House of Representatives Committees

| House of Representatives Standing Committee on Agriculture, Resources, Fisheries and Forestry

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Preliminary pages


‘When The Boat Comes In’ (or ‘Dance Ti Thy Daddy’)

Dance to your Daddy, my little laddy

Dance to your Daddy, my little man

Thou shalt have a fish and thou shalt have a fin

Thou shalt have a codlin when the boat comes in

Thou shalt have haddock baked in a pan


A traditional English folk song, originating in Northumberland, where mothers sang to their little ones as they waited for their fishermen to come back from the treacherous North Sea.

Fishing is the activity of catching fish.  It is an ancient practice dating back at least 40,000 years.  Many species have come and gone depending on climate and fishing habits, but fish have remained part of our diet through the ages.

Since the 16th century, fishing vessels have been able to cross oceans in pursuit of fish and since the 19th century it has been possible to use larger vessels and, in some cases, process the fish on board.  Fish are normally caught in the wild.  Techniques for catching fish include hand gathering, spearing, netting, angling and trapping.

The term fishing may be applied to catching other aquatic animals such as shellfish, cephalopods, crustaceans, and echinoderms.  The term is not usually applied to catching aquatic mammals, such as whales, where the term whaling is more appropriate, or to farmed fish. In addition to providing food, modern fishing is also a recreational sport.

FAO statistics tell us that the total number of fishermen and fish farmers across the world is estimated to be 38 million.  Fisheries and aquaculture provide direct and indirect employment to over 500 million people.  In 2005, the worldwide per capita consumption of fish captured from wild fisheries was 14.4 kilograms, with an additional 7.4 kilograms harvested from fish farms.  

Australia is a small player globally, but fishing is still a vital part of our economy.  However, there are many opinions about how to run the industry and how much involvement should come from Government.  

This inquiry was due to the fact that little attention had been paid the fishing industry in recent times and yet there have been many changes in both the wild fisheries and aquaculture that has attracted some fairly contradictory legislation.  AFMA had played a good solid role in developing a hands-off approach to managing our commercial fisheries.  But it was time to take a look at this industry and review its capabilities.  

As it happened, towards the end of our inquiry a controversy arrived in the shape of a super trawler that quickly became a ‘bogey man’.   Although there was sufficient legislation to control its activities, the community was mobilised to oppose it through fear, despite the fact that scientists working in the field explained that it would have no greater impact than others using similar methods of fishing.

Thus it exposed weaknesses in our legislative processes and caused rifts not only in the fishing community, but also among elected members of Parliament.  Emergency measures were taken, not necessarily in the interests of the industry.

The Committee took a large amount of evidence across the country which gave us a good insight into the industry but also pointed to many inconsistencies in dealing with the various fishing levels and aquaculture changes.

This led me to believe that there should be some way of developing a national regional fishing policy statement for fisheries, aquaculture and recreational fishing that would allow the industry to start setting its goals through regional fishing agreements that run for up to twenty years, but with reviews every five years.  This way all processes can be reviewed regularly, while allowing some certainty in the industry to encourage investment.

Lastly, I wish to thank members of the Committee, the Secretariat and all the individuals and organisations who contributed to the inquiry.

Hon Dick Adams MP

Membership of the Committee


Hon Dick Adams MP


Deputy Chair

Mr Alby Schultz MP



Mr Darren Cheeseman MP

Mr Geoff Lyons MP


Mr George Christensen MP

Mr Rob Mitchell MP


Mr Tony Crook MP (Supplementary)

Mr Dan Tehan MP

Committee Secretariat


Mr David Brunoro

Inquiry Secretary

Mr Thomas Gregory

Research Officer

Mr Nathan Fewkes

Administrative Officers

Ms Dorota Cooley

  Ms Louise Goss

Terms of reference

The Committee will inquire into and report upon the role of science for the future of fisheries and aquaculture, and in particular:

a)         the relationship between scientific knowledge of fish species, ecosystems, biodiversity and fish stock sustainability;

b)         fishery management and biosecurity, including but not limited to:

c)         research, development and applied science of aquaculture, including:

d)        governance arrangements relating to fisheries and aquaculture, including the implications for sustainability and industry development;

e)         current initiatives and responses to the above matters by state, territory and Australian governments;

f)          any other related matter.

List of abbreviations


Australian Bureau of Agricultural Research and Economics


Australian Fisheries Management Authority


Australian fishing zone


Australian Institute for Marine Science


Australian Marine Alliance


Australian Marine Conservation Society


Australian Marine Sciences Association


Australian Prawn Farmers Association


Commonwealth Fisheries Association


Cooperative Research Centres


Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation


Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry


Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency


Department of Primary Industries (NSW)


Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (Tas)


Ecosystems-based fisheries management


Exclusive Economic Zone


Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999


Ecological risk management


Ecologically sustainable development

FA Act

Fisheries Administration Act 1991


Food and Agriculture Organisation

FM Act

Fisheries Management Act 1991


Fisheries Research and Development Corporation


Food Standards Australia and New Zealand


Harvest Strategy Policy


Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Infectious salmon anaemia


James Cook University


Maximum economic yield


Marine Stewardship Council


Maximum sustainable yield


Marine protected area


National Aquaculture Council


Offshore Constitutional Settlement


Research, development and extension


Southern bluefin tuna


Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities


Tasmanian Salmonid Growers Association


Tasmanian Seafood Industry Council


University of Western Australia


Western Australian Fishing Industry Council


World Wildlife Fund


List of recommendations

2 Background

Recommendation 1

The Committee recommends that the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation conduct and publish an annual audit of total national investment in fisheries and aquaculture research, development and extension.

3 Fisheries

Recommendation 2

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government continue to publish a consolidated stock report for all Australian fisheries on a regular basis, after the initial publication of such a report in 2012, in consultation with State and Territory governments.

Recommendation 3

The Committee believes that precaution is about managing risk; and therefore recommends that a new guideline on precaution be developed with agreement and support of stakeholders, for inclusion in a new national regional policy statement for fisheries, aquaculture and recreational fishing.

Recommendation 4

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government expedite the creation and implementation of the monitoring and evaluation strategy for the national Commonwealth marine reserves network – to ensure that they are well managed and thoroughly evaluated, before consideration of any new MPAs domestically and globally.  A timeline should be announced to show:

Recommendation 5

The Committee recommends that the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry work with State and Territory counterparts to commission a regular estimate of recreational fishing activity and impacts in Australia, with data and results published in a yearly consolidated report, using a nationally agreed data collection model.

Recommendation 6

The Committee recommends that COAG seek to harmonise, where there is agreement, recreational fishing licensing, rules and data collection.

Recommendation 7

The Committee recommends that the current review of Commonwealth fisheries management consider whether revisions to the Fisheries Management Act 1991 are necessary to allow the Australian Government to more readily manage recreational fishing activity in Commonwealth waters.

Recommendation 8

The Committee recommends that the 2008 preliminary assessment of the ‘Implications of Climate Change for Australian Fisheries and Aquaculture’ be developed by the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency into a more comprehensive study, to include broad strategic issues and localised impacts.

Recommendation 9

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government ensure there is a continued strong effort to monitor and analyse the effects of climate change on Australia’s oceans and communities.

Recommendation 10

The Committee recommends that the Australian Primary Industries Ministerial Council commission a review of the ‘National Fishing and Aquaculture RD&E Strategy 2010’, to assess progress in achieving the Strategy’s aims, in particular in regard to the co-ordination of Australia’s scientific effort. The review should consider whether additional mechanisms are necessary to complement the strategy, such as a regular national fisheries research, development and extension forum or registry of research projects.

4 Aquaculture

Recommendation 11

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government work with state and territory governments to develop further conservation agreements to streamline assessments under the EPBC Act, to facilitate the growth of aquaculture.

Recommendation 12

The Committee recommends the Australian Government, through the Council of Australian Governments, lead the development and agreement of a detailed and comprehensive national aquaculture policy, including the roles and responsibilities of all governments, to address (amongst others) the issues contained in paragraph 4.89, at least in the areas of:

5 Biosecurity, certification and international aid and cooperation

Recommendation 13

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government update AquaPlan as soon as possible.

Recommendation 14

The Committee recommends that the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry develop a model for funding and enhancing aquatic disease control and aquatic veterinary training, possibly including an industry levy, as a matter of urgency.

Recommendation 15

The Committee recommends the Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation formulate an independent mechanism for conducting a performance audit or review of the entire food standards system.

Recommendation 16

The Committee recommends that, while protecting Australian intellectual property, the Australian Government make available technology and expertise through aid programs dedicated to fisheries management and aquaculture production.

Recommendation 17

From within the existing aid budget, the Committee recommends that the Australian Government increase aid to Pacific Island countries for projects and programs relating to fisheries management and aquaculture production.

6 Governance, environmental policy and the way forward

Recommendation 18

The Committee recommends that the Treasurer refer to the Productivity Commission an inquiry into the efficiency of the fisheries industry across Australia and the efficiency and effectiveness of the inter-jurisdictional governance arrangements for Australian fisheries.

Recommendation 19

The Committee recommends that the fisheries management and environment protection responsibilities of the Australian Government continue to be administered by separate agencies, but that these agencies work towards a single application process (and potentially a single point of contact) for fisheries approvals, with the aim of providing a ‘one-stop-shop’ from the applicant’s perspective.

Recommendation 20

The Committee recommends that commercial fishing organisations in Australia form a national peak body. This process could be initially assisted by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry through facilitating contact and coordination.

Recommendation 21

The Committee recommends that fisheries management should not be subject to political direction, except as explicitly provided for in legislation.

Recommendation 22

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government, through the Council of Australian Governments, lead the development of a comprehensive national regional policy statement for fisheries, aquaculture and recreational fishing, which includes:

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