Officers in fisheries management and compliance which strengthened Kiribati's capacity to sustainably manage their fish stocks and take enforcement action against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Our officers also assisted Kiribati fisheries officials to investigate a foreign fishing vessel in Kiribati waters which resulted in a $165 000 settlement being paid by the offender.

In October 2015, we delivered training to 16 Pacific Islands Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Officers as part of the Forum Fisheries Agency Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Officer Foundation Course in Honiara, Solomon Islands. This course has better equipped officers to conduct enforcement operations in their respective islands.

Multilateral patrols/operations

During 2015–16, we participated in seven operations, comprising six multilateral operations and one US Coastguard patrol, to detect and deter illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in the Pacific. Over 240 international vessels were boarded and inspected with several boats found to be in breach of licence conditions and international obligations. Two unlicensed Vietnamese fishing vessels were also apprehended for suspected illegal activities in the Palauan Exclusive Economic Zone.

Southern Ocean

Australia's toothfish fisheries (Heard Island and McDonald Islands and Macquarie Island Toothfish fisheries) are some of our most valuable fisheries. During 2015–16 we continued action against a remaining fleet of five boats (down from forty some years ago), listed by the Commission for Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources as undermining international conservation efforts. These boats had historically continued to operate periodically in the Southern Ocean targeting toothfish. Throughout the year we worked closely with other Australian Government agencies, including the Maritime Border Command to obtain surveillance information on the operations of these vessels. Sharing of this information with our international counterparts enables action to be taken when they enter foreign ports to unload catch or access facilities.

As a result of this coordinated action, of the five active Southern Ocean illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing vessels:

  • two remain detained in Cabo Verde off the west coast of Central Africa
  • one has been detained in the port of Dakar in Senegal after absconding from authorities in Thailand in September 2015
  • one was apprehended by Indonesian authorities and subsequently destroyed at sea in March 2016
  • one remains at large but is not believed to be fishing.

We continue to collaborate with Spanish authorities and the International Criminal Police Organisation (INTERPOL) on investigations into the Southern Ocean illegal, unreported and unregulated vessels and their beneficial owners.

Dylan Prendergast (Austral Fisheries) helps Janet Norenbergs (AFMA)

Figure 10: Dylan Prendergast (Austral Fisheries) helps Janet Norenbergs (AFMA) to measure a turtle exclusion device.

FV Viking Destroyed by Indonesian officials in March 2016

Figure 11: FV Viking – Destroyed by Indonesian officials in March 2016.

Regional Cooperation – key to success

AFMA works closely with Australia's neighbours as part of a multinational plan that encourages collaboration to detect and deter regional illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. In 2015–16, action taken by southeast Asian countries against vessels on the Non-Contracting Party Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Vessel list of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources has effectively closed southeast Asian ports to these rogue vessels.

The Regional Plan of Action to Promote Responsible Fishing Practices including Combating illegal, unreported and unregulated Fishing (RPOA-IUU) is a joint initiative of Australia and Indonesia and was endorsed by 11 Ministers in May 2007. The 11 countries (Australia, Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor-Leste and Vietnam) meet annually to discuss regional approaches to deterring illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and to report on their domestic fisheries management.

In April 2015, we provided information on the illegal, unreported and unregulated vessel, FV Perlon, to RPOA-IUU countries, following the boarding of the vessel by Australian authorities in the Indian Ocean. The vessel was then detained by Malaysia, and the master and crew convicted in August 2015. The catch was auctioned with the proceeds forfeited to the Malaysian Government. The FV Perlon had a long history of fishing for Patagonian toothfish in Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources waters, operating under a number of different names and different flags, and in total disregard of the internationally agreed rules aimed at ensuring the sustainability of the fish stocks.

In September 2015, AFMA provided information on the illegal, unreported and unregulated vessel, FV Viking, with RPOA-IUU countries, following the boarding and inspection near Christmas Island by Maritime Border Command. AFMA requested port States to take action against the vessel in accordance with commitments made by these countries. In February 2016, AFMA wrote again to the RPOA-IUU countries, following receipt of information from Singapore and Indonesia. This led to Indonesia detaining and destroying the vessel in March 2016 after it had entered Indonesian waters.

These actions have made a significant contribution to eliminating illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in the Southern Ocean.

Delivering effective, cost efficient and transparent management and regulatory arrangements


Objectives and related corporate goals presented in AFMA's Corporate Plan 2015–18 and the Annual Operational Plan for 2015–16 are directed at delivering efficient and cost effective Commonwealth fisheries management and being accountable to the fishing industry and to the Australian community for the management of fisheries resources.


Criteria sources: The performance measures described below are taken from commitments made to the Minister or other stakeholders in support of the above objectives.

Performance criteria

2015–16 Target

2015–16 Actual

Red tape reduction initiatives completed



Cost recovery commitment upheld


Client Service Charter obligations met



Assessment of performance against the purpose

We delivered efficient and cost effective management and regulatory arrangements by introducing innovations, amending inefficient practices and ensuring operational costs were constrained. The red tape reduction initiatives completed in 2015–16 made it easier for fishery operators to meet our regulatory requirements. We continued to source advice from stakeholders to improve our operations and the regulatory arrangements applying to fisheries. Increases in the amount we cost recover from industry continued to remain below increases in the cumulative Consumer Price Index.

Analysis of performance against the purpose

Red tape reduction initiatives

We realise that it is not just the cost of AFMA's research and management levies that may create a burden to industry. The costs involved in complying with regulation also influence the ability of industry to invest in new technology and science that may improve productivity. AFMA is committed to minimising both the amount and complexity of regulation through our red tape reduction agenda while maintaining effective fisheries management.

During 2015–16 our red tape reduction efforts focused on simplifying licensing arrangements, reviewing closure directions and simplifying management advisory committee and resource assessment group arrangements.


AFMA implemented several changes to the licensing regime, reducing its complexity and making it easier and more efficient for fishers to use by:

  • adding new functionality to AFMA's online licensing portal, GoFish, allowing fishers to apply for new permits online and removing the need to submit paper applications
  • simplifying undercatch, the process where fishers can use some of their uncaught catch quota in the following season, making it easier for fishers to get their allocation
  • removing, following the move to digital platforms for fishers and fisheries compliance officers, the requirement to carry copies of fishing concessions on board the boat
  • assuming responsibility for licensing services for the Torres Strait Fisheries early in 2015–16. This harmonises licensing arrangements between the Torres Strait and Commonwealth fisheries leading to administrative efficiencies and reduced costs for both sectors.

Management advisory committee and resource assessment group processes

Management advisory committees and resource assessment groups are a key source of independent advice on fisheries matters. AFMA provides secretariat support to these bodies. In 2015–16 we standardised the structure of committee minutes and developed an online collaboration area for committee members to conduct business more efficiently. This is being rolled out in 2016–17.

We also combined two resource assessment groups forming a joint resource assessment group for the south east fisheries, removing duplication and providing for more efficient and effective consideration of fisheries issues.

Fisheries closures

In 2015–16 we reviewed several closures in the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery to ensure they continued to meet their objectives. Several closures of fishing areas were removed or rezoned, removing overlap and duplication. These revisions provided more opportunity for fishing operators to generate economic returns.

Electronic monitoring (e-monitoring)

We implemented e-monitoring in three fisheries: the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery, the Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery and the Gillnet Hook and Trap sector of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery. E-monitoring is a data collection system consisting of on-board cameras and sensors that record fishing activity and report back to AFMA, providing an independently verified record of fishing activity. It provides a cost-effective alternative to placing observers on board commercial fishing vessels as well as an efficient and effective compliance management tool.

The use of e-monitoring supports the red tape reduction program by providing the flexibility for us to regulate the outcome being sought rather than a specific method on how it must be achieved. This allows individual fishers to implement practices that suit their business rather than having to comply with a one size fits all approach by the regulator.

Details of AFMA's red tape reduction program, including the status of our initiatives, can be found on AFMA's website

Figure 12: Electronic monitoring equipment

Figure 12: Electronic monitoring equipment.

Legislative review of penalty provisions

The existing offence and penalty regime has been the subject of both internal and external reviews as part of the Review of Commonwealth Fisheries: Legislation, Policy and Management. These reviews recommended the development of a wider range of enforcement tools and the strengthening of existing powers. AFMA and the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources have adopted a phased approach to amending the legislation to take into account the recommendations.

Phase one has involved AFMA working with the Office of Parliamentary Counsel to prepare amendments to regulations which will increase penalty units for offences to a level that is consistent with other Commonwealth Departments and agencies and will provide a more effective deterrent to individuals seeking to illegally exploit our fisheries resources. Public consultation is yet to take place on these regulations.

Phase two includes amending the Fisheries Management Act 1991, subject to consultation with the Office of Parliamentary Counsel and public consultation to:

  • modernise the penalty provisions in the Fisheries Management Act 1991 by adopting the Regulatory Powers (Standard Powers) Act 2014 and thus introducing civil penalties, enforceable undertakings and injunctions in addition to current criminal penalty provisions
  • amend the Fisheries Management Act 1991 to strengthen AFMA's foreign compliance capability to permit the taking of enforcement action to prevent illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing by stateless vessels.

Cost recovery

AFMA is transitioning to the Australian Government's revised cost recovery approach with its requirements for a Cost Recovery Implementation Statement. As the new cost recovery arrangements have not yet been agreed by the government, we will continue to apply the 2010 Cost Recovery Impact Statement for the 2016–17 budget year.

In 2010 we 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, AFMA has out-performed the cumulative Consumer Price Index by more than $27.8 million (as at 2015–16).

Graph 2: AFMA actual levies compared with CPI adjusted levies


Stakeholder engagement

We engage with a wide variety of stakeholders before making decisions on the management of Commonwealth fisheries, including scientists, commercial fishers and fishing associations, researchers, environment and conservation organisations, recreational fishers and Indigenous fishers.

We do this through a variety of channels, including:

  • management advisory committees
  • resource assessment groups
  • port visits and public meetings
  • our online systems such as 'GoFish' and the Vessel Monitoring System
  • SMS messaging
  • our website (including news stories)
  • media releases
  • direct mail across all major Commonwealth fisheries.

These mechanisms provide an important avenue for us to have open dialogue with those with an interest in the management of Commonwealth fisheries.

Management advisory committees and resource assessment groups are a major source of advice to us, reflecting the experience and expertise of the range of stakeholders with an interest in the fishery or fisheries. As such they play a vital role in helping AFMA fulfil its legislative functions and effectively pursue its objectives.

Each management advisory committee has an independent chair, an AFMA member and a maximum of seven other members. Generally, membership is drawn from industry, management, research, conservation and recreational fishing but it can include broader community members who have relevant skills and expertise including traditional fishers, where appropriate. Appendix 3 explains the activities of the management advisory committees in 2015–16.

Stakeholders are consulted on issues that affect industry in a significant way. Policies on which we sought consultation in 2015–16 included:

  • the amendment to the transfer and lease forms to record quota and gear statutory fishing rights
  • quota overcatch and undercatch arrangements
  • review of quota arrangements in overlapping fisheries
  • publishing Commonwealth fishing data on the internet.

We provide a range of materials on AFMA's website about the approach we take to manage and regulate Commonwealth fisheries. These include, for example, our operating policies, our approach to monitoring compliance with fishery rules, performance measures (such as the status of fish stocks) and the status of our red tape reduction program.

Our internal auditors completed an audit of AFMA's stakeholder engagement in November 2015. The report recommended that we should develop our social media capacity and use this as a tool for communicating with stakeholders. It also recommended that staff receive training on the stakeholder and communications engagement strategy to achieve a consistent approach across the organisation. In response management has:

  • recruited a new Senior Communications Officer
  • developed a draft communications strategy including the use of social media
  • identified the approach to raise awareness of staff once the new strategy is endorsed by the Commission.

Client service charter

Our Client Service Charter establishes standards for our interactions with those we regulate and to whom we provide services. It applies to all of AFMA's fisheries administration and corporate services functions, including our licensing function. Our service charter is available on our website.

We use our licensing system to record the timeliness of responses for licensing transactions. During 2015–16 greater than 95 per cent of licensing transactions submitted by concession holders and responses to correspondence were dealt with in accordance with our Client Service Charter.

During 2015–16 we received one written complaint that was responded to in writing in line with the requirements of the Client Service Charter.

Mahi Mahi (dolphin fish)

Figure 13: Mahi Mahi (dolphin fish) – Photo courtesy of Matthew Daniels, AFMA.

1 These are the top 31 stocks by gross value of production. Please note that not all Commonwealth fish stocks can be managed by maximum economic yield, for example, those managed under international regional bodies.

2 Where higher and lower value species are caught together, different targets for the lower value species may maximise net economic returns overall.

3 Assessment methodologies are regularly reviewed so future projections may vary.

4 In solely AFMA managed fisheries, not including jointly and internationally managed fisheries.

5 Ecological risk assessments for Commonwealth managed fisheries and sub-fisheries have been completed covering almost 1,200 species including protected species which may remain at high risk from factors other than fishing. Species considered to be potentially at high risk are the subject of mitigation measures and further assessment. This may mean that projections of numbers of high risk species may vary from year to year.