Snapper spawning spatial closures
Snapper spawning spatial closures are in place in Spencer and St Vincent gulfs until midday 31 January 2015.
View media release
Map of closures
Frequently asked questions

Changes to commercial and recreational Blue Swimmer Crab fishing limits
View media release

Frequently asked questions
Map of reduction area

Spencer Gulf Cuttlefish closure
Cuttlefish fishing in northern Spencer Gulf has been closed until 27 March 2014.
Find out more

Frequently asked questions
Map of closure area

Port River Mud Cockle closure
The Port River Mud Cockle fishing closure has been extended until 30 June 2013 due to ongoing concerns about sustainability.
Map of closure area

Frequently asked questions.

Marine Scalefish Fishery

The commercial Marine Scalefish Fishery (MSF) is a multi-species and multi-gear fishery. Commercial fishing can be undertaken for more than 60 species of scalefish using a range of gear types in South Australian coastal waters.

Marine scalefish species

The term ‘scalefish’ is somewhat of a misnomer when applied to a few of the species in this commercial sector (e.g. squid, worms and sharks). There are over 60 species of marine ‘scalefish’ taken commercially, however the majority of fishing effort is concentrated on four primary species; King George Whiting (KGW), Southern Garfish, Snapper and Southern Calamari. Together, these four species account for approximately 60% of the total fishery production (by weight) and 70% of the total fishery value. Most of the catches of these primary species come from the two gulfs.

Only permitted species of scalefish may be taken by licenced commercial fishers in South Australia. The full list of permitted species (including families and classes of species) is set out in Schedule 1 of the Fisheries Management (Marine Scalefish Fisheries) Regulations 2006.

Marine Scalefish Fishery area

The Marine Scalefish Fishery (MSF) operates in all coastal waters (State waters, high tide mark to three nautical miles) of South Australia including gulfs, bays and estuaries (excluding the Coorong estuary), from the Western Australian border to the Victorian border. For some species, the Offshore Constitutional Settlement extends the fishery area out to the Australian Exclusive Economic Zone - 200 nautical miles.


Marine Scalefish Fishery gear types

The fishery has a diverse range of gear types and fishing methods which have been developed to target the broad range of permitted species within the fishery. There are a total of 21 different gear types that can be registered on MSF licences. Hand collection, handlines and rod and lines, do not require registration. Of these, the dominant gear types are hook and line, longline, haul nets, mesh nets and jigs.

Marine Scalefish Fishery licensing

Access to the fishery is complex with nine separate commercial fisheries having some level of access to marine scalefish species within the area of the fishery. In addition to MSF licence holders, licence holders from the Miscellaneous Fishery, the Northern and Southern Zone Rock Lobster fisheries, the Lakes and Coorong Fishery, the three Prawn fisheries and the Blue Crab Fishery all have some level of access.

Access varies from the ability to retain some species taken as bycatch (prawn fisheries), to bait only (Blue Crab Fishery), to relatively open access for holders of a MSF licence. Species taken in the MSF also support a significant amount of recreational fishing activity both in terms of participation and catch.

The Marine Scalefish Fishery is a limited entry fishery which means no new licences are available.

Licence expiry

Marine Scalefish Fishery licenses are now issued on a 10-year basis following the finalisation of the 10-year Management Plan for the South Australian Commercial Marine Scalefish Fishery (PDF 2.1 MB). Annual licence fees will still apply.

Licence fees

Commercial licence fees must be paid each financial year. Invoices are issued annually in early June.

All fees associated with licences and entitlements are regulated and licence holders have the option of making licence fee payments up-front in a lump sum or in quarterly instalments.

Licence transfer

Access to the commercial MSF is provided through a licence for the Marine Scalefish Fishery or the Restricted Marine Scalefish Fishery.

Marine Scalefish Fishery licences may be transferred provided the transfer is a family transfer or is an authorised transfer under the licence amalgamation scheme. All licence transfers are governed by the Fisheries Management (Marine Scalefish Fisheries) Regulations 2006.

Licence amalgamation

A licence amalgamation scheme was introduced in 1994 as a method for reducing the number of licences, and therefore the maximum amount of fishing effort, within the fishery.

The amalgamation scheme requires at least two licences to be joined, which means one of those licences will be removed from the fishery. Provided the two (or more) licences being amalgamated have an aggregate points value above a pre-determined threshold, the licence will be transferred along with the appropriate gear entitlements from the licence being surrendered. The ‘new’ licence is reassigned the aggregate points value which is above the threshold and can be freely transferred without having to be amalgamated with another licence, subject to all other conditions and regulations. Once the licences have been amalgamated and have the appropriate points, no further amalgamations are required to transfer the licence.

Since the inception of the amalgamation scheme over 40% of licences have been permanently removed from the fishery.

Application to transfer an MSF or Restricted Marine Scalefish Fishery (RMSF) licence form (PDF 411.4 KB). More details about the transfer are available on the form.

Boat registration

Any boat that is used for commercial fishing needs to be registered.

Application to vary a boat registration endorsement form (PDF 177.5 KB) to register or de-register a boat.

Registration of a master

The Marine Scalefish Fishery is an owner operator fishery which means the licence holders must be the master of the licence apart from the exceptions outlined below.

Application to change registration of a master – Marine Scalefish Fishery (PDF 208.9 KB)

Owner operator policy exceptions

A licence holder owns more than one licence and registers a master on a second licence.

Application to change registration of a master – Marine Scalefish Fishery (PDF 208.9 KB)

The master will undertake sand crab pot fishing only.

Sand crab sector application to change registration of master (PDF 261.7 KB)

The master will undertake ocean jacket trap fishing only.

Ocean leather jacket sector application to change registration of a master (PDF 263.6 KB)

The master will undertake sardine net fishing only.

Sardine (pilchard) sector application to change registration of master (PDF 265.3 KB).

Licence holders must register and have endorsed on their licences all people who will act as a master of the boat to be used for commercial fishing purposes.

Marine Scalefish Fishery management

Management plan

The Management Plan for the South Australian Commercial Marine Scalefish Fishery (PDF 2.1 MB) was published 2013.

The Fisheries Management Act 2007 requires management plans to include risk assessment of impacts or potential impacts of the fishery on relevant ecosystems. A process for identifying these risks is identified in the Ecologically Sustainable Development Risk Assessment report (PDF 678.8 KB).

Stock assessment reports

A stock assessment report is published once every three yaers for Snapper, King George Whiting and Southern Garfish. The report provides a detailed analysis of the biological performance of the fishery and reports on the fishery performance.

Garfish Fishery Stock Assessment Report 2012 (PDF 9.1 MB)

King George Whiting Fishery Assessment Report 2011 (PDF 1.5 MB)

Snapper Fishery Assessment Report 2010 (PDF 2.8 MB)

Stock status reports

Marine Scalefish Fishery stock status reports are published annually following the collation of fishery catch and effort information fro the previous financial year. This report provides a rapid assessment of the status of all primary, secondary, and a number of tertiary species, based on fishery derived catch and effort information. It reports on the fishery performance against key indicators.

South Australian Marine Scalefish Fishery stock status report 2011-12 (PDF 6.1 MB)

In addition to these reports, other research to inform the management of the fishery is available. View the fisheries research publications.


SARDI Aquatic Sciences produce an annual data summary for the Marine Scalefish Fishery based on catch and effort information received from licence holders.

View the 2010-11 South Australian Wild Fisheries Information and Statistics Report (PDF 2.9 MB).

Economic indicator reports

PPIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture commission Econsearch Pty Ltd to prepare detailed economic indicator reports for each of their commercial fisheries.

Reports for all South Australian commercial fisheries can be found on the Econsearch webpage.

Marine Scalefish Fishery rules and closures

Size limits

The Marine Scalefish Fishery has various size limits for different species caught within the State. These size limits must be observed when taking fish. The commercial size limits are the same as the recreational limits.

Further details on size limits for various species can be found in the Fisheries Management (General) Regulations 2007.

Closed areas and seasons

There are some areas that are restricted for fishing because the area is closed seasonally or permanently, or because an area is an aquatic reserve or marine park.

The Marine Scalefish Fishery has closed seasons for some species including Snapper and Garfish.

Read more about closed fishing areas.

For further information on closed areas and seasons please contact Fishwatch on 1800 065 522 or the Marine Scalefish Fishery Manager (details below).

Rules and regulations

The fishery is licensed under the Fisheries Management Act 2007. Fishing activities in the Marine Scalefish Fishery are regulated under the Fisheries Management (Marine Scalefish Fisheries) Regulations 2006 and the Fisheries Management (General) Regulations 2007. Licence conditions also apply.

Commercial Marine Scalefish Fishery User Guide (PDF 5.6 MB)


Michelle Besley
PIRSA Fisheries Manager – Marine Scalefish Fishery
Phone: (08) 8204 9986

Nathan Bicknell
Executive Officer
Marine Fishers Association
Phone: 7221 1961
Mail: Post Office Box 2099, DC Port Adelaide SA 5015