North West Slope Trawl Fishery

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    The North West Slope Trawl fishery is managed by limited entry and regulating what gear type can be used. Operators must hold a permit that allows them to fish.

    The two major target species are deepwater prawn and scampi which are accessed opportunistically throughout the fishing season.

    There has been a recent change to North West Slope fishery boundary.

    Historical catch

    Species 2012-13 catch (tonnes) 2013-14 catch (tonnes) 2014-15 catch (tonnes) 2015-16 catch
    Scampi 30 33.3




    Download raw data on annual catches from AFMA catch disposal records and AFMA daily fishing logbooks.


    Total fishery value

    Confidential due to the small number of boats in the fishery.


    Fishing gear

    Fishers use bottom trawl.



    The North West Slope Trawl Fishery is located in deep water from the coast of the Prince Regent National Park to Exmouth between the 200m depth contour to the outer limit of the Australian Fishing Zone.


    Major landing ports

    • Darwin
    • Point Samson


    Markets supplied

    • Fresh and frozen product – domestic (Perth, Sydney and Brisbane)
    • Frozen product – international (United States, Spain, China and Japan)


    Fishing season

    12 month season, beginning on 1 July.

    Fishing in the fishery

    To fish in the fishery fishers must hold a valid fishing permit. Permits specify the area of operation, the boat being used, fishing methods used and species allowed to be taken. Under these permits fishers are also required to have a functioning vessel monitoring system and carry an observer when requested to do so.

    There are seven fishing permits (maximum number of vessels active at one time) each with a five year duration in the North West Slope Trawl Fishery.

    There are specific requirements that fishers must meet when fishing in the North West Slope Trawl Fishery.

    Download a copy of the latest Management Arrangements for the North West Slope Trawl Fishery and Western Deepwater Trawl Fishery for a full description of all fishing requirements in the fishery.


    Management plan

    There is no formal management plan for the fishery. The fishery is informally managed through fishing permit conditions.

    We recognise that managing fisheries involves a broad range of stakeholders including industry, scientists, environmental groups, the community and management.

    Engaging with our stakeholders allows us to make informed decisions regarding fisheries management.


    Fishing industry

    Each fishing season, AFMA officers visit the major fishing ports of the fishery. These visits allow AFMA and fishers to meet directly to discuss any concerns. Discussions about the current trends in fishing and catches during the season are also valuable information gained on these visits.  All this information is useful for the continuing management of the fishery.


    Recreational fishers

    Many of the fish species caught by commercial fishers in the fishery are also caught by recreational fishers. The recreational fishing of these species is managed by the state governments.


    Government departments

    AFMA works closely with other government departments, such as the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources and the Department of the Environment. They help in providing advice and guidance on both domestic and international fisheries policy.


    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 management advisory committee meetings.

    Onboard observers

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

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

    Observers also record the length, weight and sex of each 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 fishery must carry an AFMA observer when requested by AFMA.

    Read more about our Observer program.


    Satellite tracking

    A satellite monitoring system called a Vessel Monitoring System or VMS for short, is fitted to each concession holders boat. This system helps AFMA to monitor vessel position, course and speed. The tracking unit regularly transmits the information through a communications satellite to a land earth station. This information is sent by secure internet connection to a database at AFMA.

    Read more about our satellite tracking 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 such as the impacts of some fishing methods on protected species. 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: 17/02/2023