of Marine Recreational Fishery
Developments in Australia
For most of the Australian
states the 1980s and 90s saw increasing pressure on their marine
recreational fisheries. Those states with the largest populations
and shorter coastlines faced greater pressures and understandably
have been fastest to investigate and implement new arrangements
for managing marine recreational fisheries. This paper primarily
focuses on the arrangements introduced in the states of New South
Wales and Victoria. Fishery management arrangements in South Australia
and Western Australia are currently under review with various options
undergoing public consultation.
This paper is based on information available on the internet. The
most useful sites are set out in an attachment to this paper.
The State of Victoria’s fishery management arrangements are
expressed in its Fisheries Act 1995. This provides for:
- The regulation of fisheries including licensing, permitting
and other forms of authorisation and the allocation
(under output controls) of fishery resources between users;
- The protection of aquatic biota;
- Fisheries co-management and the recognition of “peak
- Enforcement and Legal procedures including the establishment
of the “Recreational Fishing Licensing Trust Account”
The Act doesn’t
establish any recreational fisher right to fish, nor does it impose
any specific obligation on the Minister of Fisheries to have regard
to recreational fisher interests. The only time recreational fishing
or fishers are specifically referred to is in the Act’s statement
of objectives. Objective c states an objective of the Act is to
“promote sustainable commercial fishing and viable aquaculture
industries and quality recreational fishing opportunities for the
benefit of present and future generations”. Objective d states
another objective is to “facilitate access to fisheries resources
for commercial, recreational, traditional and non consumptive uses”.
Marine recreational fishing
in Victoria requires a license. There are bag, gear and boat limitations
to manage the extent of the recreational harvest.
Licensing was introduced in 1999. Part of the package involved the
state advancing money (to be subsequently repaid from the licensing
fee) to finance the buying back of commercial license holders in
areas where there was significant competition for the shared resource.
This buy back programme is ongoing. To date approximately 50% of
the commercial licenses held for bays and inlets on the Victorian
coast (and popular with recreational fishers) have been purchased
by the Department of Natural Resources and Energy on behalf of the
state government. This buy back is on a voluntary basis (and hence
its on going nature). The intention is, over time, to remove all
commercial fishing from these areas.
In addition to the buy back programme, the Act also provides for
the establishment of fisheries reserves that the Minister has used
to establish areas where commercial fishing is not permitted. The
Act provides for compensation to be paid to the commercial fishers
affected by such decisions. [The proposal “Enhancing Recreational
Fishing in Gippsland’s Bays and Inlets” is an example.]
The Act provides a structure and procedures for recreational fisher
participation in the management of their fisheries. The key features
- The recognition in statute of a peak body representing recreational
fisher interests that the Government deals with on recreational
fishing management issues. This body is VRFish, an organisation
that the Victorian Government helped into existence because of
the sector’s inability over number of years to reach agreement
on a single body to represent its interests. VRFish is funded
entirely from the licensing fee. Its principal purpose is to represent
the interests of the recreational fishing community to the Government
and the public. More information on VRFish is available at its
internet site www.vrfish.com.au.
- Recreational fisher participation on the Fisheries Co-Management
Council and the various steering committees that oversee the development
of fishery management plans through which the various fisheries
- A secure funding stream dedicated to recreational fishery management
. Revenue from the license fee is paid into a trust account. The
funds are only to be spent on recreational fishing management
and associated costs. A statutory organisation –the Fisheries
Revenues Allocation Committee on which recreational fishers are
represented advises the Minister on how the funds should be dispensed.
On a yearly basis approximately $AUS3.5m is received. Approximately
two thirds of this is used to defray the costs of the ongoing
buy back programme. The rest is used to meet the costs associated
with education programmes, grants to improve the quality of recreational
fishing , enforcement and monitoring, the peak body VRFish, and
the administration of the licence regime. More information on
the FRAC and how it operates can be found at www.nre.vic.gov.au.
New South Wales
New South Wales doesn’t have a significant commercial fishing
industry [Worth approximately $AUS 90m/year]. Nearly 90% of its
fish needs are supplied from out of state. The fisheries are managed
under the Fisheries Management Act 1994. The Act provides for the
management of the fisheries through:
- Output controls such as total allowable catch and “shares”,
bag limits, and closures;
- Input controls such as fishing gear restrictions; licensing
of fishing craft;
- Licensing of recreational fishers and the establishment of
a “Recreational Fishing (Saltwater) Trust Fund;
- Acquisition of commercial fishing entitlements;
- Fishery management plans; and
- Various statutory committees to assist the Minister in making
fishery management decisions.
Amongst the objectives of the Act are objectives “to promote
quality recreational fishing opportunities” and “to
appropriately share fisheries resources between the users of those
resources”. A foot note to the objectives records ”At
common law, the public has a right to fish in the sea, the arms
of the sea, and in the tidal reaches of all rivers and estuaries.
The public has no common law right to fish in non tidal waters-the
right to fish in these waters. However, the right to fish in tidal
or non tidal waters is subject to any restriction imposed by this
The Act does not establish any special rights for recreational fishers
other than those relating to representation on the various committees
established by the Act. Nor does the Act impose any requirements
on the Minister or the committees established under the Act to have
regard to recreational fishing interests.
Marine recreational fishing in New South Wales requires a license.
The purpose of the license is to:
- Enhance recreational fishing;
- Carry out research into fish and their eco systems;
- Managing recreational fishing; and
- Ensuring compliance with recreational fishing regulatory controls.
A committee (the NSW Recreational Fishing Saltwater Trust Expenditure
Committee) which consists of recreational fisher representatives
advices the Minister on how trust funds should be expended. The
annual NSW Fisheries Report contains a detailed statement of how
these funds are expended. See the annual report of the Trust or
the newsletter from the NSW recreational Fishing Trusts available
From May 2002 30 locations in estuarine waters have been established
as recreational fishing only. Within these areas commercial fishing
entitlements were surrendered in exchange for compensation. Most
but not all of the commercial entitlements have been acquired on
a voluntary basis. The Minister’s powers to cancel and compensate
have been used to establish one of the commercial free areas. The
buy-back has been funded by the state government. This up front
funding will be gradually repaid through the licensing fee regime.
Currently Fisheries NSW is negotiating with commercial fishers with
licenses to fish in the Botany Bay, Hawkesbury River to establish
further recreational fishing only areas close to Sydney.
One of the committees established under the Act is the Advisory
Council on Recreational Fishing (ACORF). It acts as the “voice”
of recreational fishers in NSW. The Council is charged with advising
the state government how recreational fishers view important fisheries
management issues and acts as a link for consultation between government
and recreational fishers. Recreational fishers comprise its membership.
South Australia’s fisheries are managed under the Fisheries
Act 1982. This Act is currently under review.
Currently, marine recreational fishing is managed through bag/boat
and size limitations, gear and method restrictions, and closures.
Marine recreational fishing isn’t licensed in South Australia.
The 1982 Act does not establish any right for recreational fishers
to fish, nor does it impose any specific obligation on the Minister
to have regard to recreational interests when making fishery management
A South Australian Recreational Fishing Advisory Council Inc has
been established to represent the interests of recreational fishers
and to advice government on recreational fishing interests. It is
fully funded by the State. Through fishery management committees
established under the Act it co manages South Australia’s
fisheries with the Government and the commercial sector. More information
on SARFAC is available at www.sarfac.com.
Fisheries in Western Australia are managed under five pieces of
legislation the principle one of which is the Fish Resources Management
Act 1994. Western Australia considers its fish resources to be fully
utilised at present and its rapidly rising population to be putting
pressure on these resources, particularly its inshore recreational
Recreational fisheries are managed through bag/boat limits, gear
and method restrictions, and closures. Some fisheries and specified
fish stocks are subject to licensing.
Fishery management and the supporting legislation are currently
being reviewed. [See the “Report to the Minister for Agriculture,
Forestry, and Fisheries by the Integrated Fisheries Management Review
License revenue from recreational fishing is paid into a Recreational
Fishing Trust Account. It is used to fund education and enhancement
programmes and to meet the operating costs of the Recreational Fishing
Advisory Committee. RFAC’s role is to advise the Minister
on recreational fishing interests, the management of recreational
fisheries and recreational fishing research needs.
Fisheries in Queensland are managed under the Fisheries Act 1994.
The Act does not establish any right for recreational fishers to
fish, nor does it impose any specific obligation on the Minister
to have regard to recreational interests when making fishery management
Recreational fisheries are managed through size and bag limits,
gear and method restrictions, and closures.
Marine recreational fishing isn’t subject to licensing in
The following internet sources were used in preparing this paper:
• Legislation – www.dms.dpc.vic.gov.au;
• Recreational fishing licence – www.nre.vic.gov.au
• Recreational fishing grants – www.nre.vic.gov.au
• VRFish – www.vrfish.com.au
• Fishery management policies – www.nre.vic.gov.au
New South Wales
• Legislation – www.legislation.nsw.gov.au
• Fishery management – www.fisheries.nsw.gov.au
• Advisory Council on Recreational Fishing – www.fisheries.nsw.gov.au
• Reports on the Recreational Fishing (saltwater) Trust Fund
• Legislation – www.parliament.sa.gov.au
• Fishery management and review of Fisheries Act – www.pir.sa.gov.au
• South Australian Recreational Fishing Advisory Council –
• Legislation – www.slp.wa.gov.au
• Fishery management and review – www.fish.wa.gov.au
• Recreational Fishing Advisory Committee and recreational
trust fund – www.fish.wa.gov.au
• Legislation – www.legislation.qld.gov.au
• Fishery management – www.dpi.qld.gov.au/fishweb