Part 1 Snapshot

Part 1 Snapshot

Chairman’s and Chief Executive Officer’s review

In 2016–17 the Gross Value of Production for Commonwealth fisheries was some $385 million which included approximately $20 million from Torres Strait fisheries. The Australian Fisheries Management Authority’s (AFMA) overall performance underlines the importance of 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 effectively pursued the sustainability of Australia’s marine environment for the benefit of present and future generations of Australians.

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

Ecological sustainability

The most recent Fisheries Status Reports (released by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences on 29 September 2017) found that, for the fourth consecutive year, no stocks managed solely by the Commonwealth (AFMA) were subject to overfishing (a stock that is experiencing too much fishing and the removal rate from the stock is unsustainable). This is a significant achievement and has been reflected in independent recognition of Australian fisheries management as some of the most effective in the world.1 However, seven stocks with shared management remain listed as overfished (a fish stock below the biomass limit reference point) due to historic over harvesting, and AFMA will continue to play its part to pursue management actions to rebuild these stocks. More detail is provided in the individual fishery reports in Part 3 of this report.

This year AFMA reviewed its ecological risk management methodology and drafted an Ecological Risk Management Guide. In April 2017 the Commission approved the methodology and Guide. The identification and treatment of ecological risks are fundamental to protecting the ecological sustainability of Commonwealth fisheries. Ecological risk assessments measure the impacts of fishery practices, identify areas of high risk and provide evidence for the determination of arrangements employed by AFMA to regulate fisheries. The Guide provides fishery operators with an understanding of methods used to manage the impact of fishing on the marine environment. A greater understanding allows operators harvesting marine fishery resources in Commonwealth fisheries to behave in a manner that is consistent with the mitigation of risks as identified and assessed by AFMA.

A Commonwealth Fisheries Marine Mammal Working Group was also established to assist in the development of cross fishery management strategies to mitigate impacts on marine mammals. The group progressed the expansion of the Gillnet Hook and Trap dolphin strategy across the whole fishery and considered what preliminary work may need to be done to develop a Protected Species Strategy for seals.

AFMA continued to work closely with industry and scientists in pursuit of reducing impacts of fisheries on the marine environment. During 2016–17 the Northern Prawn Fishery completed scientific trials with the industry-developed Kon’s Covered Fisheye which can reduce fish bycatch by more than one third, a remarkable accomplishment. The Kon’s Covered Fisheye was approved for use within the Northern Prawn Fishery in April 2017 and is likely to be implemented in the broader Northern Prawn Fishery fleet during 2017–18.

A significant amount of work was undertaken to install bafflers and sprayers on vessels in the South East Trawl and Great Australian Bight Trawl fisheries resulting in a 90 per cent reduction in seabird strikes. This is an outstanding result for the fishery and reflected positive cooperation between industry and AFMA.

Efficient fisheries management and compliance

AFMA continued to explore opportunities to streamline fisheries assessment processes under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, working with the Department of Environment and Energy. While there remains significant opportunity for further progress in this area, ten year approvals for the Macquarie Island Toothfish Fishery, the Heard Island and McDonald Islands Fishery, the Bass Strait Central Zone Scallop Fishery, the Southern Squid Jig Fishery and the Eastern and Western Skipjack Fisheries were granted in October 2016.

In implementing the National Compliance and Enforcement Program 2016–17, AFMA conducted 55 port visits with 233 boat and 95 fish receiver inspections. The program saw a high level of compliance, with no breaches or further action needed in 89 per cent of the inspections. AFMA also undertook routine daily assessments and real time Vessel Monitoring System and e-monitoring analysis of the Commonwealth fleet. The Vessel Monitoring System compliance rates remained high with an average of 97.1 per cent of all units being operational at any time. There was no requirement to order any boats to remain in port for Vessel Monitoring System related issues. Out of the 75 vessels fitted with e-monitoring equipment AFMA only needed to investigate three matters concerning non-compliance.

During the reporting period AFMA developed and published an updated Bycatch Handling and Treatment Guide 2016–17 to further assist fishers to meet their obligations when dealing with bycatch. Since the implementation of the concession conditions in October 2016 there has been a 38 per cent drop in the average number of bycatch mishandling reports observed through e-monitoring analysis and reported to the National Intelligence Unit.

Illegal fishing by foreign vessels continues to be a challenge in Australia’s north with 15 foreign fishing vessels apprehended between 1 July 2016 and 30 June 2017. This is a decrease over the 20 apprehended for the same period last year and apprehensions are well down on the record 367 apprehensions in one year a decade ago. This continued low level of incursions can be attributed to the direct deterrence provided as a result of AFMA’s prosecution of offenders and confiscation of their boats, in-country education and outreach programs, and regional cooperation and capacity building initiatives. AFMA, with its partner government agencies, ensures surveillance continues in high threat areas, including the Coral Sea off far north Queensland where eight Vietnamese beche de mer vessels have been apprehended since 1 July 2016.

AFMA continues to assess implementation options for catch traceability through regional organisations such as the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency, parties to the Nauru Agreement and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. In addition, AFMA works to support Pacific Island countries’ fisheries enforcement with the development and delivery of training modules on monitoring, control and surveillance methods.

Effective, cost efficient and transparent management and regulator arrangements

The services that AFMA provides from the levies it collects enable the fisheries to meet the requirements of relevant Commonwealth legislation and policies. With about 39 per cent of AFMA’s annual budget cost-recovered from industry, we understand 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 corrected for Consumer Price Index increases. Since making this undertaking in 2010, AFMA has out-performed the cumulative Consumer Price Index by some $31.9 million (as at 2016–17) and will aim to continue to meet this commitment while ensuring legislative objectives are pursued.

In March 2017, the Fisheries Management Amendment (Compliance and Enforcement) Regulations 2017 came into force. This resulted in increased penalty units associated with Commonwealth Infringement Notices and broadened the scope of offences under the Fisheries Management Act 1991 to which Commonwealth Infringement Notices can apply. The increase in penalty units will directly impact those responsible for committing offences and should result in an increase in compliant behaviours.

To reduce regulatory burden and increase management efficiencies, AFMA continues to pursue red tape reductions to ensure the best possible value for money, although this may not necessarily always reduce every operator’s costs. More than 50 initiatives to cut red tape for Commonwealth fishers have now been, or are being, implemented. Of particular note are key changes to some Offshore Constitutional Settlement arrangements and joint authority arrangements that are currently being progressed. These will streamline management by, for example, simplifying jurisdictional arrangements between the Commonwealth and NSW for trawl fishing south of Sydney.

AFMA has also worked closely with industry to introduce fully electronic licensing and quota trading services with a greater proportion of industry using them; and promote increased use by fishers of electronic log books in place of paper logs. Such initiatives reduce cost recovered amounts from industry and support operator profitability.


During March 2017 a Stakeholder Perceptions Survey was undertaken to measure current perceptions of AFMA’s performance as part of our ongoing commitment to service improvement. Overall satisfaction was moderate, with half of respondents either satisfied or very satisfied, and one quarter being either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied. A particular area of strength was the positive perception of AFMA staff as friendly, knowledgeable and responsive. There was room for improvement in the consistency of information provided and expanded communications on reasons behind management decisions.

AFMA will be seeking to expand engagement with stakeholders, particularly individual operators as well as industry associations. To this end e-messaging and more effective port visits are being considered.

Special Thanks

AFMA would like to thank the Hon Norman Moore AM, for his substantial contributions as AFMA Commission Chair during his three year term to 30 June 2017. Mr Moore’s leadership, insight and advice have been of great benefit to AFMA and his fellow Commissioners.

We would also like to welcome our new Commission Chairman, Ms Helen Kroger who commenced on 1 July 2017.


AFMA’s Corporate Plan 2017–20 was approved by the Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources in May 2017. Over the next four years AFMA will implement fisheries management in pursuit of sustainable and profitable fisheries, simplify regulations to reduce operational and cost burdens for industry, manage ecological and compliance risks, deter illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and improve engagement with stakeholders in the responsible management of fisheries. Further information is available from our website

During 2016–17 we commenced development of an AFMA specific policy to ensure that fisheries research and scientific information used in our management decision making processes are of a high quality. The policy will provide guidance on what constitutes high quality and reliable scientific information, and best practice. The policy will also align closely to, and reference the key principles and guidelines in, the Guidelines for Quality Assurance of Australian Fisheries Research and Science Information.2 The draft policy is expected to be considered by the Commission later in 2017 for implementation in 2018.

AFMA will be developing and implementing a new ICT Strategy (over three years) that focuses on the collection, maintenance and management of fisheries related data. This will support sound fisheries management and may reduce service costs for industry in the longer term.

AFMA will also be continuing to pursue a more consistent system for all fishing fleets and boats managed by AFMA. Improved consistency is intended to increase the capacity to respond to changing circumstances (from markets, technology and the environment), maintain sustainable fishing, increase economic returns and enable more effective harvesting of Commonwealth fisheries resources. Extensive consultation with the fishing industry and other stakeholders will be undertaken prior to implementing any significant changes.

At the same time, government policies and legislation for AFMA will be changing.

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, with the assistance of AFMA and the Department of the Environment and Energy, has developed a draft Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy Policy and Fisheries Bycatch Policy. The public consultation period has closed and responses are being considered.

Legislative amendments are also expected to be considered by Parliament later in the year. These aim to amend the Fisheries Management Act 1991 and the Fisheries Administration Act 1991 to:

  • strengthen the engagement of recreational and indigenous fishers in the management of Commonwealth commercial fisheries
  • provide an additional objective that AFMA must have regard to ie. that the interests of commercial, recreational and indigenous fishers are taken into account in the context of managing Commonwealth commercial fisheries
  • provide for an expanded expertise base for the AFMA Commission regarding recreational and indigenous fisheries.

Successfully adjusting to these developments will ensure AFMA continues to provide world class fisheries management and governance.

Fisheries officer surveillance at Lakes Entrance

Fisheries officer surveillance at Lakes Entrance. Photo courtesy: Dylan Maskey, AFMA

Our Agency


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

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

The AFMA 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 AFMA’s Minister was the Hon Barnaby Joyce MP, the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources. Senator the Hon Anne Ruston was the Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources with responsibility for fisheries.

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 regulating catches of target species and ensuring a profitable and competitive fishing industry while keeping the impacts of commercial fishing on Australia’s marine ecosystems within sustainable and acceptable risk levels.

Our fisheries management practices aim to maintain the ecological sustainability 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 governments.

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

AFMA as a regulator 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 fisheries resources with the aim of maximising net economic returns to the Australian community. In doing so AFMA is accountable to the community and the fishing industry.

Australia’s Commonwealth commercial fisheries are managed in accordance with the government’s 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. During 2016–17 about 39 per cent of total revenue was from cost-recovered activities.


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

AFMA also provides 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. The status of these fisheries and AFMA’s activities in managing them are reported separately through the Protected Zone Joint Authority annual report and relevant Joint Authority reports between the States/Northern Territory and the Commonwealth.

Our Values

We 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. The Client Service Charter is available at

Organisational structure

AFMA organisationalstructure as at 30 June2017

Our organisational structure as at 30 June 2017 is presented below.

Where AFMA operates

AFMA has offices at three locations: Canberra, Darwin and Thursday Island. Details of our 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

Ph: (07) 4069 1990
Fax: (07) 4069 1277

In addition AFMA has an officer undertaking industry liaison located in Lakes Entrance and observers in various locations around Australia.

1 Strong fisheries management and governance positively impact ecosystem status Fish & Fisheries Volume 18, Issue 3, May 2017 (pages 412–439) Bundy, A. et al,

2 Penney AJ, D. Bromhead, G. Begg, I. Stobutzki, R. Little and T. Saunders (2016) Development of guidelines for quality assurance of Australian fisheries research and science information. FRDC Project 2014–009, 123 pp.