1. What are the new projects? 

There are two components of the recently announced budget measures that are interrelated, but will be managed discretely: 

Data Transformation - Efish: 

A 10 million dollar investment to enhance (or replace) AFMA’s systems as they relate to business services (e.g., Pisces).  This program will see the delivery of AFMA’s Data Strategy.  This includes: 

  • continued expansion of AFMA’s agency data capture platform (e.g., 100% elog, eCDRs, e-observer, etc); 
  • implementing a single integrated data architecture rather than standalone purpose-driven systems (refer to the eFish FRDC report for more background); 
  • improve links to/from data held by other agencies; 
  • provide opportunities to provide this data back to industry; and  
  • ideally to build a system that supports future traceability and providence requirements.  

Electronic Monitoring (EM): 

A 10 million investment in enhancing and expanding the EM program across Commonwealth fisheries and includes investment in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).  The key aim of expanding the program is to improve AFMA’s ability to collect fine scale data collection and implement vessel level management arrangements and incentivise the uptake of best practices by individual fishers to achieve a range of outcomes (e.g., reduce protected species interactions, improve bycatch handling practices etc.). 

2. Which fisheries will be targeted for EM? 

The overall aim is to extend EM into all Commonwealth fisheries, however, AFMA will work closely with stakeholders in each fishery to determine priorities for roll-out, and to inform what EM might look like for different types of fishing vessels and meet fishery specific data and information needs. 

3. How will the fishing industry participate in roll-out? 

AFMA will be pursuing a co-design approach for both the Data Transformation and EM programs.  Industry input will be essential for the data transformation program to ensure that all systems are user-friendly, can provide easy access reporting back to fishers, and that position industry to meet future supply chain and providence requirements.   

Equally, EM will be required in different configurations for different fisheries and vessel types, so industry input will be essential in ensuring that the end-state truly adds value to fisheries management and provides benefits to the industry itself. 

4. How will AFMA protect sensitive data if the aim is to share with other agencies? 

AFMA continues to implement a range of strategies to ensure the protection of industry data and information.  For example, AFMA has aligned to relevant government policy relating to the protection of sensitive data and information from both Cyber Security attacks and/or privacy concerns. This includes continuing to follow both the Australian Privacy Principles (APP) guidelines and the Australian Government’s Information Security Manual.  

Policies and procedures, including as they relate to data security, confidentiality and disclosure will be reviewed and updated to take account of any changes through the implementation of the Data Transformation and EM programs. 

5. How much money will the project save for the fishing industry? 

The roll-out of the new measures will only have a small direct saving to industry through the levy base.  This is because it is a four-year project, and existing programs for data collection and management will need to be maintained while new systems and programs are being built and implemented.  AFMA does expect long term savings for industry through the levy base and reduced time and cost of administration for fishers, but it is difficult to quantify what those savings will be.   

It is important to note that both components are essential to the evolution of Commonwealth fisheries and would otherwise need to be funded largely through the levy base.  Most of the $20 million cost of the project therefore represents a saving to industry, although this would likely have been recovered over a far longer period than 4 years. 

Importantly, there will be far greater functionality through the implementation of the new business systems for industry and AFMA. As highlighted, it is essential that these systems are co-designed, particularly the associated functionality of the systems, to ensure that they are fit for purpose and consider long term aspirations while balancing ongoing maintenance costs.   

Some examples of likely direct saving to levies include: 

  • EM – more efficient review times though investment in AI-ML, as well as potentially lower equipment costs due to economy-of-scale; and 
  • Data Transformation – modern modular and integrated ICT architecture, rather than several bespoke and ageing systems, allowing investment to build capability through time, and streamlined data entry and validation through the introduction of electronic services for AFMAs functions (elog, eCDRs, etc).  

Both projects are strongly focussed on reducing regulatory burden, providing efficiencies to industry, and saving costs from otherwise broad management and compliance measures.  For example:  

  • Implementation of EM in the longline, small pelagic and gillnet sectors has paved the way for vessel-specific arrangements and triggers for Threatened, Endangered and Protected species such as seabirds, dolphins and sea lions.  This has significantly reduced the need for blunt management measures that impact on all vessels in response to interactions; and 
  • Data Transformation – Significant streamlining for industry interactions with AFMA across all business processes (licensing, data reporting, quota management, levy payment and information dissemination), greater access to integrated data to inform business decision making and potentially less duplication between government agencies.  

6. What does Electronic Monitoring mean? 

To date EM has meant integrated video camera and sensor systems.  However, AFMA will be working closely with individual fisheries to consider how EM can be used to support fishery specific data and information requirements.  As such, it is possible that EM might look different in different fisheries.  AFMA will be working with industry to consider the range of possible EM systems and approaches, for example systems for small boats that capture still images and/or integrated sensor and camera systems. 

One of the important aspects of EM for AFMA is to ensure the integrity of the program and particularly the less tangible benefits of EM.  Independent, validated and verified data on fishing events is extremely valuable and of growing importance to industry certification schemes, government assessment requirements and social licence.  

7. Will AFMA be working with State and Territory fishery management agencies? 

The original FRDC Efish project was designed to be generic for a fisheries management agency, not just AFMA.  Some state agencies have noted their own data transformation projects and we will look to at least leverage on each other’s experience if not more.  Discussions on a national approach to EM (as there is for VMS) are already underway. 

8. What does EM mean for the AFMA observer program? 

AFMA observers provide a large number of essential services to the fishing industry in support of leading edge science and management decision-making.  In the short term, the EM project will not have an impact on the observer program as existing monitoring arrangements will need to continue.  In the longer term it is reasonable to expect that EM may replace some of the functions currently provided by observers, but there are other functions that will need to continue.  AFMA will also be looking to use the expertise of the observer team in the design and implementation of future EM and other monitoring programs.