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Marine fisheries and aquaculture

Inquiry report

Released 24 / 05 / 2017

The report looks at whether fisheries regulation and management are impeding productivity improvement and investment. It also looks at whether resources are being used in a way that is maximising community welfare and will be used sustainably in the future.

This report was sent to Government on 19 December 2016 and publicly released on 24 May 2017.

Download the overview

Download the report

Government response

  • Key points
  • Contents summary
  • Following past over-fishing, Australian governments have applied policies that generally have improved sustainability. Only 6 per cent of stocks are today over-fished.
  • But policy settings are not maximising the value of fisheries to the community. In particular:
    • most commercial fisheries are managed primarily though controls over fishing methods, which can inhibit fishers from introducing more innovative and cost-effective practices
    • understanding of recreational and Indigenous customary fishing activity is limited despite widespread participation and increasing competition for some fish stocks
    • differences between the fishery management techniques adopted by governments add to the costs faced by fishers operating in cross-jurisdictional fisheries and to risks in managing the sustainability of stocks.
  • The allocation of access to fisheries should address social and cultural benefits, as well as economic benefits.
  • Recreational fishing, long viewed as having a minimal impact on fisheries, is having a material impact on some high-value stocks.
  • The better use of existing recreational fishing licensing systems, and the introduction of low-cost licensing in jurisdictions where it is not presently used, would provide the means for gathering evidence to better meet the future needs of recreational fishers and support environmental objectives in the long term.
    • A sound evidence base is not presently available to guide decisions on access and facilities for recreational fishers.
  • Prospects for the commercial fishing sector would be improved by governments providing greater certainty on access and the permitted intensity of fishing.
  • Governments should adopt individual transferable quota systems as the default management technique for commercial wild catch fisheries. This will provide greater confidence on stock sustainability, more scope for innovative and efficient fishing practices and facilitate structural adjustment.
  • Arrangements between governments for the management of cross-jurisdictional fish stocks should be streamlined to improve their effectiveness and reduce costs. This will require governments to prioritise and dedicate sufficient resources to reform.
  • Additional improvements to marine fisheries management include making standards for protected species clearer, streamlining some environmental approvals, delegating more operational decisions to fishery managers and limiting cost recovery to cover only efficient costs.
  • Indigenous customary fishing is not clearly recognised or managed in fishery laws. This has resulted in uncertainty over the rights and obligations of customary fishers and tensions between sectors in some high-demand fisheries. Indigenous Australians have limited input into fishery management, and there is little information on customary catch and practices.
    • Clarifying what constitutes Indigenous customary fishing and who is eligible to fish, and incorporating customary catch and practices into fisheries management regimes would help resolve these issues.
  • There has been little change in the regulation of aquaculture over the past 10 years but this has generally not impeded the sector’s growth. The major producing States have had key best practice regulatory features in place for some time and other States have faced challenges that are predominantly non-regulatory in nature.

Chapter 1 provides background to the inquiry, including why fisheries are regulated and the nature of fisheries regulation, the context for this inquiry and how the Commission has approached its task.

Chapter 2 discusses access arrangements for fisheries, including how governments set overall catch limits for fisheries, and how they should allocate access across sectors when there is competition for resources.

Chapter 3 considers the performance of the commercial fishing sector and ways to overcome impediments to the take-up of best practice management tools. It also recommends other changes to reduce regulatory burdens on the sector.

Chapter 4 considers the importance of recreational fishing, the need for policy changes to better incorporate the sector’s impacts and interests into fishery management, and the distinctive enforcement requirements for this sector.

Chapter 5 discusses the regulatory frameworks applying to customary fishing and recommends changes to support greater recognition and participation of Indigenous Australians in fishery management regimes.

Chapter 6 considers the extent and nature of detriment arising from cross-jurisdictional fisheries arrangements. Together with chapters 2, 3 and 7, this chapter sets out the key regulatory issues that affect the commercial wild catch fishing sector.

Chapter 7 considers the efficiency and effectiveness of environmental management regimes for fisheries.

Chapter 8 considers how the aquaculture sector has changed over the past 10 years and the influence of regulations on outcomes.

Chapter 9 explores regulatory arrangements in the seafood processing sector.

Chapter 10 recommends other ways that fishery management tasks can be improved.

Appendix A is a summary of consultation that contributed to the inquiry.

Appendix B contains case studies on the shared management arrangements for southern bluefin tuna, eastern school whiting, snapper, gummy shark and school shark, southern rock lobster and southeast Australian scallops. The case studies illustrate the range of problems presenting in the management of cross-jurisdictional fisheries.

Appendix C provides examples of fisheries managed by individual transferable quotas in Australia. It describes, in particular, the technical challenges posed by certain characteristics of fisheries and how fisheries managers are addressing those challenges.

Printed copies

Printed copies of this report can be purchased from Canprint Communications.

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