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    This Fisheries Management Paper sets out the Australian Fisheries Management Authority’s (AFMA’s) policy for the disposal of fishing vessels, catch and gear where forfeiture has been ordered by a court as part of action taken in relation to a breach of the fisheries legislation.

    This Paper sets out AFMA’s policy for the disposal of fishing vessels, catch and gear where forfeiture has been ordered by a court as part of action taken in relation to a breach of the fisheries legislation.

    Disposal of forfeited fishing vessels, catch and gear is a consequence of a breach of fisheries legislation and is the end result of a process which involves the apprehension of a vessel, successful court action and an order by the court to forfeit the vessel, catch and/or gear to the Commonwealth.

    Forfeited vessels are the property of the Commonwealth and are subject to the obligations arising from Commonwealth audit and finance legislation and regulations. Compliance with these regulations is subject to scrutiny by the Auditor-General.

    In certain cases, catch, due to its perishable nature, must be disposed of prior to prosecution action. Where this happens, the proceeds of the catch are returned to the owner in the event of an unsuccessful prosecution.

    There are a number of Commonwealth agencies involved in the disposal arrangements and consideration must be given to their requirements during the disposal process. For example, certain quarantine, customs and sea dumping obligations must be complied with.

    Although forfeited fishing vessels, catch and gear ‘belong’ to the Commonwealth, AFMA takes the lead role in their disposal in accordance with its statutory responsibility for actions against illegal fishing in the Australian Fishing Zone.

    AFMA is required to ensure that the disposal policy and procedures meet the business objectives of AFMA and suit the operating environment within which AFMA operates.

    Accordingly, AFMA does not seek to retain revenue from the sale of forfeited property, nor does it actively promote the development of markets for property of this nature. Rather, any surplus funds available after necessary costs have been met are paid into the Commonwealth’s Consolidated Revenue Fund.

    In relation to the disposal of forfeited fishing vessels, catch and gear, AFMA's objectives are to ensure that:

    • AFMA's ability to meet its fisheries management tasks is not compromised by the deployment of resources and effort to the disposal process;
    • the forfeited vessel, catch and gear are disposed of in a timely manner;
    • arrangements are in place to safeguard vessels, catch and gear during the period of time from apprehension until the court process is completed;
    • a consistent approach is taken;
    • arrangements are in place to ensure that the interests of Commonwealth and State agencies, including the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS), the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service (AQIS) and relevant environmental protection agencies, are complied with;
    • the sale of forfeited fishing vessels, catch and gear has a limited impact on local markets or industry or causes, or has the potential to cause, an unacceptable threat to Australia’s natural resources;
    • matters of national interest are considered, including the prospect of the sale of a vessel causing misreported foreign fishing activity and Border Protection Command resources subsequently being wasted by being deployed for follow-up action;
    • all parties interested in the purchase of forfeited fishing vessels, catch and gear are treated equitably and fairly;
    • there are high standards of probity in the conduct of disposal matters; and
    • all procedures and practices are able to withstand close scrutiny and review.

    To ensure that AFMA's objectives for the disposal of forfeited fishing vessels, catch and gear are met, the following operating arrangements and requirements apply:

    • AFMA will dispose of such assets in a timely manner and at least cost to the Commonwealth;
    • where a clear profit can be demonstrated from the sale of forfeited fishing vessels, catch or gear, where there may be only limited adverse price effects on local markets and where local fisheries surveillance arrangements are not adversely affected, then the forfeited vessels, catch and gear should be sold;
    • where large consignments of catch are to be sold, and where it can be demonstrated that a sale on the local market will adversely affect market opportunities for local fishermen, then AFMA will, in consultation with the relevant government agencies, seek to sell the catch for the export market only where the product satisfies export standards;
    • Fisheries Officers and AFMA contracted caretakers will be made available to oversight and coordinate arrangements for the safe keeping of vessels and their subsequent disposal;
    • Fisheries Officers will be trained and well versed in Commonwealth audit and finance regulations and directions governing disposal action, including theEnvironment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981;
    • Fisheries Officers responsible for disposal action will consult at all times with the Manager National Compliance Operations and seek formal approval for any disposal action;
    • caretaking arrangements will be subject to open tender and competition;
    • caretaking arrangements will be formalised by contracts between the successful tender and AFMA. Short term arrangements may be made for caretaking and vessel security where no longer-term arrangement exists;
    • all activities associated with caretaking will be subject to continual and ongoing review and assessment by AFMA;
    • disposal action will have regard to customs, quarantine and sea dumping requirements; and
    • when necessary consultations will take place with all relevant government agencies including harbour/marine authorities on disposal action.

    AFMA welcomes and encourages public comment and suggestions on disposal procedures and arrangements.

    AFMA is conscious that there are a number of agencies involved in this matter and all agencies should be able to ensure that their own statutory requirements are not adversely affected or compromised by arrangements developed and agreed by AFMA. Further, AFMA will continue to ensure that relevant or representative industry interests are consulted to ensure that market impacts are minimised by actions taken in accordance with this policy.

    Finally, AFMA must ensure that the national interest is not jeopardised through an action which might result in unacceptable risk to our natural resources.

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    Page last updated: 16/05/2024