29 August 2012
Crew member standing on one side of the vessel aiming to shoot seabirds

Stronger fisheries laws could see fishing licence holders responsible for their crew’s actions: A recent case saw crew members prosecuted for shooting seabirds, with this image used as evidence.














A Bill passed by the House of Representatives last week will, if it becomes law, strengthen the compliance powers of the Commonwealth fisheries regulator. The Bill has now been referred to the Senate.

Amendments to the Fisheries Management Act 1991 strengthen the ability of the Australian Fisheries Management Authority to hold licence holders liable for the actions of their crew.

The new legislation also includes amendments to support the use of electronic monitoring on fishing boats for data collection and compliance purposes.

Earlier this year an investigation by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) and the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities led to seven fishermen being convicted in the Port Lincoln Magistrate Court for crimes associated with the illegal fishing of Southern Bluefin Tuna, the shooting of protected seabirds and littering at sea. The fishermen were fined a total of $22,000.

AFMA General Manager Operations Peter Venslovas said that this was an example of the worst behaviour that AFMA has dealt with recently.

“While AFMA does not suggest that the licence holder was at fault in this particular case, the case does highlight the importance of making crews aware of what the laws are”, Mr Venslovas said.

“It is important that the law requires a high level of due diligence on the part of licence holders who employ people to fish, and that the law clearly states what AFMA expects of licence holders.”

“The seabird shooting incident appeared to be isolated in an industry that is highly professional and well regarded – but all skippers and crews should be aware that illegal and cruel actions will be picked up through AFMA’s monitoring and will not be treated lightly.”


The convicted men, crew members aboard two commercial Southern Bluefin Tuna tow boats, were convicted in April 2012 and ordered to pay fines totalling $22,000.

The magistrate indicated that the matters were very serious and that deterring these actions is paramount for the ongoing preservation and sustainability of our fisheries.

AFMA investigated the matters after the actions of crew members were detected on footage from video and other electronic recordings. The footage was seized by AFMA officers during at-sea inspections of fishing boats.

Contact Sophie Dening, AFMA Communications (02) 6225 5541 (W) or 0447 942 840 (M) or sophie.dening@afma.gov.au