The Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery is a multi-sector, multi-species fishery that covers almost half of the Australian Fishing Zone.
AFMA manages this fishery by limiting the catch, restricting how many boats can fish and regulating what gear they can use.
About the fishery
|Species||2016-17 total allowable catch (tonnes)||2017-18 total allowable catch (tonnes)||2018-19 total allowable catch (tonnes)||2019-20 total allowable catch (tonnes)||2020-21 total allowable catch (tonnes)|
|Eastern school whiting||868||986||820||788||788|
Total fishery value (GVP)
$A 76 million (2017-18).
Many different types of gear are used in this fishery.
AFMA regulates what fishing gear can be used to target certain fish species. Specific conditions are attached to each fishing permit that tell a fisher where they are allowed to fish and what kind of fishing gear may be used.
Click each gear type below to read more about that gear.
- Danish seine
- Bottom trawl
- Midwater trawl
- Pair trawl
- Purse seine
- Bottom longline
- Automatic longline
- Demersal gillnet
The Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery stretches south from Fraser Island in southern Queensland, around Tasmania, to Cape Leeuwin in southern Western Australia.
Major landing ports
- Lakes Entrance
- Port Welshpool
- Port Lincoln
- Fresh product – Australia
- Frozen product – Limited exports
12 month season, beginning on 1 May.
Management of catch
This fishery is managed under a quota system that limits the amount of fish that boats can take in the fishery. This quota limit is also known as a total allowable catch. 34 different species/species groups are managed under the quota system in this fishery. Under this system, each fisher is limited to catching up to the amount of quota that they hold and the whole fishery is limited to the total allowable catch that is set each season. Setting quotas is one of the main methods AFMA uses to ensure these fish species remain sustainable.
The Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery Resource Assessment Groups and the South East Management Advisory Committee make recommendations to the AFMA Commission on what they think the total allowable catch for each species should be for each fishing season. Each year the AFMA Commission decides on the allowable catch using information provided by the fishery manager, industry members and scientists.
A number of sources are used to determine the amount of quota. For example, the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery Harvest Strategy looks at the catch and effort data in the fishery, environmental factors, stock assessments for the main targeted species in the fishery and other available scientific information.
The total allowable catch for each target species in this fishery is based on the largest amount of catch of a species that can be taken out of the ocean each year over an indefinite period (also known as maximum sustainable yield).
Licence to fish
Fishers need to be allocated statutory fishing rights to fish in this fishery.
Statutory fishing rights allow fishers to fish in the fishery and catch the fish species that are under a quota. The amount of quota an operator is allocated depends on the amount of rights they hold. The amount of quota changes every year.
Statutory fishing rights are transferable between fishers, they may also be known as individually transferable quota.
In the fishery there are currently:
- 57 trawl statutory fishing rights
- 37 scalefish hook statutory fishing rights
- 61 shark gillnet statutory fishing rights
- 13 shark hook statutory fishing rights.
Data about the catch and effort of the fishery is collected from the logbooks fishers have to fill out for every fishing operation. 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 operation
- the location of each operation
- the type and amount of gear used.
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.
All harvest strategies are developed in line with the Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy Policy and Guidelines.
A number of fishery closures are used in the fishery to manage both commercial species and bycatch species by protecting spawning habitat or to exclude a type of fishing gear from an area where bycatch issues are known to occur.
Indicative maps of these closures can be found in the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery Management Arrangements Booklet.
AFMA uses the information collected from logbooks and the Integrated Scientific Monitoring Program to conduct stock assessments. In this fishery, a tiered approach is used to assess different species based on the amount of information available. The outcome of these stock assessments is a recommended biological catch.
The recommended biological catch is the best scientific advice on what the total fishing mortality (landings from all sectors plus discards) should be for each species/stock. Harvest control rules are then applied to the recommended biological catch to calculate the weight of fish which can be sustainably caught. This is called the total allowable catch.
In this fishery, resource assessment groups annually review catches and the biological information collected, and where possible, stock assessments are completed to determine the status of the stock.
Conservation dependent species rebuilding strategies
Under the Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy Policy 2007, rebuilding strategies are required to be developed for all species which are below their biomass limit reference point. For most species, the limit reference point of 20 per cent of the unfished breeding stock is used. There are four species currently managed under rebuilding strategies in this fishery:
- Eastern gemfish
- Orange roughy
- School shark
- Blue warehou.
These strategies focus on the management actions needed to support stock recovery within a biologically reasonable timeframe and maximise its chances of long term survival.
To achieve this, the strategies:
- do not allow targeted fishing for rebuilding stocks
- ensure that incidental catch of the species is kept to a minimum
- contain measures to improve knowledge of stock status, including data collection and monitoring.
AFMA also has a management strategy in place for two species of upper-slope dogfish: Harrisson’s dogfish and southern dogfish. While not strictly a rebuilding strategy developed under the Commonwealth Harvest Strategy Policy 2007, it uses the same management arrangements mentioned above to achieve long-term recovery for these species.
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 risks to marine species, habitats and communities identified in the assessment as impacted by commercial fishing operations.
View the risk assessments and management strategies for the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery.
Bycatch and discarding workplans
A bycatch and discarding workplan outlines ways to minimise the bycatch of species that are caught as bycatch in the fishery. These species can include; threatened, endangered and protected species and other non-targeted fish species.
View the bycatch and discarding workplan for the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery.
Fishery closures for bycatch
A number of fishery closures are used in this fishery to manage commercial species and bycatch species by protecting breeding habitats or excluding specific types of fishing gear from an area where bycatch issues are known to occur.
Currently there are fishery area closures to prevent the bycatch of Australian sea lions, dolphins and upper-slope dogfish.
There are a number of threatened, endangered and protected species found within the area of this fishery.
Fishers must report any interaction with a protected species while fishing. AFMA also uses electronic monitoring systems to help monitor protected species interactions on some boats.
While the impact of fishing activities on most of these species is very small, there are a number of management arrangements for protected species in this fishery.
In consultation with the Department of the Environment and other stakeholders, AFMA has developed management arrangements for:
- Australian sea lions
- upper-slope dogfish
- fur seals.
View AFMA’s protected species management strategies.
To export from an Australian commercial fishery the fishery must be approved as a wildlife trade operation by the Department of the Environment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
The Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery maintains a wildlife trade operation accreditation which recognises that the fishery is being managed in an ecologically sustainable manner allowing the export of product from the fishery.
View the most recent accreditation conditions and recommendations for the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery.
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 the Environment.
More information about marine reserves can be found on the Department of the Environment website.
Fishing in the fishery
Fishing operators wanting to fish in the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery must hold:
- a boat statutory fishing right
- quota statutory fishing rights for quota species in the fishery.
Download a copy of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery Management Arrangements Booklet for a description of all fishing requirements in the fishery.
The management of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery is governed by the following legislation:
- Fisheries Management Act 1991
- Fisheries Administration Act 1991
- Fisheries Management Regulations 1992
- Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery Management Plan 2003.
SESSF Closures Direction No. 1 2015 (includes all other spatial closures)
The Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery Management Plan 2003 came into effect on 1 October 2003.
Total allowable commercial catch determination
The Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery Total Allowable Commercial Catch Determinations for quota species, non-quota species and overcatch and undercatch sets the total allowable commercial catch limits for each fishing season. These limits are recommended by AFMA in consultation with our committees and decided by the AFMA Commission.
We recognise that fisheries management involves a broad range of stakeholders.
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.
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.
Some of the fish species caught in the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery are also caught by recreational fishers. Although recreational fishing is managed by the relevant state authority AFMA engages regularly with recreational fishers to discuss issues of mutual concern.
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 issues.
The Australian state governments manage fishing from the Australian coast out to 3 nm. Occasionally there is some overlap in fishing operations of state and commonwealth jurisdictions and AFMA regularly communicates with the state fisheries agencies to manage any problems.
Environmental non-government organisations
A representative of conservation/environmental non-government organisations is a member of the South East Management Advisory Committee and provides input and advice to this committee.
Management advisory committees
The South East Management Advisory Committee and the Great Australian Bight Management Advisory Committee are the main groups that discuss and provide advice on the management of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery.
See the South East Management Advisory Committee and the Great Australian Bight Management Advisory Committee webpages for a summary of the latest discussions and outcomes from the committees.
Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery Resource Assessment Group
The Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery Resource Assessment Group is the overarching assessment group providing research and scientific advice for the fishery. Advice and recommendations are provided to and from four other resource assessment groups responsible for certain species stock assessments. They are listed below.
Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery Resource Assessment Group and species assessed as part of the stock assessment that relate to each are as follows:
|Slope Resource Assessment Group||Shelf Resource Assessment Group|
|Shark Resource Assessment Group||Great Australian Bight Resource Assessment Group|
- Slope Resource Assessment Group
- Shelf Resource Assessment Group
- Shark Resource Assessment Group
- Great Australian Bight Resource Assessment Group.
Marine Mammal Working Group
The Marine Mammal Working Group is an advisory committee made up of fishers, scientists, environmental representatives, marine mammal experts and government representatives set up to provide AFMA with specialist advice to assist fisheries managers in the development and implementation of management measures to minimise fishery interactions with marine mammals.
A sub-committee of the Marine Mammal Working Group, the Dolphin Mitigation Sub-Committee, was established in 2013 to provide AFMA with specialist advice on dolphin mitigation and assist in the development and implementation of AFMA’s dolphin strategy.
Protected species management
The rebuilding strategies can be found on the commercial fish species rebuilding strategies page.
The five year review reports (published July 2020) are also available there.
SESSF data summary up to 2019 (PDF, 6.5MB)
SESSF data summary up to 2018 (PDF, 6MB)
SESSF ISMP Discards report up to 2018 (PDF, 3.5MB)
Stock assessments for SESSF: 2019 - Part 1 (PDF, 28MB)
Stock assessments for SESSF: 2019 - Part 2 (PDF, 53MB)
Stock assessments for SESSF: 2018 - Part 1 (PDF, 37MB)
Stock assessments for SESSF: 2018 - Part 2 (PDF, 51MB)
The fishery is comprised of the following major sectors:
Commonwealth South East Trawl Sector
This sector covers the area of the AFZ extending southward from Barrenjoey Point (north of Sydney) around the New South Wales, Victorian and Tasmanian coastlines to Cape Jervis in South Australia.
East Coast Deepwater Trawl Sector
This sector extends in a radius around Lord Howe Island off New South Wales. All fishing methods are prohibited within 25 nm of Lord Howe Island and Ball’s Pyramid, and the sector is bounded to the west by a trawl exclusion zone.
Scalefish Hook Sector
This sector includes all waters off South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania from 3 nm to the extent of the Australian Fishing Zone. It also includes waters off southern Queensland (south of Sandy Cape) and New South Wales from approximately the 4000 m depth contour (60-80 nm from the coast) to the extent of the AFZ. Waters inside this line off the New South Wales and Queensland coasts, and inside 3 nm around South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania, are managed by the state governments.
Shark Hook and Shark Gillnet Sector
This sector include waters from the New South Wales/Victorian border westward to the South Australian/Western Australian border, including the waters around Tasmania, from the low water mark to the extent of the Australian Fishing Zone.
Each trap operator has a different area in which they are authorised to fish. Refer to concession conditions for more information.
Great Australian Bight Trawl Sector
This sector extends from Cape Jervis in South Australia westward to Cape Leeuwin in southern Western Australia.
Refer to the Boat Operating Procedures Manual for the Great Australian Bight Trawl Fishery for management arrangements in this sector.
Fishery closure maps
Commonwealth Trawl Closures
Scalefish and Shark Hook Closures
Auto longline Closures
Great Australian Bight closures
East Coast SESSF Closures
AFMA uses many methods to monitor the compliance of fishing activities and collect data on fish stocks. These include:
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 Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery must carry an AFMA observer when requested by AFMA.
Read more about the Observer program.
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.