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RECREATIONAL FISHERIES MANAGEMENT IN AUSTRALIA


Overview of Marine Recreational Fishery

Management 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.

Victoria

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 bodies”;
  • 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 are:

  1. 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.
  2. 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 are managed.
  3. 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 Act.”

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 at www.fisheries.gov.au.

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

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 decisions.

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.

Western Australia

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 fisheries.

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 Committee”. www.fish.wa.gov.au ]

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.

Queensland

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 decisions.

Recreational fisheries are managed through size and bag limits, gear and method restrictions, and closures.

Marine recreational fishing isn’t subject to licensing in Queensland.

Sources:

The following internet sources were used in preparing this paper:

Victoria:

• 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 - www.fisheries.nsw.au

South Australia


• Legislation – www.parliament.sa.gov.au
• Fishery management and review of Fisheries Act – www.pir.sa.gov.au
• South Australian Recreational Fishing Advisory Council – www.sarfac.com

West Australia

• 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

Queensland

• Legislation – www.legislation.qld.gov.au
• Fishery management – www.dpi.qld.gov.au/fishweb

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