2017-2018 snapshot infographic

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer’s review

With the Gross Value of Production for Commonwealth fisheries forecast steady at around $380 million and no fish stocks managed solely by AFMA assessed as subject to overfishing (for the fifth year running), 2017–18 has seen AFMA deliver solidly against its objectives. At the same time, the release of the Commonwealth Fisheries Policy Statement in September 2017, the passage of the Fisheries Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2017 in November 2017, and the imminent release of the Commonwealth’s Harvest Strategy and Bycatch Policies and Guidelines (expected early in 2018–19) have raised challenges for AFMA managing Commonwealth commercial fisheries and the growing expectations of the community.

In this Annual Report AFMA assesses its fisheries management impacts and presents an Annual Performance Statement in accordance with the requirements of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013. This statement (Part 2 of the Annual Report), together with consideration of fishery by fishery outcomes (Part 3 of the Annual Report) provide a clear picture that AFMA is delivering on the intent of the Government’s Fisheries Policy Statement for our fisheries to remain sustainable and profitable into the future. Highlights of AFMA’s activities and impacts under each of its objectives include:

Ecological sustainability

The Northern Prawn Fishery has been re-certified by the Marine Stewardship Council for a further five years, recognising the Northern Prawn Fishery as having global best-practice ecologically sustainable fisheries management. The Marine Stewardship Council certification is recognised internationally as the global gold standard fisheries certification system, and requires three core criteria to meet the Marine Stewardship Council standard: the status of the fish stock, the impact of the fishery on the marine ecosystem, and the management system overseeing the fishery. The Commonwealth prawn industry has been a champion for sustainable management including bycatch reduction over many years, with the introduction of turtle excluder devices in 2000 and more recently the Kon’s Covered Fisheye, another innovative device to further reduce bycatch. With the re-certification of the Northern Prawn Fishery, a total of five AFMA fisheries are certified.

The inaugural meeting of the Ecological Risk Management Steering Group was held in June 2018. The Group was established to provide strategic advice and direction to the AFMA Commission on the development, coordination and implementation of the revised Ecological Risk Assessment framework and Fisheries Management Strategies as they relate to Ecological Risk Assessment / Ecological Risk Management. The Group considered issues such as the impending release of the Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy and Bycatch Policies and Guidelines and the results of the Ecological Risk Assessment trials. Applying the new Ecological Risk Assessment methodology allowed AFMA to determine whether “potentially high risk species” were actually at high risk, or really only at medium/low risk. Reductions were attributed to improved species information and data collection, in particular, increased observer coverage and the introduction of electronic monitoring. While the new Commonwealth Bycatch Policy does not cover habitat and community issues AFMA is developing its habitats and communities strategy to better manage the impacts of fishing on marine habitats and communities for completion in 2018–19.

AFMA, in collaboration with international and domestic organisations, is involved with a number of ongoing and future climate change projects which address climate change impacts and the adaptation to these impacts on fisheries management. The project Adaptation of Commonwealth Fisheries Management to Climate Change has recently commenced and engaged a broad range of stakeholders.

Maximise the net economic returns

The inaugural meeting of the Economic Working Group was held in April 2018. The Economic Working Group provides expert advice on major fishery and cross fishery economic issues affecting Commonwealth fisheries management to support AFMA’s capacity to pursue its objectives, particularly the maximising of net economic returns to the Australian community. The Economic Working Group will create opportunities to discuss and obtain expert input/advice on strategic fisheries economic issues from its members. Experienced industry participants will be invited to future Economic Working Group meetings to provide operational perspectives.

In May 2018, the AFMA Commission agreed to the release of a new draft Exploratory Fishing Policy for stakeholder and public consultation. An efficient Exploratory Fishing Policy will enable fishers to explore and develop new fishing resources. The new draft simplifies the process of exploring new resources based on balancing risk and cost while using AFMA’s Ecological Risk Management framework. It is expected to encourage fisher-led exploration and development of Commonwealth resources through increased transparency and management of ongoing rights.

Also at the May meeting, the Commission endorsed the draft Transhipping Policy and Guidelines for release for consultation with Management Advisory Committees, government agencies and the public. The Transhipping Policy and Transhipping Guidelines will support maximising net economic returns and efficient and cost effective fisheries management. These documents will also ensure that AFMA’s management arrangements meet Commonwealth fishery needs, improve consistency in decision making and provide transparency to industry and other fishery stakeholders. In early 2018–19, comments will be considered and a final version of the policy and guidelines provided to the Commission for decision before the end of 2018.

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, with AFMA’s support, is developing a Commonwealth Fisheries Resource Sharing Policy. The policy will outline the principles and preferred approach of the Australian Government for sharing between sectors, for example commercial and recreational fishers; and between jurisdictions (Commonwealth commercial and state commercial fishers). AFMA proposed that jurisdictions work through two case studies. These proposals were discussed at the Australian Fisheries Managers Forum with striped marlin and blue eye trevalla supported as case studies for catch and resource sharing between jurisdictions and sectors. Finalisation of the policy and commencement of the case studies is anticipated during 2018–19.

Australian fisheries management is amongst the most effective in the world, and AFMA is looking to make it stronger through more comprehensive engagement with recreational and Indigenous fishers. Changes to the Fisheries Administration Act 1991 now provide for greater input from recreational and Indigenous fishers so they can share their expertise and views on fisheries management. Part of this change is to increase the size of Management Advisory Committees to allow for broader input into these important consultative committees. During 2017–18, AFMA commenced consulting with Indigenous, recreational and commercial fishers, and other key stakeholders to identify how to better collaborate on fisheries matters. With a renewed focus on accounting for interests of recreational and Indigenous fishers, fisheries will benefit from the wider range of expertise.

Effective, cost efficient and transparent management and regulator arrangements

During 2017–18, a total of 14 illegal foreign fishing vessels were apprehended across Australia’s northern waters. This number consisted of nine fishing vessels from Indonesia, and five fishing vessels from Papua New Guinea, which has decreased from a total of 15 apprehensions in the 2016–17 financial year and 20 in 2015–16. In total, 85 foreign fishers were detained for illegal fishing in Australian waters in 2017–18, with 27 Indonesian nationals the subject of criminal prosecution in Australia, while an additional 23 Papua New Guinea nationals were repatriated for processing, where applicable, by the Papua New Guinea National Fisheries Authority.

AFMA has completed a joint public information campaign with the Vietnamese Ministry for Agriculture and Rural Development and the Vietnamese Directorate of Fisheries in Vietnam, as part of efforts to combat illegal foreign fishing in our oceans. Over 200 Vietnamese fishers and government officials attended the workshops covering issues relating to international maritime boundaries, and the consequences of illegal fishing in Australian waters and the Pacific. The joint approach from Australia and Vietnam demonstrated a united front to deliver the message that those who do the wrong thing face financial penalties, potential jail and the destruction of their fishing boats. No Vietnamese fishing vessels were apprehended in the Australian Fishing Zone during 2017–18.

The transition of the New South Wales (NSW) Southern Fish Trawl Fishery into the Commonwealth trawl sector of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery commenced in March 2018 with transition scheduled for completion later in 2018. Fishers transitioning to Commonwealth management will benefit from the removal of red tape. The transition will mean that fish stocks in the two fisheries will be managed by one jurisdiction, removing unnecessary duplication and administrative burden for fishing operators. Both NSW and Commonwealth fishing concession holders will see benefits from the transition including the streamlining of management arrangements and increased certainty of access to fish.

AFMA continues work on the One Fishery approach which seeks to reduce regulatory impediments to industry adaptation through reducing critical divides between fisheries. The approach aims to simplify the regulatory system and provide a more cost-effective commercial fisheries management system. It will be based on providing greater freedom to fishing concession owners to choose the fishing method best suited to harvest their individual transferable quota, use their individual transferable effort or fishing permit. To the extent possible, a standard set of conditions will be applied to each fishing method. AFMA Management is preparing a One Fishery draft project plan for Commission consideration in 2018–19.

To maintain the monitoring of fisheries in supporting sustainability of Australia’s fish stocks AFMA has continued to develop its world leading Electronic Monitoring program. With cameras monitoring 25 per cent of the Commonwealth’s fleet, electronic monitoring allows AFMA to provide greater flexibility to fishers on how and where they fish whilst ensuring they are following rules.

AFMA is progressing new co-management arrangements including with the South East Trawl Fishing Industry Association through the establishment of a trawl advisory group. Also, the Northern Prawn Fishery Industry has taken up managing access to and monitoring of the provision of broodstock for the aquaculture industry as a new co-management activity. AFMA Management is also undertaking a review on the state of readiness for all key Commonwealth fisheries to take up co-management. Applying experiences already gained in co-management trials and reviewing existing arrangements will be key criteria applied to other fisheries to identify readiness and gaps to adopting co-management arrangements.

The services that AFMA provides from the levies it collects ensures Commonwealth fisheries meet relevant Commonwealth legislation and policies requirements. With about 40 per cent of AFMA’s annual budget cost-recovered from industry, we understand the importance of delivering effective, cost efficient and transparent management arrangements.

In 2010 AFMA made a commitment to industry that it would keep cost recovery levels 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 $41.3 million (as at 2017–18) and will aim to continue to meet this commitment while ensuring legislative objectives are pursued.

AFMA continues to actively progress a number of previously identified actions to expand stakeholder engagement. Increasing consumer expectations, meeting market demands and expanding legislative responsibilities for industry, recreational and Indigenous fisher engagements, have required AFMA to become more transparent. AFMA is working towards extensive cloud-based data that are broadly accessible and meet privacy requirements; improved stakeholder services such as GoFish that are efficient and interactive, encouraging feedback to and from users; and a website that is interactive and informative with the potential to engage users to follow up on identified interests and subjects.

Such additions to AFMA’s capabilities to engage with stakeholders will enable AFMA and stakeholders to share in and understand changes in the future operating environment for Commonwealth fisheries. These activities will also assist AFMA to demystify fisheries management and encourage broader stakeholder engagement.

AFMA will also expand its operations in Lakes Entrance, Victoria, from one to eight staff, to better meet its business and operational needs in one of Australia’s largest Commonwealth commercial fishing ports. The expansion will enable the regulator and industry to work more collaboratively. The Lakes Entrance office is expected to be fully operational by August 2018, staffed with fisheries and bycatch managers in addition to compliance officers.

Internal Review

AFMA continually strives to improve its performance in order to serve stakeholders and the Australian community better. Since AFMA’s establishment, our performance has been subject to various direct and indirect government reviews, including the Borthwick and the Productivity Commission reviews. Additionally, we have conducted internally driven reviews of various parts of our business from time to time. However it had been a while since we have undertaken a consolidated, internal review of our service delivery against current stakeholder expectations and our legislated objectives.

During 2017–18 AFMA commissioned a review to elicit stakeholder views on AFMA’s performance to assist the agency to position itself for the future. The review was conducted by independent consultants, namely Douglas Smith and Lynette Glendinning of Tempo Strategies and Peter Neville of P.J.Neville and Associates. The review is intended to provide AFMA with independent, expert advice on future directions for the organisation to achieve best practice and improved performance given AFMA’s current and likely future operating environment. This advice will also highlight opportunities and options for future AFMA management of Commonwealth fisheries in the context of factors such as cost-efficiency, AFMA’s current and future funding arrangements and the fisheries policy environment. The report is scheduled to be finalised by September 2018.


Australia’s Governor-General has recognised one of Australia’s longest serving fisheries observers, Martin Tucker, for his work in the Southern Ocean and the seas near Antarctica. The Australian Antarctic Medal was awarded to Mr Tucker for his scientific work with AFMA. Mr Tucker has been on 31 voyages as an AFMA Observer aboard commercial fishing vessels that harvest Patagonian and Antarctic toothfish and mackerel icefish spending a total of 2790 days at sea in the Southern Ocean.


AFMA’s Corporate Plan 2018–21 was approved by the Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources in May 2018.

Over the next four years AFMA will look to 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
  • improve engagement with stakeholders in the responsible management of fisheries.

Further information is available from our website afma.gov.au.

AFMA’s legislation requires that fishery management decisions are made in a manner consistent with the principles of ecologically sustainable development. To better reflect our emphasis on ecologically sustainable development and consideration of the social aspects, AFMA has increased the number of corporate goals under our Corporate Plan from the previous three to four. This provides for closer alignment of AFMA’s future work with all elements of ecologically sustainable development, as opposed to our past focus on the ecological component reflecting the need to prevent overfishing consistent with the Ministerial Direction of 2005. As a result we will be increasing our consideration of the economic interests for recreational and Indigenous stakeholders, as well as commercial fishers.

Compliance with Commonwealth fisheries laws and policies and relevant international fishing obligations and standards will require cooperation with a range of domestic and foreign agencies to maintain effective monitoring, control and surveillance of fisheries activities in the Australian Fishing Zone and waters of shared international interest. Domestic legislation is also due to be introduced to Parliament in late 2018 to modernise fisheries offence and penalty provision to bring in a civil penalties regime.

AFMA’s commitment to cost-effectiveness and stakeholder engagement/ accountability remains, reflecting the importance of getting value for money and making evidence-based decisions. We will deliver value for money through improved valuation, pricing and incentive mechanisms to ensure accountability to commercial, recreational and Indigenous fishers and the Australian community

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 Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources – the Hon Barnaby Joyce MP from 1 July 2017 to 27 October 2017; the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP from 27 October 2017 to 20 December 2017; and, the Hon David Littleproud MP from 20 December 2017 to 30 June 2018. Senator the Hon Anne Ruston was the Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources with responsibility for fisheries for the duration of the reporting period.

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 fisheries on behalf of the Australian community. The challenge in delivering these services is to find the right balance between competitive and profitable seafood production and keeping the impacts of 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 health 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 2017–18 about 40 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 continue to encourage and promote a partnership approach with stakeholders, involving them in developing policies and actions and 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 our website at afma.gov.au

Organisational structure

Our organisational structure as at 30 June 2018 is presented below.

Minister for Agriculture and Water ResourcesAssistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources
AFMA Commission
AFMA Chief Executive Officer Dr James Findlay
Fisheries Management Branch Executive Manager Dr Nick RaynsFisheries Operations Branch General Manager Mr Peter VenslovasCorporate Services Branch General Manager Mr John Andersen
Nortdern Fisheries & Co-management Senior Manager Mr Steve Bolton

Torres Strait Fisheries Manager Ms Selina Stoute
National Compliance Strategy Senior Manager Mr Tod SpencerExecutive Secretariat Senior Manager Mr Andrew Pearson
Demersal and Midwater Fisheries Senior Manager Mr George DayCompliance Operations (Darwin) Senior Manager Mr John DavisBusiness Chief Finance Officer Mr Robert Gehrig
Tuna and International Fisheries Senior Manager Mr Trent TimmissForeign Compliance Policy Senior Manager Ms Kerry SmitdWorkplace – Human Resources Senior Manager Ms Libby Jenkins
Policy, Environment, Economics and Research Senior Manager Ms Betd Gibson Workplace – Property and Security Senior Manager Mr Scott Connors
Fisheries Services Senior Manager Mr Ryan Murphy Technology and Digital Services Chief Information Officer Mr Michael Roses
AFMA Liaison Officer South East Trawl Fishing Industry Association (SETFIA) Liaison Officer Ms Danait Ghebrezgabhier Communications Communications Manager (A/g) Ms Sarah Schofield

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 addressPostal addressEnquiries
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 addressPostal addressEnquiries
Level 6, Jacana House
39–41 Woods Street
GPO Box 131
Ph: (08) 8943 0333
Fax: (08) 8942 2897
Thursday Island office
Street addressPostal addressEnquiries
Level 2, Pearls Building
38 Victoria Parade
PO Box 376
Ph: (07) 4069 1990
Fax: (07) 4069 1277

In addition AFMA will expand to Lakes Entrance, Victoria and the office is expected to be fully operational by August 2018, staffed with fisheries and bycatch managers in addition to compliance officers. A number of observers are in various locations around Australia.

Cullen Bay Darwin

Cullen Bay Darwin
Photo courtesy: Nikos Manikas, AFMA