Commercial and recreational fishing

2016

Commercial fishing

Australia’s commercial wild-caught marine fisheries are highly diverse and contribute significantly to the economy. Scallops; prawns; crabs; squid; coastal fish, such as whiting and flathead; reef fish, such as coral trout; shelf and deep-water fish, such as sardines, ling and blue-eye trevalla; and oceanic tuna and billfish are all caught in Australian fisheries. In 2013–14, wild-caught fisheries generated $1.5 billion, up from $1.4 billion in 2012–13, and produced approximately 150,000 tonnes of seafood for local, domestic and export markets (Flood et al. 2014, Savage & Hobsbawn 2015). Nearly 50 per cent of the total production value is exported, with the majority going to Asian markets, while imports account for almost 70 per cent of the fish consumed in Australia (Savage & Hobsbawn 2015).

The adoption in 1979 of the Offshore Constitutional Settlement aimed to address longstanding jurisdictional issues between the Australian Government, and the states and territories (Gullett 2013). The settlement reinforced shared responsibility for commercial fisheries between the governments of the states and the Northern Territory, and the Australian Government. State jurisdiction extends from the low-water mark to a baseline generally 3 nautical miles offshore, and Australian Government jurisdiction extends from 3 nautical miles to the edge of the national jurisdiction (Vince 2015). Under the settlement, each sector’s issues are dealt with separately within ‘agreed arrangements’.

Although commercial fisheries operate across all states and the Northern Territory, and out to the limit of the Australian EEZ, fishing effort is not evenly distributed, and commercial fisheries across jurisdictions vary in their distribution and intensity.

Most commercial fishing catches in 2012–13 were derived from South Australian (44,215 tonnes), Commonwealth (39,118 tonnes) and Queensland (24,859 tonnes) waters, with the remaining states and the Northern Territory catching less than 20,000 tonnes each (Savage & Hobsbawn 2015). The greatest value of catches is derived from the states and the Northern Territory; 23 per cent of the total value of commercial fisheries was derived from Australian Government–managed fisheries in 2012–13 (Figure MAR11).

The impact of commercial fisheries on the marine environment varies, with different fishing gear and fishing methods having different impacts on species that might be caught as bycatch and the habitats where fishing takes place. Methods are highly varied, and include the use of small-scale nets, pelagic longlines and large-scale trawl nets (Flood et al. 2014). Trophic structure and ecosystem productivity can be affected if target or nontarget species are removed at too high a level in the long term (Smith et al. 2011), or if habitats are degraded through commercial fishing (e.g. see Box MAR2). The variability in impacts associated with commercial fishing, the management arrangements in place and changes in these arrangements since 2011 mean that commercial fisheries, on a national basis, are assessed as having a low impact and an improving trend.

The status of the main species caught by commercial fisheries is regularly reported by the Australian Government, the states and the Northern Territory (e.g. QDAFF 2013, Grubert et al. 2013, André et al. 2015, Fletcher & Santoro 2015, NSW DPI 2015a, Patterson et al. 2015a, PIRSA 2015). In addition, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, in conjunction with the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, produces annual reports on commercial fisheries and aquaculture statistics, and biennial reports on the status of key Australian fish stocks across state, territory and Australian Government jurisdictions (Flood et al. 2014, Savage & Hobsbawn 2015).

Of a total of 238 identified stocks from 68 species, (Flood et al. 2014) assessed 170 stocks across state, territory and Australian Government jurisdictions, focusing predominantly on commercially fished species, but also including recreational catches, where appropriate. Of these stocks, they classified:

  • 129 as sustainable
  • 7 as recovering from past overfishing
  • 19 as being in a state where fishing is too high (but not yet in a state of being overfished)
  • 4 as being in a state where environmental processes have reduced the stock to a low point
  • 11 as overfished.

Those stocks classified as overfished occurred in both Australian Government, and state and territory jurisdictions (Flood et al. 2014). The remaining 68 stocks were unable to be assigned a stock status classification, because insufficient information exists to determine stock status or information is conflicting.

In addition to target species, nearly all commercial fisheries catch species that are not the target of the fishery. These are mostly other fish or invertebrate species, but can also include species protected under the EPBC Act in threatened, migratory or marine categories, such as sea snakes, marine turtles, seabirds, sharks and marine mammals.

The EPBC Act allows interaction with listed species if they are undertaken in accordance with an accredited management plan or regime. All Australian Government–managed fisheries have been assessed and accredited under the EPBC Act, on the basis that management plans or regimes include all reasonable steps to ensure that listed species are not adversely affected by fishing operations. Sharks listed under the Act as migratory species (porbeagle, shortfin mako and longfin mako) can be kept and traded if brought up dead, if the operator is fishing in accordance with an accredited fisheries management plan. Live sharks that are listed as migratory species must be returned to the sea unharmed. All interactions (whether animals are dead or alive) must be reported. A memorandum of understanding between the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) and the Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy allows AFMA to report interactions with protected species in AFMA-managed commercial fisheries on behalf of fishers (Table MAR1).

Although interactions with protected species are required to be reported under state or territory legislation and the EPBC Act, information on species caught across state and territory jurisdictions is not as readily available as that for the Australian Government jurisdiction. Further, reporting is often at the species group level rather than the individual species level, and few details of individuals caught are collected. This limits the use of reporting frameworks for assessing the impacts of commercial fishing on individual species and populations (see also below). Reporting is largely based on logbook information provided by commercial fishery operators, with observations of interactions by fishery observers, in general, restricted to less than 10 per cent of all commercial fisheries (although, where interactions have been recorded, observer coverage in some commercial fisheries can be as high as 100 per cent).

Table MAR1 Number of reported interactions of AFMA-managed fisheries with species listed under the EPBC Act, 2012–15

Fishery

Year

Turtle

Sea snake

Dolphin

Whale

Fur seal/sea lion

Seabird

Sawfish

Shark

Seahorse/pipefish

Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery

2012

10

0

0

0

0

0

0

1683

0

2013

15

0

1

0

1

0

0

2015

0

2014

7

0

0

0

0

0

0

1125

0

2015

30

0

7

3

0

14

0

2093

0

Northern Prawn Fishery

2012

72

8977

2

0

0

0

476

0

74

2013

72

8150

2

0

0

0

507

0

140

2014

36

4787

1

0

0

0

343

0

140

2015

63

7527

0

0

0

7

307

0

140

Small Pelagic Fishery

2012

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2013

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

2014

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

2015

0

0

9

0

15

2

0

23

0

Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery

2012

1

0

19

0

217

196

0

288

405

2013

0

0

9

0

259

94

0

157

0

2014

0

0

14

0

133

18

0

157

0

2015

0

0

29

0

128

66

0

166

0

Torres Strait Prawn Fishery

2012

0

242

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2013

4

771

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

2014

4

1091

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

2015

3

669

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery

2012

6

0

0

0

0

0

0

764

0

2013

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

325

0

2014

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

263

0

2015

3

0

0

0

0

0

0

87

0

AFMA = Australian Fisheries Management Authority; EPBC Act = Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999

Note: Interactions include those with animals that are reported as alive, injured, dead or unknown. Values presented are the total of all categories across all commercial fisheries managed by the Australian Government. All interactions are reported as per reporting requirements under the EPBC Act. Interactions listed are derived from commercial fisheries logbooks and may not include all interactions listed in fishery observer logbooks. Logbook data are not routinely verified, and therefore AFMA cannot attest to the accuracy of these data or authenticate that records are complete. Values are numbers reported and do not account for variability in effort across fisheries.

Source: Protected species interaction reports, Australian Fisheries Management Authority

Total bycatch has been estimated for some commercial fisheries and jurisdictions (e.g. Kangas et al. 2007, Tuck et al. 2013), but there has been no national assessment to date, largely because reporting frameworks are not consistent across jurisdictions.

A framework for assessing the ecological impacts of fishing has been developed and applied to several Australian commercial fisheries to assess the risks to the many nontarget species taken in fisheries managed by the Australian Government (Hobday et al. 2011). However, such assessments and the estimated impacts of fisheries on bycatch species are limited by a general lack of information on bycatch species, resulting in high uncertainty in assessments. Similarly, habitat assessments have been completed for only a small number of fisheries, and these have been mostly semiquantitative. The cumulative impacts of fishing on marine habitats have not been analysed on a national scale (see Box MAR2).

Box MAR2 Footprint of commercial demersal trawl fishing

The most extensive direct human pressure on the seabed in Australia is demersal trawling for fishes, prawns and scallops by commercial fisheries. Worldwide, it is commonly understood that trawl gear has substantial direct impacts on seabed habitats (Jennings & Kaiser 1998), with most concern surrounding impacts on delicate long-lived structure-forming biota that may be easily damaged and slow to recover (Rice et al. 2015).

Formal assessments of the impacts of demersal trawling on habitats have been completed for only a small number of Australian commercial fisheries (Fulton et al. 2006; Pitcher et al. 2007a,b, 2015, 2016a; Bustamante et al. 2011; Williams et al. 2011; Pears et al. 2012; Pitcher 2013, 2014). These assessments include the largest fisheries and therefore account for a large percentage of the total region in which demersal trawl fisheries occur.

Some other fisheries have implemented qualitative consideration of habitat risks under ecologically sustainable development objectives, and the regional marine planning process attempted a national qualitative assessment of cumulative risks. A major impediment to such assessments, however, is that most regions lack suitable data on seabed habitat types and their distributions—key information needed to determine habitat status. Until recently, there has been no national-scale quantitative analysis of the cumulative spatial extent or ‘footprint’ of demersal trawl fishing operations (i.e. the area of seabed trawled at least once in a specified period) that may be used to assess the potential for impacts of demersal trawling on seabed habitats in Australia. Further, how the footprint on a national scale might change through time is yet to be assessed.

Calculating footprints

Recently, confidential high-resolution data on trawling effort were collated for all Australian state and territory demersal trawl fisheries, as part of an Australian contribution to an international collaboration. At the same time, Commonwealth trawl footprints were mapped and reported for bioregions at the subregional scale under the Integrated Marine and Coastal Regionalisation of Australia (IMCRA) (Pitcher et al. 2016b). These effort data, covering 3–5 years after 2007, were converted to a common scale of swept area per square kilometre (R Pitcher, unpublished data). This common scale allowed quantification of the footprint of all demersal trawling as a percentage of each IMCRA shelf mesoscale bioregion (0–200 metre depth) and off-shelf provincial bioregions (restricted to 200–1000 metre depth).

The total national demersal trawl footprint (the area trawled at least once) averaged almost 84,000 square kilometres in any 1 year during the 3–5-year period and 102,000 square kilometres during multiple years, representing 3.2 per cent of the total area of the Australian continental shelf and 3.8 per cent of the Australian slope.

Spatial variation in footprint

The demersal trawl footprint differs substantially among bioregions (Figure MAR12a): half of the bioregions have footprints of 0–2.5 per cent each, two-thirds have footprints of less than 5 per cent each, and more than three-quarters have footprints of less than 10 per cent each. Bioregions with the highest footprints include West Tasmania Transition slope at 42.3 per cent, followed by Batemans Shelf, Hawkesbury Shelf, Manning Shelf, South-east Transition slope and Tweed–Moreton (all 30–40 per cent).

On a marine region scale, the Temperate East Marine Region is most extensively trawled, followed by the South-east Marine Region (where trawling on the slope is most intense) and the Great Barrier Reef (Figure MAR12, insets). Extensive trawling occurs almost continuously from the slope south of Swains Reefs in the Great Barrier Reef to eastern Bass Strait.

Within each footprint (i.e. within the area that has been trawled), those bioregions with the most intensive demersal trawl activity (Figure MAR12b) include the West Tasmania Transition slope bioregion (a swept area of approximately 93 per cent within a footprint of 42.3 per cent of the total area, indicating an average annual sweep of 2.2 times across the footprint) and the Tweed–Moreton bioregion (a swept area of approximately 79 per cent within a footprint of 31.8 per cent of the total area, indicating an average annual sweep of 2.5 times across the footprint). Other intensively trawled bioregions, with relative swept areas of approximately 50–60 per cent and average annual sweeps of approximately 1.5–1.9 times, include the Batemans Shelf, Hawkesbury Shelf, South-east Transition slope and Wet Tropic Coast bioregions. Another ecological subregion with high trawling footprint and intensity is in the outer Great Australian Bight Province (Pitcher et al. 2016b).

Temporal variation in footprint

In recent decades, the total annual effort in most demersal trawl fisheries has been declining—in some cases, substantially (Figure MAR13). Consequently, the footprints of these fisheries have also contracted (Great Barrier Reef: Pears et al. 2012; South East Trawl Fishery: Pitcher 2013, Pitcher et al. 2015; Northern Prawn Fishery: W Rochester, CSIRO, pers. comm., 29 February 2016), although the contraction in trawling footprint is not directly proportional to the reduction in effort. For example, in the Torres Strait Trawl Fishery, effort has decreased by 72 per cent during 2005–11, whereas the footprint has decreased by 54 per cent.

Impacts

Quantification of demersal trawl footprints indicates the level of potential risk to seabed habitats, but not actual impact. Actual impact depends on whether sensitive seabed habitats are present within high-footprint bioregions and whether demersal trawling is co-located with such habitats at fine spatial scales. Detailed quantitative assessments of these impacts in the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait (Pitcher 2013, Pitcher et al. 2007a, 2007b, 2016a) showed that most habitat-forming biota naturally occurred in environments that were largely not trawled, and thus the majority had been affected to only a minor extent. Only a few worst cases were estimated to have been reduced by up to 23 per cent from their untrawled status when trawl effort peaked in the late 1990s. In the South-east Marine Region (Pitcher et al. 2015), a similar assessment estimated that gorgonians, bryozoans, Solenosmilia spp., sponges, soft corals and some other cnidarians had been reduced by approximately 10–20 per cent, and several other taxa had been reduced by approximately 5–10 per cent at regional scales when trawl effort peaked around 2005. In both regions, bottom habitats are predicted to be recovering since then.

Across most of the Temperate East Marine Region, where the demersal trawl footprint is greatest, there is very little information on seabed habitats, and, as a consequence, the impact of demersal trawling in this region is largely unknown.

Management

Management and policy actions under ecologically sustainable development objectives have led to restructuring of the commercial industry and licence buybacks in most fisheries. This has resulted in a reduction in demersal trawling effort and consequential contractions in footprints (Pears et al. 2012, Pitcher 2013, Pitcher et al. 2015). In almost all Australian trawl fisheries, the total amount of demersal trawling has declined substantially since effort peaks of 1–3 decades ago, perhaps by as much as 3–4-fold in some cases, to stabilise at lower levels in the past 5 years. Even when effort levels were highest (including records for foreign trawling), it is inconceivable that past footprints could have been greater than about 10–15 per cent of Australia’s seabed, and most areas have almost certainly never been trawled. Thus, most areas are unaffected by trawling; even in trawled areas, most habitats are in good condition at landscape scales—although areas of localised impact exist.

Many demersal trawl fisheries have implemented closed areas to protect stock or nursery areas, or to reduce conflict with other sectors. Closures of representative areas have also been implemented in recent years by the Australian Government, the states and the Northern Territory, and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Although these measures may not have specifically intended to reduce demersal trawling footprints, some have effectively achieved this, and recovery of affected sensitive fauna is expected because of associated reductions in trawling impacts (Pitcher et al. 2007a, 2015, 2016a).

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) has also played a role in reducing the effects of trawl fishing. The EPBC Act aims to ensure that fishing is conducted in a manner that minimises impact on the ecosystem, including benthic communities and habitats, particularly for export fisheries. Third-party accreditations, such as those coordinated by the Marine Stewardship Council, are having a similar influence, as industries strive to gain market recognition for the sustainability of their operations and retailers increasingly move to stocking only certified products. Such accreditations require fisheries to have formal management frameworks in place that are independently reviewed and recognised, to ensure sustainability of fishery stocks and maintenance of ecosystems they might affect.

Outlook

Current and ongoing management to achieve economic efficiencies and environmental sustainability is likely to continue to reduce fishing effort and associated footprints in many demersal trawl fisheries, with expected ongoing recovery of habitats. In the case of some sensitive seabed habitats, however, this may take a long time (e.g. Williams et al. 2010b).

The biennial Status of key Australian fish stocks reports (FRDC 2012) may soon expand and report on the broader ecological sustainability of commercial fisheries, providing a national-level initiative to drive such assessments. It is likely that expanded reporting will include fishing footprints; these should be quantified for biologically informed ecoregions at scales smaller than those identified by IMCRA, similar to those recently completed for Australian trawl fisheries (Pitcher et al. 2016b). Potentially, as timeseries become more extensive, investigations of interannual variability in footprints could also be incorporated into these reports. Recent assessments in several regions have shown that previous unsustainable depletion trajectories in seabed status had reversed, and recovery trends were now predicted. However, lack of data for distributions of sensitive habitats remains a major gap impeding assessment in most regions—most importantly in the Temperate East Marine Region, which has had the most extensive demersal trawling and the least spatial management.

Recreational fishing

Recreational fishing is an important activity for many Australians and contributes substantially to the Australian economy. At a national level, recreational fishing (fresh water and marine) in 2013 was estimated to have an annual economic value of $2.56 billion, based on an expenditure evaluation approach (Colquhoun 2015). In New South Wales alone, approximately 900,000 adults were estimated to participate in recreational fishing in 2011, and it is estimated that expenditure on the marine component of recreational fishing across the state in 2012 was $1.42 million (McIlgorm & Pepperell 2013).

Recreational fishing has not been assessed at the national level to quantify participation, effort and harvest since 2001 (Henry & Lyle 2003). Surveys conducted at the state or territory level since 2001 use varying methods, therefore limiting the ability to compare jurisdictions and scale up results from surveys to provide a more recent national view of fishing activity.

Participation in recreational fishing remains high nationally in absolute terms (i.e. taking into account the number of people participating and the amount of effort put into recreational fishing by individuals). Declines in either the number of people fishing, the time spent fishing (effort) or overall harvest (the number of fish caught) have been reported in Queensland (McInnes et al. 2013), New South Wales (West et al. 2016), Tasmania (Lyle et al. 2014), South Australia (Giri & Hall 2015) and Western Australia (Ryan et al. 2015), noting that, across all states, catches and effort are highly variable across species. In Victoria, surveys of recreational fishers suggest an increase in participation, time spent fishing and overall harvest. However, although surveys in particular areas or for particular species have been carried out in Victoria, a statewide survey has not been conducted since 2008–09. In the Northern Territory, recreational fishing will be surveyed in 2016–17. This will update the results of a 2009–10 survey, which recorded decreases in participation, time spent fishing and overall harvest (West et al. 2012). Most of the overall effort in recreational fisheries is associated with a relatively small number of fishers, which means that these individuals have disproportionately large impacts in terms of total effort and catch (West et al. 2016).

Across all regions, fishing effort is often concentrated in predictable spatial areas, but can vary substantially on seasonal and interannual timescales (Lynch 2014). Most recreational fishing occurs in inshore waters. Although shore-based fishing is popular, more recreational fishers are using boats than in previous years. Boat size is increasing across most states (Lyle et al. 2014, Giri & Hall 2015, Ryan et al. 2015, West et al. 2016), and more advanced fishing technology is being used, resulting in potential increases in effective effort (i.e. the effort associated with individual catches rather than the overall time spent fishing). This has the potential for recreational fishing to have larger impacts on populations of species overall. More remote areas are now being fished, as well as offshore fisheries for pelagic fish, including southern bluefin tuna (Thunnus maccoyii; Griffiths & Fay 2015, Moore et al. 2015) and deeper-water species, resulting in shifts in concentration of effort and catches onto particular areas and species. Social media is facilitating rapid transfer of information, which can also lead to concentration of effort in particular areas or on particular species.

Several states (e.g. New South Wales, Western Australia) have implemented networks of fish aggregating devices (FADs) for recreational fishing to increase catch rates for the largely pelagic fish species that aggregate around such structures (Folpp & Lowry 2006). FADs also concentrate effort into particular areas and onto particular species. Up to 30 individual FADs are used in a network. Although a number of concerns have been raised about the use of high numbers of FADs within commercial fisheries in areas outside the Australian EEZ (see Dagorn et al. 2013), little information is available on impacts on the marine environment of FAD networks deployed for recreational fishing in Australian waters. Artificial reefs, which are regulated under the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981, have a similar aggregating purpose. As for FADs, little information is available on impacts of artificial reefs on the marine environment, particularly in relation to recreational fishing. Further detail on artificial reefs can be found in the Coasts report.

Obligations for catch reporting and official catch recording systems are lacking for most recreational fisheries; instead, large efforts are placed on developing surveys and other methods to estimate recreational catch (e.g. Griffiths et al. 2010, Georgeson et al. 2015a). For many species, quantitative assessment of catches by the recreational sector is lacking, and few data are available for those catches that are caught and then discarded or released (because of bag or size limits, the species caught being undesired or the catch not being retained for other reasons). In addition, few robust data are available on postrelease mortality rates for most species. This limits any assessment of the impacts of recreational fishing on the marine environment.

For those species where information is available, the amount of recreational harvest can be similar to, or exceed, commercial catches. For example, the recreational tonnage of southern sand flathead (Platycephalus bassensis) in Tasmania in 2012–13 was 6 times that of the commercial fishery (Lyle et al. 2014). Of the 10 key species caught by fishers in New South Wales, recreational catches exceeded commercial catches for 5 species, and recreational catches of a further 2 were only slightly lower than commercial catches (West et al. 2016). Recreational catches of barramundi (Lates calcarifer) around Cairns are 3 times higher than the commercial harvest by net fisheries (Brown 2016). Recreational and commercial catches within the West Coast Demersal Gillnet and Demersal Longline Fishery in Western Australia in 2008–09 were similar to each other before management of allocations was introduced (IFAAC 2013). The estimated recreational harvest of King George whiting (Sillaginoides punctatus) in South Australia in 2013–14 was 1.46 million fish (367 tonnes), which was more than half the amount of this species caught by commercial fisheries (Giri & Hall 2015). Overall, on a national basis, although the extent of information is highly variable, recreational fishing could be having a high impact on the marine environment, with little change in trend in the past 5 years.

Although recreational catch statistics are more uncertain than commercial catches, where data are available on commercially harvested species, they are used in some fishery assessments (e.g. Linnane et al. 2015a, PIRSA 2015). Harvest strategies for some state and Australian commercial fisheries include recreational catches (DAFF 2007, Fletcher & Santoro 2015).

Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing

Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing can refer to a wide range of issues associated with the reporting, quantification and management of fishing (see FAO 2001). Catches of this nature are driven by world population growth, an increasing demand for fish protein, a desire for greater economic returns in an environment of increasing costs associated with commercial fishing and overexploitation, and overcapacity and diminishing resources within both domestic and international fisheries (Le Gallic & Cox 2006, Sumaila et al. 2006, Agnew et al. 2009). IUU fishing activities undermine sustainable management frameworks for fisheries and can cause, in some cases, significant environmental damage through depletion of biodiversity (FAO 2001). Such fishing practices also harm legitimate fishing activities and livelihoods, jeopardising food security, consolidating transnational crime and distorting economic markets (Agnew et al. 2009, Young 2016).

Global assessments have estimated that IUU fishing in the eastern Indian Ocean and the south-west Pacific Ocean costs approximately US$425–900 million, noting that IUU catches in the south-west Pacific Ocean are some of the lowest in all regions examined (Agnew et al. 2009). Assessment of trends in IUU fishing showed that IUU activities in the south-west Pacific Ocean declined from 10 per cent of the total catch of the commercial fisheries assessed to 4 per cent from 1980 to 2003, while IUU fishing in the eastern Indian Ocean increased from 24 per cent to 32 per cent (Agnew et al. 2009).

In Australian waters, noncompliance with commercial or recreational fishery regulations or marine park zoning occurs, and is generally considered to be small scale or opportunistic. Most reported illegal fishing is associated with the commercial sector. However, noncompliance with fishery regulations also occurs in the recreational sector; common offences include exceeding quota or bag limits, taking undersized fish, fishing in closed or protected areas, using unauthorised equipment and attempting to sell recreationally caught fish (Putt & Anderson 2007).2 Within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park area, illegal fishing (both commercial and recreational) is considered one of the greatest risks to the environmental sustainability of fishing activities (GBRMPA 2014a), although formal assessments of illegal fishing in the park area are few (Davis et al. 2004, McCook et al. 2010). Organised criminal activity is predominantly associated with high-value, low-volume commercial fisheries such as abalone, and with illegally obtained shark fins (Putt & Anderson 2007). Most illegal activity by foreign fishers occurs in Australia’s northern waters for a range of species, and in the Southern Ocean for Patagonian toothfish (see also the Antarctic report).

Some jurisdictions make information on reports of illegal fishing available.3 However, quantification of IUU fishing nationally is lacking. Further, surveys of fisheries officers tasked with enforcing requirements to prevent IUU fishing identified that many believed their jurisdiction was ineffective in both detecting criminal activity and dealing with criminal activity once it was detected (Putt & Anderson 2007).

Evans K, Bax NJ, Smith DC (2016). Marine environment: Commercial and recreational fishing. In: Australia state of the environment 2016, Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy, Canberra, https://soe.environment.gov.au/theme/marine-environment/topic/2016/commercial-and-recreational-fishing, DOI 10.4226/94/58b657ea7c296