Boarding tuna fishing vessel in the Pacific


Certification by the Chief Executive Officer

AFMA’s Performance Framework

  1. Ensure the ecological sustainability of Commonwealth fisheries for the benefit of present and future generations of Australians
  2. Maximise the net economic returns from Commonwealth fisheries to the Australian community
  3. Deliver effective, cost efficient and transparent management and regulatory arrangements.

Feature Story

Performance infographic

Annual Performance Statement

I, as the accountable authority of the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA), present the 2017–18 annual performance statements of AFMA, as required under paragraph 39(1)(a) of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act) and under paragraph 87 of the Fisheries Administration Act 1991. In my opinion, these annual performance statements are based on properly maintained records, accurately reflect the performance of the entity, and comply with subsection 39(2) of the PGPA Act.

Dr James Findlay Signature

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

About AFMA’s Performance Framework

The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) operates within the Australian Government’s outcome and performance framework. The outcome for each agency articulates the government’s objectives for the agency and provides a basis for budgeting and reporting the use of funds appropriated by government. This Annual Performance Statement analyses the factors that supported AFMA’s achievements in 2017–18.

Outcome and program

AFMA’s outcome is:

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

Pursuit of this outcome is identified in the Portfolio Budget Statements for 2017–18 through AFMA’s responsibility for a single government program: Program 1.1 Australian Fisheries Management Authority. As outlined in our 2017–20 Corporate Plan, AFMA’s three goals in pursuing sustainable management of Commonwealth fisheries for the Australian community were to:

  1. Ensure the ecological sustainability of Commonwealth fisheries for the benefit of present and future generations of Australians
  2. Maximise the net economic returns from Commonwealth fisheries to the Australian community
  3. Deliver effective, cost efficient and transparent management and regulatory arrangements.

Performance summary

For Commonwealth fisheries during 2017–18, AFMA continued to deliver sustainable and efficient management and provided a net economic return to Australia, including through effective deterrence of illegal fishing. All AFMA’s performance targets were either fully or partly met (see performance summary and detailed analysis below):

Results snapshot
  Target metTarget partly metTarget not met
1. Ecological sustainability
1.1.For Commonwealth fisheries’ stocks managed solely by AFMA:
a) Number of fish stocks subject to overfishing1.
1.2.The number of species assessed as remaining at potentially high risk even after mitigation2  
1.3.The number of stocks that are assessed as overfished and will require effective management to return the stock to sustainability  
2. Economic returns

For economically significant stocks3 :
b) Maximise the number of key commercial stocks with harvest strategy targets based on maximum economic yield or the best available proxy

 b) Improve the number of stocks in (a) assessed as being on target  
 c) For those stocks in (a) that are assessed as not on target, improve the numbers that are heading towards their target reference point  
3. Compliance and Management
3.1Percentage of treatment targets met for all priority domestic compliance risks  
3.2Percentage disposal rate of apprehended foreign illegal unreported and unregulated vessels and suspected irregular entry vessels disposed of  
3.3Red tape reductions  
3.4Cost recovery charges  

1In AFMA managed fisheries, not including jointly and internationally managed fisheries.

2Ecological Risk Assessments for Commonwealth managed fisheries and sub-fisheries have been completed. 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. In addition, AFMA has recently reviewed its environmental risk assessment methodology which may lead to changes in reported values in the future.

3Not all Commonwealth fish stocks can be managed by MEY, for example, those managed under international regional bodies.

1. Ensure the ecological sustainability of Commonwealth fisheries for the benefit of present and future generations of Australians


The Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy Policy and Guidelines provide an essential management framework for AFMA’s Commonwealth fisheries. Commonwealth fishery harvest strategies for key commercial stocks guide the setting of total allowable catches and other catch limits. By pursuing targets of maximum economic yield (or proxy), where available, fishing should be more sustainable in the long term (as it requires higher fish stock levels than maximum sustainable yield) and there should be greater returns to the harvesting sector and the Australian community.

At the same time, AFMA pursues the Commonwealth Policy on Fisheries Bycatch to minimise fishing-related impacts on bycatch species in a manner consistent with the principles of ecologically sustainable development and with regard to the structure, productivity, function and biological diversity of the ecosystem.

AFMA has worked with other agencies during 2017–18 on updating these Policies and Guidelines. Revised versions are expected to be released early in 2018–19, although where appropriate, AFMA has already looked to incorporate proposed requirements into its management system.

Performance results

Performance criteria2017–18
Criterion source: The performance indicators below are recorded in AFMA’s chapter in the Agriculture and Water Resources 2017–18 Portfolio Budget Statements p. 216 and in AFMA’s Corporate Plan for 2017–20 p. 10.
For Commonwealth fisheries’ stocks managed solely by AFMA: a) Number of fish stocks subject to overfishing6.00
The number of species assessed as remaining at potentially high risk even after mitigation.7
Performance measure measurement method: based on ecological risk assessments
The number of stocks that are assessed as overfished and will require effective management to return the stock to sustainability.67

Assessment of performance against the purpose

AFMA has adopted a precautionary approach when assessing the risks posed by fishing. It should be noted that AFMA assesses risk in relation to over 2000 recorded species in Commonwealth waters. The majority (85 per cent) of the species on its “potential high risk species” are there due to a lack of information about the biology of those species or catch information.

The application of new biological reference points for sharks and rays significantly contributed to an initial increase in the number of “potentially high risk species.”

Subsequently however, new ecological risk assessment methodology is now being applied that is expected to largely put the “potentially high risk species” group into actual high risk or medium/low risk. AFMA completed the first phase in its revitalisation of the Ecological Risk Assessment /Ecological Risk Management framework with the release of a “Guide to AFMA’s Ecological Risk Management” in June 2017. In March 2018 AFMA established the Ecological Risk Management Steering Group to oversee the ongoing implementation, monitoring and continuous improvement of the Ecological Risk Management framework.

4 The forecast of indicators for 2017–18 targets are based on fishery managers’ expertise and available stock assessment information. Stocks may be above or below these targets.

5 The actual performance indicators for 2017–18 are calculated based on the methodology recommended by Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences in its 2015 review of AFMA’s economic performance indicators.

6 In AFMA managed fisheries, not including jointly and internationally managed fisheries.

7 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.

Based on this new Ecological Risk Assessment methodology, during 2017–18 three fisheries were reassessed by Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in conjunction with AFMA. These reassessments resulted in a significant reduction in the number of “potential high risk species” identified, that is, in the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery from seven to one species and Small Pelagic Fisheries (Mid Water Trawl) Fishery from eight to zero species. The Heard Island and McDonald Islands Fishery continues to have no identified “high risk species”. These reductions are attributed to improved species information and data collection, as a result of, increased observer coverage and the introduction of electronic monitoring.

An additional nine Ecological Risk Assessments are currently underway, a further eight are scheduled for 2018–19, with all remaining Commonwealth fisheries to be reassessed during 2019–20.

Analysis of performance against the purpose

Since fisheries were previously assessed, AFMA has significantly improved catch information through the implementation of electronic monitoring and increased observer coverage. It is expected that the number of “potential high risk species” will reduce as fisheries are reassessed with this new information, and AFMA continues to maintain and improve existing actions and programs to mitigate ecological risks.

2. Maximise the net economic returns from Commonwealth fisheries to the Australian community


Commonwealth fishery harvest strategies for key commercial stocks guide the setting of total allowable catches and other catch limits. Targets of maximum economic yield (or proxy), where available, should provide greater returns to the harvesting sector and the Australian community.

AFMA is also looking to increase understanding of the impacts of our management policies to improve the net economic returns from Commonwealth fisheries to the Australian community. In 2017–18, AFMA:

  • continued to collect economic information including trading prices of quota and gear statutory fishing rights
  • completed an assessment of the feasibility and cost effectiveness of individual accounting for discards of quota species from individuals’ quota holdings
  • completed the review of overcatch and undercatch provisions in the Quota Administration Policy
  • completed the review of the management of catch of quota species in overlapping and adjacent fisheries.

Performance results

There are currently 16 stocks managed to maximum economic yield targets. The remaining 14 stocks8 cannot be managed to maximum economic yield, largely reflecting that most of these stocks are subject to international harvest strategies or treaties, which may have adopted other targets to manage those fisheries.

8 AFMA’s top 30 stocks by value calculated using the 3 year average of 2014–15, 2015–16 and 2016–17 Gross Value of Production data

Performance criteria2017–18
Criterion source: The performance indicators below are recorded in AFMA’s chapter in the Agriculture and Water Resources Portfolio Budget Statements 2017–18 p. 216 and in AFMA’s Corporate Plan for 2017–20 p. 12.
For economically significant stocks9 :
a)Maximise the number of key commercial stocks with harvest strategy targets based on maximum economic yield (MEY) or the best available proxy.10, 111416
b)Improve the number of stocks in (a) assessed as being on target.1256
c)For those stocks in (a) that are assessed as not on target, improve the numbers that are heading towards their target reference point.1246

Assessment of performance against the purpose

The number of economically significant stocks with harvest strategy targets based on maximum economic yield or the best available proxy (16) was higher than the target of 14. This, in a large part, reflected variability of catch rates with the stocks making up ‘economically significant stocks’, that is, AFMA’s top 30 stocks by value can change. Furthermore, some stocks that were assessed as over utilised are now heading towards the target.

Analysis of performance against the purpose

AFMA has been increasing its capacity to analyse quota market economics through continuing to collect economic information including trading prices of quota and gear statutory fishing rights. Quota and gear statutory fishing rights prices, in combination with other pricing and fishery information, assist us to assess the economic impacts on fishing operators of AFMA’s management decisions; to better understand the cost structure differences of quota owner fishers compared to quota leasing fishers; and to consider the economic factors that drive fisher behaviour. As a result, AFMA is better placed to support operators in maximising their returns, as well as the economic returns to the Australian community.

9 Please note that not all Commonwealth fish stocks can be managed by MEY, for example, those managed under international regional bodies.

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

11 Assessment methodologies are being reviewed. This may mean projections may vary.

12 The method for estimating these KPIs was recommended by ABARES in its 2015 review of AFMA’s economic KPIs. One year forecasts are based on fishery manager expertise and stock assessments.

In 2017–18 AFMA completed its review of undercatch and overcatch provisions under our Quota Administration Policy. These provisions allow quota holders to carry-over a proportion of unused quota entitlement (undercatch) or above-quota catch (overcatch) from one season to the next. The review concluded that undercatch and overcatch provisions have a range of economic benefits. These are primarily by softening the hard fishing season dates that can interfere with the efficiency of the quota market and providing flexibility to fishing operators when balancing their catch with quota between seasons. These arrangements can also reduce the need for monitoring and compliance for lower levels of overcatching and, should overcatching escalate, compliance action can be proportional to the risk it presents. Such fishery and management efficiencies also deliver economic benefits to the Australian community.

Our Quota Administration Policy also recognises that fishers incidentally catch quota species managed under separate plans of management in overlapping fisheries. AFMA reviewed these arrangements with the intention that all catches of quota stocks in overlapping fisheries should be covered by quota. The review found that the catches in overlapping fisheries are not currently a significant issue and the cost of amending fishery management plans for this purpose outweighs the benefits. However, management arrangements to account for quota in overlapping fisheries should be introduced when other changes are being made to management plans, to reduce cost, and help to provide flexibility and consistency across fisheries.

AFMA completed a cost benefit analysis of the cost-effectiveness of individuals to account for discards of quota species from their individual quota holdings. The analysis found that:

  • it is not considered appropriate to implement individual accountability for discards of quota species in any AFMA managed fisheries at this time
  • where in the future the cost of electronic monitoring becomes cheaper it may become beneficial to implement individual accountability in fisheries where there is already electronic monitoring

AFMA is undertaking consultation with Management Advisory Committees, government agencies and the public on draft Transhipping Policy and Transhipping Guidelines. The Policy and Guidelines are expected to benefit commercial fishers by enabling them to maintain product quality (and therefore price) when operating long distances from port; when catching product that needs processing quickly; or where there is a lack of adequate onshore processing facilities. It may allow fishers to reduce their operating costs through more efficient use of fishing vessels. New fisheries related business and employment opportunities in the supply chain may also be developed. AFMA’s strict management arrangements will mitigate against risks associated with transhipping activity that is known to occur in some other regions.

Exploratory fishing

The net economic and other returns to the Australian community from the management of Australian fisheries may be increased where new or existing fisheries are further explored and developed.

The 2017 Productivity Commission inquiry into Fisheries and Aquaculture identified that there may be opportunities to develop unexploited (or lightly exploited) stocks. The current revised draft Fisheries Management Paper number 5 (FMP5) is consistent with this report’s finding.

The current version of FMP5 was introduced in 2005. It is red-tape heavy and expensive to administer for both AFMA and fishers. Essentially, it requires a fishery management plan to be developed before exploring potential resources. Since 2005, additional fishery access has been provided through the introduction of new fishery management plans (e.g. Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery, Small Pelagic Fishery).

AFMA continues to receive requests to undertake new fishing activities. Where appropriate, AFMA has managed new fishing activities through incorporating them into existing fisheries or through scientific permit applications under Fisheries Management Paper number 11 – Scientific Permits (FMP11).

The revised draft FMP5:

  • allows exploratory fishing to occur on species that have commercial potential (as defined by the draft Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy), in new areas, or within existing fisheries, using new or, in some circumstances, existing fishing methods
  • provides a flexible and cost-effective approach to gathering the information needed to determine if a long term fishery should be established.


3. Deliver effective, cost efficient and transparent management and regulator arrangements


Non-compliance with AFMA’s management rules and regulations undermines the value of fishing concessions which ultimately affects the value and viability of Australia’s fishing industry. Non-compliance can also ultimately lead to the closure of areas and/or fisheries as a result of significant environmental impacts such as depletion of fish stocks.

Reducing cost pressures on fishing operators through efficient and effective fisheries management and providing greater insights and accountability for stakeholders into AFMA decisions are key aspects of delivering on this objective.

Performance results

Performance criteria2017–18
Criterion source: The performance indicators below are recorded in AFMA’s chapter in the Agriculture and Water Resources Portfolio Budget Statements 2017–18 p. 216 and in AFMA’s Corporate Plan for 2017–20 p. 15.
% of apprehended foreign illegal, unregulated and unreported vessels and suspected illegal entry vessels disposed of

Performance measure measurement method: Data is based on actions documented in compliance and enforcement activities.
% of treatment targets for all priority domestic compliance risks met

Performance measure measurement method: Data is based on actions documented in compliance and enforcement activities.
Red tape reduction initiatives completed

Performance measure measurement method: The red tape reduction register as at 30 June 2018 records estimated completion dates. Note: Since the program’s inception 34 red tape initiatives have been completed, one initiative has been closed. A further 21 initiatives are currently in progress. The Minister may endorse further initiatives in future.
Cost recovery charges do not exceed the levels derived by increasing the 2005–06 recoveries adjusted for CPI<$18.6m$41.3m

Assessment of performance against the purpose

In 2017–18, AFMA’s performance targets for its domestic and foreign compliance operations were generally met. All apprehended foreign illegal fishing vessels were successfully disposed of. For domestic compliance, by maintaining focused actions and high visibility amongst operators, AFMA continued to encourage voluntary compliance rather than having to always take enforcement action against conscious non-compliance. The National Compliance and Enforcement Program 2017–18 sets out 29 performance targets. Twenty-three of these targets were achieved.

While not all red tape initiatives were completed to intended timelines during 2017–18, they continue to be substantively progressed in support of reduced regulatory burden and operator profitability.

AFMA delivered effective and cost efficient management and regulator arrangements by introducing innovations, removing inefficient practices and ensuring operational costs were within budget. These activities enabled AFMA to continue to meet its cost recovery commitment to operators with AFMA out-performing the cumulative Consumer Price Index by some $41.3 million (as at 2017–18)

Analysis of performance against the purpose

National (domestic) compliance

AFMA’s National Compliance Operations and Enforcement Policy aims to effectively deter illegal fishing in Commonwealth fisheries and the Australian Fishing Zone. The 2017–18 National Compliance and Enforcement Program consisted of four major components:

1. Communication and Education Program

2. General Deterrence Program

3. Targeted Risk Program

4. Maintenance Program.

As detailed below, each of the four component programs involved specific aims and outcomes.

1. Communication and Education Program:

AFMA fisheries officers conducted infield education sessions and pre-season briefings in a variety of ports to educate fishers on the principles of the compliance and enforcement program and potential consequences of being caught and/or committing offences. Monthly compliance articles were also posted on AFMA’s website and Facebook pages with messages being sent to fishers on a regular basis. Subject matter included reminders on the need to accurately complete logbooks, keeping Vessel Monitoring System units switched on, obligations on the handling of bycatch and notifications on increases to penalties and the release of educational material. All eight of the Communication and Education performance targets were met in 2017–18.

2. General Deterrence Program:

AFMA fisheries officers undertook 78 port visits and 14 sea patrols to conduct 206 boat inspections and 102 fish receiver inspections. Although slightly down on the 328 inspections conducted last year, continuing high levels of compliance were observed with 91 per cent of inspections requiring no further action. This was within the program ‘target threshold´ for voluntary compliance of 90–95 per cent.

Six of the nine performance targets for the general deterrence program were met and of the three performance targets that were not met in 2017–18, adjustments to resources and the need to address new and emerging risks resulted in AFMA having to fine-tune priorities in line with the overall program approach. For example, the target of inspecting all 20 high risk boats was not achieved as resources were redirected to other, higher priority, emerging compliance and operational risks.

3. Targeted Risk Programs:

During 2017–18 our targeted risk program focused on quota evasion, failing to report interactions and retention of protected and prohibited species.

Quota Evasion

Quota evasion is the deliberate misreporting, or non-reporting, of the volume and species of catch caught in Commonwealth waters. All Commonwealth fishers are required to accurately report their catch to AFMA through the Catch Disposal Records. In 2017–18 the National Investigations Taskforce continued to focus on quota evasion and investigating serious and/or systematic cases of possible quota evasion. In addition the National Intelligence Unit, the Taskforce and the General Duties team focussed on developing and implementing a covert surveillance program to measure the level of quota evasion. These activities will inform future compliance actions and target resources to areas of no non-compliance. Two of the three quota evasion performance targets were met in 2017–18 and one target relating to a review of the tools to detect quota evasion was deferred until next year.

Failure to report interaction/retention of protected or prohibited species

During 2017–18 the Bycatch team conducted a number of workshops providing protected species identification guides and guidance on mitigation devices and strategies to minimise future interactions. While the two performance targets to minimise the take or retention of prohibited or conservation dependent species were met, the non-reporting of interactions with Threatened, Endangered and Protected species was off-target with 35 matters being detected. We investigated these and they were dealt with by way of fines, warnings and education sessions. Given the importance AFMA places on such matters, AFMA will re-assess its strategies to improve reporting rates.

Bycatch mishandling

To assist in ensuring long term sustainable fisheries, AFMA undertook a comprehensive education and communication program with industry and non-government organisations to outline the risk of bycatch mishandling. AFMA Bycatch and Compliance teams conducted three education workshops on bycatch handling in accordance with the principles in the Bycatch Handling Guide and also released an AFMA Best Practice Bycatch Handling education video. While the two performance targets concerning education activities were achieved there were still 29 identified incidents of bycatch mishandling in 2017–18 which equates to an average of 2.4 incidences per month. These were dealt with by way of the suspension of fishing concessions, warnings and education sessions. While this represents a 33 per cent decrease in the average incidence rate since the introduction of AFMA’s targeted compliance program in October 2016, further work to reduce incidence levels is required and this will remain a focal area for AFMA in the future.

4. Maintenance Programs

Previously ‘treated’ risks remained the focus of the maintenance programs. These included compliance with AFMA’s satellite based Vessel Monitoring System or e-monitoring system, quota reconciliation and minimising the incidence level of fishing in closed areas.

Vessel Monitoring System compliance rates remained high with an average of 96.5 per cent of all Commonwealth boats reporting to AFMA via their Vessel Monitoring System at any one time. Quota reconciliation non-compliance rates fluctuated during 2017–18 resulting in a total of 29 operators not reconciling overcatches by the due date which is on par with the previous two years. AFMA worked with those operators and almost all incidents were resolved promptly without need for further action. There was one incident of a vessel suspected of breaching a fishing closure. This is the first case in over two years and is subject to investigation.

Three of the four maintenance program performance targets were met or within target thresholds in 2017–18. The performance target of no e-monitoring tampering incidents (<2 threshold target) in the year, was only just exceeded, with the two incidents resolved without enforcement action being required.

AFMA domestic prosecutions for 2017–18

During 2017–18, we finalised three prosecution matters resulting in a total of $23 500 in fines handed down for three convictions. Offences involved fishing in an area without the requisite quota, not carrying an AFMA observer when required to do so and receiving fish without an appropriate licence.

Foreign compliance

AFMA’s foreign compliance activities ensure that Australia’s fish stocks and the marine environment, particularly to our north, are not adversely affected by illegal foreign fishing.

Our approach to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is multifaceted comprising on-the-water surveillance and enforcement, regional cooperation, diplomatic representations, in-country education and capacity building and international cooperation through Regional Fisheries Management Organisations and other international agreements and arrangements.

AFMA works closely with other Australian Government agencies in detecting and responding to incidents of illegal foreign fishing within Australian waters and in engaging with other countries in developing regional strategies for combatting illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Our engagement with Regional Fisheries Management Organisations and other international fora ensures that Australia’s fisheries management is consistent with actions taken regionally and internationally, particularly in relation to straddling or migratory stocks and in areas adjacent to the Australian Fishing Zone.

AFMA’s participation in the work of these regional fishing bodies includes collaborating with other members to develop regional compliance and management measures and providing annual reports on the implementation of those measures. We also chair working groups, share information on fisheries management and compliance approaches, develop proposals and take action to deter illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

Northern waters

AFMA supports the Maritime Border Command through the provision of specialist fisheries officers both in the Australian Maritime Border Operations Centre in Canberra and on-board Australian Border Force and Royal Australian Navy patrol boats. Our efforts focus 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 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. This has decreased from a total of 15 apprehensions in 2016–17 and 20 in 2015–16.

In total, 85 foreign fishers were detained for illegal fishing in Australian waters, with 27 Indonesian nationals the subject of criminal prosecution in Australia, while an additional 23 Papua New Guinea nationals were repatriated to Papua New Guinea for processing, where applicable, by the National Fisheries Authority. Those prosecuted by AFMA received penalties ranging from good behaviour bonds to fines up to $12 000. All boats were confiscated. One was released under a bonding arrangement pending the outcome of prosecution action, eight were destroyed by AFMA, one was lost at sea while being towed to port and four remain at AFMA’s office on Thursday Island pending disposal action.


Australia and Vietnam Collaboration to Stamp out IUU Fishing

Public information campaign presentation Vietnam


Australia implements a multifaceted compliance strategy to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. This comprises taking strong on the water enforcement action to identify and intercept illegal fishing vessels, working closely with regional partners to share information, making diplomatic representations and conducting “in country” education programs to educate illegal fishers.

Since 2016, pressure on local fish stocks and regional instability saw Vietnamese fishing operators travelling further afield in order to target high value stocks such as beche de mer, sharkfin and giant clam. Increased numbers of Vietnamese fishing vessels were caught illegally fishing in Australian waters as well those waters of neighbouring countries to our north and in the Pacific. Such activities not only threaten the sustainability of fish stocks and adversely impact the marine environment, but also require significant effort and resources to detect, apprehend and prosecute offenders, along with disposal of their boats and repatriation of the crews. In recognition of the fact that a collaborative solution to the problem was needed, Australia and Vietnam signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) aimed at strengthening bilateral relations and combating illegal fishing in the Asia Pacific region.

Under this MOU, in December 2017, Australia delivered a joint Public Information Campaign (PIC) with the Vietnamese Ministry for Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD). The PIC aimed to emphasise to fishing communities in Vietnam that those who do the wrong thing face financial penalties, potential jail time and the potential destruction of their fishing boats.

Over 200 fishers and officials attended the information sessions. Nearly all of those who attended were from the coastal villages and home ports where the illegal fishers were based. Joint presentations with the Vietnamese authorities promoted a united stand against illegal fishing. The workshops also gained a lot of attention from local and national media.

In the two years leading up the workshops 14 Vietnamese fishing vessels were apprehended in the Australian Fishing Zone, with a total of 180 fishers convicted. Since December 2017 there have been no further apprehensions or sightings of Vietnamese vessels operating illegally in Australian waters or in the Pacific. This program was funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Public Information Campaign presentation Vietnam Photo courtesy: AFMA

Capacity building

AFMA’s regional cooperation and capacity building initiatives aim to build collaborative relationships and assist our regional partners in strengthening their fisheries compliance and management frameworks.

AFMA’s International Compliance Operations team operating under a capacity building program funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade assisted several Pacific Island countries through developing and delivering Monitoring Control and Surveillance training to officers attached to both Fisheries Departments and Police Maritime Units. This training also included participating in Enforcement Patrols as sea-riders whilst on board their respective Pacific Class Patrol Boats.

AFMA continues to play a leading role in presenting and assessing course curriculum at the Monitoring Control and Surveillance Officers’ Foundation Course through the University of the South Pacific as well as developing and delivering course material to students enrolled in the Pacific Patrol Boat Program at the Australian Maritime College in Launceston, Tasmania.

AFMA has also played a major part in assisting Pacific Island countries develop their own Standard Operating Procedures in respect of the Niue Treaty Subsidiary Agreement. During the course of the year both the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia agreed to and completed their Standard Operating Procedures.

Multilateral patrols/operations

During 2017–18, AFMA officers participated in two co-ordinated patrols with the Indonesian Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries and Indonesian BAKAMLA. These patrols focussed on patrolling the maritime boundary between Australia and Indonesia. At the completion of the last patrol in May 2018, 30 Marine Affairs and Fisheries Officers attended the AFMA office in Darwin for a joint training day. The very good relationship that exists between AFMA and Indonesian Marine Affairs and Fisheries continues to strengthen.

AFMA continues its close working relationship with the United States Coast Guard not only on the high seas but also as part of United States support for Pacific Island countries patrolling their exclusive economic zone. AFMA officers continue to embark on United States Coast Guard patrols of the Federated States of Micronesia exclusive economic zone and AFMA looks forward to continuing its relationship with the United States Coast Guard.

AFMA officers participated in all four of Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency’s Fisheries Operations and assisted Patrol Boat personnel based in Cook Islands, Tuvalu, Solomon Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands and Tonga. The patrols have seen several investigations ensue, including an out of court settlement for US$800 000 pertaining to non-compliance with licence conditions.

AFMA also participated in Operation Nasse, which is a dedicated fisheries enforcement patrol of the high seas. The operation involves all QUAD members (Australia, France, New Zealand and the United States). This particular operation saw AFMA officers embarked on both Australian and French patrol vessels for the duration of the Operation.

AFMA also continues to work closely with Papua New Guinea, particularly in the Torres Strait where we share management arrangements for key species under the Torres Strait Treaty. The Papua New Guinea National Fisheries Authority and the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary facilitated four “at sea” transfers of custody involving 23 Papua New Guinea nationals apprehended for suspected illegal fishing in areas of Australian jurisdiction within the Torres Strait Protected Zone. In all matters AFMA provided evidence packs to the Papua New Guinea authorities to assist them in prosecuting offenders under Papua New Guinea law. Two apprehensions by Papua New Guinea authorities in waters adjacent to the Torres Strait Protected Zone were also conducted as the boats had left Australia’s jurisdiction returning to Papua New Guinea waters.

Southern ocean

AFMA continues to monitor suspected incidents or allegations of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in our areas of interest in the Southern Ocean. Nearly all known illegal, unreported and unregulated vessels remain out of action as a result of effective international cooperation involving relevant port States, flag States and States with nationals that control and benefit from the activities of these vessels. We continue to cooperate with our partners including deploying on French warships and considering approaches to strengthen frameworks that aim to disrupt and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

AFMA also played a part in the international investigation of the illegal fishing vessel STS-50, jointly issuing the INTERPOL notice with New Zealand in 2016 and providing vessel position information to the Indonesian authorities in April 2018. The Indonesian Navy subsequently apprehended the stateless illegal, unreported and unregulated toothfish fishing vessel, the STS-50, which had evaded capture over the past two years.

Red tape reduction initiatives

AFMA continues pushing to streamline and improve our management of Australia’s fisheries. We are committed to reducing the amount and complexity of regulation with our red tape reduction agenda, while maintaining effective fisheries management. We work with industry, scientists and state and territory regulators to streamline processes. To date we have more than 50 initiatives that have been, or are being, implemented. While we have removed a range of duplication and unnecessary regulation there is still further room for improvement.

2017–18 saw a range of new initiatives commenced to enhance the security and value of fishing concessions, including:

  • preventing concession transfers where a third party interest has been registered
  • automatic granting of fishing permits
  • providing clarity on the revocation of plans of management and the use of statutory fishing right options provisions
  • providing clarity on the cancellation of fishing concession provisions.

Another popular change was issuing five year permits in the Southern Bluefin Tuna and High Seas fisheries. This enhanced security of access adds value to permits. Fishing concession owners’ feedback has been positive with AFMA looking to issue other fisheries concessions for up to five years where appropriate.

Other initiatives are underway but are awaiting legislative change or other processes to finalise, including:

  • transitioning Quota Holding Permits to Statutory Fishing Rights
  • reforming the Catch Disposal Records system
  • transferring NSW Southern Fish Trawl to Commonwealth management
  • streamlining processes to support exploratory fishing
  • simplified fishing access arrangements for Torres Strait Fisheries.

Co-management arrangements

Co-management arrangements to encourage greater industry responsibility for minimising the effects of fishing are another approach by AFMA that can also increase the cost effectiveness of fisheries management. Such arrangements often reflect a maturing industry that has a strong industry body and the capacity to take on responsibilities previously undertaken by government. The Northern Prawn Fishery, which is the Commonwealth’s most valuable fishery, continues to work with AFMA to build its capacity and engagement in fisheries management through co-management.

During 2017–18, the Northern Prawn Fishery Industry group partnered with AFMA to undertake scientific trials of new bycatch reduction devices that will be rolled out over the next two years and deliver up to a 40 per cent reduction in fish bycatch. The Northern Prawn Fishery Industry group also managed the supply of wild-caught black tiger prawns used for broodstock by Australian prawn farmers and continued to provide other services, such as data collection, crew-member observing for protected species and the tendering process for providing a vessel on which to conduct the annual scientific monitoring program. Northern Prawn Fishery Industry also undertook pre-season, in-port briefing of skippers and crews about the fishery regulations that must be complied with. Other Commonwealth fisheries, including the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery, the Great Australian Bight Trawl Fishery and the Bass Strait Central Zone Scallop Fishery are also working more closely with AFMA to identify opportunities to engage in co-management. The South East Trawl Fishing Industry Association and AFMA will complete a new co-management arrangement in 2018–19, and discussions with the scallop industry are also in progress.

AFMA will complete its assessment of all key Commonwealth fisheries to engage in co-management during 2018–19. This will provide an evidence base to determine where to expand existing arrangements and/or create new ones in future where it is mutually beneficial for industry and AFMA, noting that some regulatory roles will always be the purview of government.

Electronic monitoring (e-monitoring)

AFMA has been running a full time e-monitoring program in four fisheries: the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery, the Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery, the Small Pelagic Fishery (midwater trawl sector) and the Gillnet Hook and Trap sector of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery for a number of years. This program complements AFMA’s observer program and with the use of feedback reports, assist fishers in improving the data AFMA receives from logbooks. The e-monitoring program has also provided an effective and cost efficient means to ensure fishing regulations are being adhered to.

AFMA’s use of e-monitoring as a tool has increased over the past seven years. It is now a fundamental monitoring tool underpinning the Dolphin and Australian Sea Lion Management Strategies in the Gillnet Hook and Trap Fishery, interactions with protected species in the Small Pelagic Fishery and the Seabird Threat Abatement Plan in the longline sector of the Gillnet Hook and Trap Fishery and the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery. The most noticeable impact electronic monitoring has had is in the improved logbook reporting, which is being validated through monthly comparison reports.

E-monitoring will continue to be adopted where it is proven to be cost effective and efficient to do so. In most cases this is where a higher (greater than 5–10 per cent) level of monitoring is required and where biological data collection by crew/observers can complement cameras. The data collection tool allows AFMA to implement a variety of new management approaches including individual bycatch accountability, fish and bycatch handling requirements and in the future, image recognition.


Management of Mako Sharks in the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery

Electronic monitoring equipment


Mako Sharks are listed as a migratory species under Australia’s environmental legislation the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. This means that commercial fishers must take all reasonable measures to avoid injuring or harming Mako sharks.

The Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery is a pelagic longline fishery that primarily targets bigeye tuna, yellowfin tuna and swordfish, but takes Mako sharks as a bycatch. There are strong management measures in place to prevent targeting of sharks in this fishery, with a 20 shark trip limit for each boat. Fishers are also banned from using wire trace to connect the hook to the mainline to minimise the shark catch.

Even though catch of Mako sharks is relatively small, they are still a valuable part of the catch for commercial fishers. AFMA has developed a unique rule for Mako sharks to ensure that harm to any live shark is minimised, dead sharks are not wasted and can be sold to Australian markets. The rule requires all Mako sharks that are brought to the boat alive to be released with minimal harm. During 2017–18, 2005 Mako sharks were caught with 1304 of these being released.

The introduction of e-monitoring into the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery has enabled AFMA to cost effectively monitor and enforce these rules. E-monitoring is a system of four cameras and a range of sensors that are used to monitor all fishing activities.


Top: Electronic monitoring equipment Below: Shark being released in ETBF Photos courtesy: Observer, AFMA

Shark being released in ETBF

Legislation update

AFMA is focused on the long-term ecologically sustainable development of Australia’s fisheries resources for all users – commercial, recreational and Indigenous. Changes to the Fisheries Management Act 1991 in November 2017 clarified the expectations on use and access to Commonwealth resources. AFMA is now working to better reflect these legislative changes in management policies and arrangements and operational practices.

Another area of legislative focus during 2017–18 has been our review in light of the pending expiry of three legislative instruments relating to the management of Commonwealth fisheries, namely the Fisheries Management Regulations 1992, the Fisheries (Administration) Regulations 1992 and the Fisheries Management (Southern Bluefin Tuna Fishery) Regulations 1995. These existing regulations, amongst other things, outline the geographic areas for fisheries, obligations for Commonwealth concession holders, fees payable and the framework that supports the issuing of infringement notices. Proposed changes aim to streamline AFMA’s current ability to enforce obligations, thereby improving management effectiveness and reducing the regulatory burden on industry. Public consultation has largely supported AFMA’s proposals and finalisation of the amendments is now underway.

In addition, a second tranche of legislation to modernise the penalty provisions in the Fisheries Management Act 1991 by adopting the Regulatory Powers (Standard Powers) Act 2014 and provide additional compliance tools for AFMA is underway. However, there have been delays in the Bill to progress these measures and it is now scheduled to be considered by Parliament during its Spring session (from August) 2018.

Stakeholder engagement

AFMA communicates with a diverse range of stakeholder groups for a variety of purposes including exchanging information, consultation and seeking advice. During 2017–18, AFMA continued to engage with a wide variety of stakeholders including scientists, commercial fishers and fishing associations, researchers, environment and conservation organisations, other agencies, recreational and Indigenous fishers about our management of Commonwealth fisheries and compliance activities.

Management Advisory Committees and Resource Assessment Groups are a key source of advice to AFMA and the Commission, reflecting the experience and expertise of stakeholders with interests in the fishery or fisheries. Regular meetings of these bodies were held during 2017–18, with around 80 per cent of the Management Advisory Committee recommendations being accepted by the Commission.

We also undertook public consultation on policy and fisheries management changes, and included feedback in the advice and recommendations made to the Commission.

Our online systems such as GoFish and Vessel Monitoring System, electronic messaging, port visits, and public and issue-specific meetings, both in Australia and overseas, have also provided avenues for engagement with stakeholders and individual fishing operators.

AFMA also broadened its availability of fisheries and compliance information through the websites it manages, and, via Facebook and through publication of data on

The Protected Zone Joint Authority website was migrated to a new content management system and the look and feel of the site was updated to make it more accessible, bringing it in line with Australian Government guidelines. Raw, aggregated fishing gear and effort data was published on, to make more AFMA data publicly available, to help and encourage researchers, scientists, businesses and students to optimise and re-use the data in projects.

AFMA’s Facebook page has seen improved reach and interactions over the past 12 months, as illustrated in Figure 1 below, and the Communications team has upskilled to optimise content through videos and infographics.

Figure 1: Facebook reach and likes July 2017–July 2018

Facebook reach and likes July 2017-July 2018

Client service charter

Our Client Service Charter sets out the services and standards that all clients or stakeholders can expect from AFMA. It applies to all of our fisheries administration and corporate services functions, including our licensing function. Our service charter is available on our website

We use our licensing system, GoFish, to record the timeliness of responses for licensing transactions. During 2017–18 more than 99 per cent of licensing correspondence and transactions submitted by concession holders were dealt with in accordance with our Client Service Charter.

No formal complaints were received by AFMA during the reporting period.

Recreational fishing gear
Photo courtesy: AFMA

Recreational fishing gear