AFMA uses a range of approaches to protect our fisheries, including monitoring our vessels, tracking our catch and cooperating with other countries to protect shared fish stocks. An effective monitoring, control and surveillance program is not just about policing. The setting of rules, collection of information, making sure rules are being followed and educating fishers and fish buyers of the rules are all important aspects of combating illegal fishing.
Supporting AFMA compliance programs are strong fisheries legislation, including strict rules and regulations with clear penalties and sanctions. Fishers and fish buyers caught breaking rules can be fined on the spot, their licence to fish can be suspended or, for the more serious cases, we may prosecute them or have their catch seized.
National Compliance and Enforcement Policy 2022 (PDF 1.8MB) – this policy provides an explanation of AFMA’s compliance and enforcement role and AFMA’s risk based approach across the Commonwealth fisheries.
National Compliance and Enforcement Program 2022-23 (PDF 3.6MB) – explains AFMA’s compliance program priorities and objectives for the upcoming year.
National Compliance 2023–25 Risk Assessment Methodology (PDF 1.1KB) – explains AFMA’s compliance risk assessment process.
Administration of the Domestic Fishing Compliance Program report – report of the audit completed by ANAO to assess the effectiveness of AFMA’s administration of its Domestic Fishing Compliance Program.
Fisheries Officers conduct targeted inspections of Commonwealth endorsed operators (these operators include the actual fishing boats and those who receive fish from fishing boats) in an effort to stop fishers from engaging in illegal activities.
All foreign fishing boats that come into Australian ports can be inspected by us. We can also refuse entry of any foreign fishing boat that has been known to be fishing illegally.
Tracking the boats
All Commonwealth fishing boats are tracked via satellite – to vessel monitoring systems. Satellite tracking is the main way AFMA monitor fishing activity across the Commonwealth fleet. AFMA targets Commonwealth boats who fail to have their vessel monitoring system operating at all times. These boats may be ordered into port until the problem is fixed.
Read more about satellite monitoring of fishing boats
Tracking the catch
It is important that operators provide AFMA with the correct amount of fish caught. If they do not, honest operators who are doing the right thing are impacted; which in turn has a negative effect on the future of the fishery.
Catch within our fisheries is monitored in several ways. This includes electronic logbooks, a Catch Documentation Scheme, electronic monitoring, logbooks, observers, audits and inspections.
Read more about our programs:
Education is the key ingredient to increase voluntary compliance. Fisheries Officers conduct education sessions before the start of all Commonwealth fishery seasons. Fisheries Officers also help fishers during inspections, providing one on one education.
For more information look at Australia’s National Compliance Strategy.
Setting the rules
We detect and investigate illegal activities by Australian and foreign fishing boats in the Australian Fishing Zone and in Commonwealth managed fisheries. Enforcing the provisions of the Fisheries Management Act 1991, Torres Strait Fisheries Act 1984 and the Maritime Powers Act 2013 are the responsibility of AFMA.
Working with others
Combating illegal fishing using the best resources Australia can provide means working and exchanging information with other government agencies, including state and territory fisheries agencies and Customs and Border Protection.