Fisheries Management Paper No. 17 (FMP 17)

Co-management in Commonwealth fisheries – establishing effective co-management arrangements

The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) has developed a draft FMP and seeks comment on the paper from a wide range of stakeholders. 

The following information, questions and answers are to assist the consultation process on the draft paper. 


1. Why is AFMA engaging in co-management?

  • Research and experience globally and in Australia shows that co-management can benefit government (and consequently, the public) and the fishing industry where greater collaboration and sharing of expertise is applied in managing commercial fisheries.
  • AFMA’s direct experience with more than a decade of co-management is that industry groups, underpinned by appropriate governance, become effective partners in the pursuit of broad fishery sustainability when engaging in co-management.
  • The co-management process facilitates a professional working relationship, builds mutual trust and respect, and increases knowledge and innovation.
  • Section 88 of the Fisheries Administration Act 1991 provides for AFMA to enter into a co-management arrangement with stakeholders in a fishery.  


2. Is there an expectation by AFMA that all Commonwealth fisheries should have co-management arrangements?

  • No, the FMP is there as a guide for those fishery groups that do wish to explore co-management.
  • Consideration of co-management is a process of open negotiation that may or may not result in a formal agreement.


3. Does co-management require an industry group to have resources to invest?

  • Co-management can exist across a wide scale of activity, from minor through to significant levels of direct industry involvement in the fishery management process.
  • It is most likely that a fishery group wanting to engage in co-management for the first time will begin small, for example, just one or two co-management activities that may not require additional resourcing.
  • Industry groups would consider the benefits and costs of employing resources to engage in co-management.
  • AFMA’s experience is that an industry group focusses initially on what it believes offers most benefit to its members within the capacity it has.  Co-management arrangements can expand over time in line with growing capacity and increasing understanding of benefit versus cost. 
  • An example of activities covered in two different co-management arrangements currently in place is at Box 1.


4. What kind of fishery management activities can industry undertake through co-management?

  • A well-governed fishery group could have a role in most of the fishery management activities.
  • AFMA’s legislative responsibilities and relevant government policies would continue to apply regardless of whether AFMA or a fishery group carries out a function.
  • The process of negotiating a co-management arrangement provides the best opportunity to consider the activities the fishery group is best suited to begin with.


5. Are there activities that would not be subject to co-management?

  • There are some fishery management powers and functions that are not suitable for co-management, such as:
  • Allocation of statutory fishing rights
  • Determination of a management plan
  • Compliance powers and functions, such as surveillance and seizure of catch and equipment.
  • Co-management can also only apply to functions that AFMA would normally undertake to meet its objectives.  Industry-focused activities such as marketing, representation and advocacy do not meet this requirement and would not be subject to co-management.


6. Where resources are needed to engage in an agreed co-management arrangement, how will those resources be funded?

  • If a cost-recovered function normally undertaken by AFMA is done by the fishery group under a co-management arrangement, funding may come from the fishery levy base. As is always the case, agreement to spend public money will depend on whether that expenditure delivers value for money.


7. Does co-management mean AFMA then has no responsibility for the decisions and activities that a fishery group undertakes?

  • No. Co-management is a partnership between the fishing industry and AFMA. AFMA can never abrogate the responsibilities it has for pursuing its legislated objectives.  In other words, AFMA will always carry the responsibility for any failures in the management of the fishery.
  • A co-management arrangement is carefully negotiated and detailed in documentation to ensure the fishery group and AFMA fully understand the responsibilities each has under the arrangement.
  • AFMA’s experience demonstrates that fishery groups engaging in co-management set themselves a high bar for success and do not want the arrangement to fail.
  • Should there be evidence of failure, AFMA maintains capacity to direct the fishery group or in the case of a serious failure, terminate the arrangement.
  • Such actions have not been required in the co-management arrangements that have existed. In all cases, arrangements have delivered mutual benefit for government and the fishery.


8. What checks and balances are in place to ensure that a co-managed fisheries performs well?

  • Co-management arrangements require at least annual performance monitoring and review against agreed performance measures and indicators. The process of review will also identify lessons learned from the arrangement and improvements that should be made to it in future arrangements.
  • The co-management process is hands-on and open so that both AFMA and the co-management partner remain informed about how the fishery is being managed at all times.
  • Co-management arrangements do not change how a fishery is being managed. All the relevant policies and legislation must be adhered to under co-management.

Examples of co-management activities currently in place in  Commonwealth fisheries.

Northern Prawn Fishery – a high level of shared responsibility
  • Data - fishery catch and effort data – management, quality control and reporting; includes a delegated data sharing authority
  • Crew-member observer program – management, skills training, collection, species identification and reporting of fishery interactions with listed and at-risk species 
  • Undertaking economic & fishing gear surveys – management, collection and reporting 
  • Fishery independent scientific monitoring program – management, vessel charter and crew support
  • Management of broodstock collection for prawn aquaculture
  • Management of In-season catch monitoring and reporting for season length controls


Gillnet Hook and Trap Fishery – a lower level of shared responsibility
  • data collection, collecting biological data on school and gummy shark, pink ling and blue eye trevalla; 
  • trip limit management of blue eye trevalla catches on seamounts.  
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Page last updated: 13/02/2023