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    The Coral Sea Fishery is managed through input and output controls including limited entry, catch limits, spatial closures, move-on provisions and size limits.

    Target Species

    Species Fishing Mortality* Biomass**

    Black teatfish

    (Holothuria whitmaei)

    G;Not subject to overfishing G;Not overfished

    Prickly redfish

    (Thelenota ananas)

    G;Not subject to overfishing G;Not overfished

    Surf redfish

    (Actinapyga mauritiana)

    G;Not subject to overfishing G;Not overfished

    White teatfish

    (Actinapyga mauritiana)

    Y;Uncertain Y;Uncertain

    Aquarium fishes

    (Osteichthyes sp.)

    G;Not subject to overfishing G;Not overfished

    Tropical rock lobster

    (Panulirus ornatus)

    G;Not subject to overfishing G;Not overfished

    * Fishing mortality status relates to the level of fishing pressure on a stock - specifically, whether fishing mortality in the year being assessed is likely to result in the stock becoming overfished, or prevent the stock from rebuilding from an overfished state. If fishing mortality exceeds either of these thresholds, a stock is considered to be subject to overfishing.

    ** Biomass status relates to how many fish there are - specifically, whether the biomass in the year being assessed is above the level at which the risk to the stock is considered to be unacceptable. The HSP defines this level as the limit reference point, below which the stock is considered to be overfished.

    Catch and effort allowance

    Sea Cucumber Sector

    Species2016-17 actual catch (tonnes)2016-17 total allowable catch (tonnes)
    Black teatfish0.0681
    Prickly redfish0.37020
    Surf redfish010
    White teatfish2.8774
    Greenfish and lollyfish (any combination)010
    Other sea cucumber species (~11 species)010


    Aquarium Sector

    Species2015-16 actual specimensAllowed specimens
    Aquarium Sector (>500 species)32 46240 000


    Lobster and Trochus Sector

    Species2016-17 actual catch (tonnes)2016-17 total allowable catch (tonnes)
    Tropical rock lobster030
    Trochus species030


    Line, Trap and Trawl Sector

    Species2016-17 actual catch (tonnes)Total Allowable Catch
    Finfish and shark species45.5

    Catch triggers are in place

    Level 1 450 t

    Level 2 1000 t


    Download data on annual catch and effort from AFMA logbooks.


    Total fishery value



    Fishing gear

    A variety of gear is used in the Coral Sea Fishery, including:



    The Coral Sea Fishery extends from Cape York to Sandy Cape in Queensland. It is bounded on the east by the Australian Fishing Zone and on the west by a boundary line 10 to 100 nm east of the boundary of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.


    Major landing ports

    • Mooloolaba
    • Townsville
    • Cairns.


    Markets supplied

    • Domestic: fish products (fresh, frozen); aquarium species (live)
    • International: South-East Asia (dried sea cucumber [bêche-de-mer]); worldwide (live aquarium species).


    Fishing season

    12 month season, beginning 1 July.

    Management of catch

    The Coral Sea Fishery has four sectors that are managed through input and output controls including limited entry, catch limits, spatial closures, move-on provisions, size limits and catch-and-effort triggers that are used to initiate further analysis and assessment.

    1. Lobster and Trochus Sector
    2. Line and Trap Sector
    3. Aquarium Sector
    4. Sea Cucumber Sector.

    Licence to fish

    Fishers must hold permits to fish in this fishery.  Fishers can only catch species associated with the type of permit they hold.

    The fishery has 14 limited entry permits:

    • 8 in the Line and Trap Sector
    • 2 in the Aquarium Sector
    • 2 in the Sea Cucumber Sector
    • 2 in the Lobster and Trochus Sector

    Collecting data

    Data about the catch and effort of the fishery is collected from the logbooks fishers fill out for every fishing shot.

    Logbooks record:

    • the species and amount caught
    • catch that is discarded
    • the catch/release of any protected species and their life status
    • set and haul times of each shot
    • the location of each shot
    • the type and amount of gear used.

    Species sustainability

    The Coral Sea Fishery comprises several sectors with a wide range of species targeted. The species composition of the catch varies significantly over time. Due to the vast number of species that are targeted in the fishery, many of the stocks have not been assessed.

    Species risk assessments

    AFMA regularly monitor the effects fishing activities have on marine species, habitats and communities through ecological risk assessments. The assessment results help to prioritise the management, research, data collection and monitoring needs for the fishery.

    After the risk assessment is complete, an ecological risk management strategy is developed to address how AFMA will manage marine species, habitats and communities identified in the assessment as greatly impacted by commercial fishing operations.

    View the most recent assessment and strategies for the Coral Sea Fishery.

    Bycatch work plans

    The Coral Sea Fishery Bycatch and Discarding Workplan aims to minimise interactions with bycatch species. These include sharks, discarded quota species and protected species that have been identified through the ecological risk assessment framework.

    Go to the Coral Sea Fishery Bycatch and Discard Workplan.

    Harvest strategy

    A harvest strategy is used to help determine what the quota should be for the target species of the fishery. Fishing, environmental and economic information is included in the harvest strategy, which helps to monitor and maintain the sustainability of the targeted species.

    The Coral Sea Fishery has the following harvest strategies:

    • Aquarium Sector
    • Lobster and Trochus Sector
    • Sea Cucumber Sector
    • Line, Trawl and Trap Sector.

    All harvest strategies are developed in line with the Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy Policy and Guidelines.

    View the Coral Sea Fishery Harvest Strategies.

    Export approval

    To export from an Australian commercial fishery, the fishery must be accredited by the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

    Marine reserves

    Commonwealth marine reserves are areas established under Australian environment law to help conserve the spectacular marine life in our oceans. They allow ecologically sustainable use of our marine resources and provide special places for people to enjoy and appreciate the fantastic diversity of our marine habitats.

    Marine reserves are sometimes known as marine protected areas or marine parks and are managed by the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water.

    More information about marine reserves can be found on the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water website.

    Fishing in the fishery

    Fishing operators wanting to fish in the fishery must hold a permit.

    Download a copy of the latest Coral Sea Fishery Management Arrangements Booklet for a full description of all fishing requirements in the fishery.

    Fishery legislation

    Harvest strategy

    The objectives of the Coral Sea Fishery harvest strategies are to keep stocks within the fishery at ecologically sustainable levels and, within that context, maximise the economic returns to the Australian community, and to pursue efficient and cost-effective management.

    Here are just a few ways we are working with our stakeholders, who include industry, scientists, environmental groups and the community for an informed approach to fisheries management.

    Fishing industry

    There have not been any recent port visits due to minimising costs while the Commonwealth Marine Reserves Review, incorporating the Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve, is underway.

    Coral Sea Fishery Stakeholder Group

    The Coral Sea Fishery Stakeholder Group is the key body providing advice to AFMA on management and research issues in the Coral Sea Fishery. The stakeholder group is composed of fishery scientists, fishery industry members, AFMA representatives, state government representatives, environmental non-government organisation representatives and recreational representatives.

    There have been no recent meetings of this group pending announcement of the fishing methods and areas permitted in the Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve.

    Government departments

    AFMA works closely with other government departments, such as the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water. They help in providing advice and guidance on both domestic and international fisheries issues.

    State governments

    The Australian state governments manage fishing from the Australian coast out to 3 nm. Occasionally there is some overlap in fishing operations between the state and commonwealth jurisdictions and AFMA regularly communicates with the state fisheries agencies to manage any problems.

    Representatives from the state fisheries agencies also attend the Coral Sea Fishery Stakeholder Group meetings to provide expert advice.

    Environmental non-government organisations

    Representatives from environmental non-government organisations are engaged through several forums to provide advice on research and management issues in the Coral Sea Fishery.

    • AFMA holds two to three environmental forums annually.
    • There are representatives on the Coral Sea Fishery Stakeholder Group.

    Coral Sea Fishery Map

    Onboard observers

    One of the main monitoring methods used by AFMA is onboard scientific observers. Observers are people employed by AFMA to go out on boats and independently record catch, effort and biological information of each fishing trip.

    They take samples from fish, such as the otoliths or ear bones, and these are used later to determine the age of the fish caught.

    Observers also record the length, weight and sex of a sample of the fish caught during a trip and report on the other wildlife that may be seen, the weather conditions, the composition of commercial catch fate of species that are caught as bycatch.

    Boats in the Coral Sea Fishery must carry an AFMA observer when requested by AFMA.

    Read more about the Observer program.

    Satellite tracking

    A satellite monitoring system called a Vessel Monitoring System, or VMS for short, is fitted on all concession holders' boats. This system helps AFMA to monitor vessel position, course and speed. The system regularly transmits the information to a database at AFMA.

    Read more about our Satellite vessel tracking and monitoring program.

    Cameras on fishing boats – electronic monitoring

    AFMA has electronic monitoring systems on some fishing boats. These systems have sensors linked to surveillance cameras that record fishing activity. These recordings can then be collected and monitored by AFMA. Electronic monitoring gives fishers a cost-effective way to support monitoring and data collection.

    Read more about electronic monitoring of fishing boats.

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    Page last updated: 30/04/2024