Reform package to secure sustainable fishing future

This bold plan for reform is the result of an extensive State Government review process during the past two years with the commercial fishing industry, as well as actively listening to recreational fishers’ views about the best way to manage the State’s shared fish stocks.

It aims to protect sustainability, provide fair access and boost recreational fishing opportunities, while ensuring South Australians continue to have access to fresh, local seafood.

Marine Scalefish licence buy back

The State Government will spend $20 million to buy back up to a third of South Australia's Marine Scalefish fishing licenses.

This will help to ensure Snapper, Whiting and Garfish stocks are available for future generations of South Australians to catch and enjoy.

The multi-million structural reform package will provide better access for recreational fishers, economic viability for commercial fishers and greater sustainability for the fishery overall.

Key components of the reform package:

  • A $20 million voluntary buy-back scheme targeting the removal of 100 commercial net and longline licences
  • The introduction of new zoning and quota management regulations to safeguard the future of the fishery
  • A comprehensive recreational fishing survey to improve estimates of recreational catch and effort across the state – understanding participation levels and learning what, where and how many fish are being caught.
  • Further opportunities for stock enhancement programs – including in marine and metropolitan waterways – will also be investigated.


South Australia's recreational fishing sector is a significant contributor to the South Australian economy, particularly in regional areas, with an estimated 277,000 – or one in six South Australians – participating in recreational fishing.

The State Government has invested $3.25 million in the past three years directed at boosting recreational fishing and tourism opportunities, on top of $9.3 million allocated in this year’s budget to upgrade five jetties across South Australia. The State Government will continue to watch for other marine infrastructure needing maintenance or improvements.

There are 309 commercial fishing licences in the Marine Scalefish Fishery. The $20 million voluntary licence buy-back package aims to address historical overcapacity in the fishery by removing approximately 80 longline and 20 net fishing licences.

In addition there will be a detailed investigation into under-utilised fish species to explore the scope for remaining commercial fishers to diversify and reduce fishing pressure on more popular finfish species.

The industry will be consulted further on the details of how these new measures will be implemented and the commercial fishery will also be contributing funding to the buy-back process.

Report of the SA Marine Scalefish Fishery Strategic Review

The Marine Scalefish Fishery Strategic Review Working Group agreed that it was important to develop a vision statement for the fishery as a basis for recommending a program of reform, as follows:

Vision Statement: To foster a vibrant Commercial Marine Scalefish Fishery that sustainably harvests premium South Australian seafood without impacting the environment.

Industry and Government have worked collaboratively, through the establishment of a Marine Scalefish Fishery Strategic Review Working Group (the Working Group), to address the inherent complexities of the fishery through firstly developing a mechanism to rationalise the fleet, then reforming its overall structure, and ultimately refining its future management.

The terms of reference for the Working Group were to review the overarching structures and management tools used to manage the MSF and to recommend strategic options for improving the longer-term management of the Fishery.

This report documents the outcomes of the strategic review of South Australia’s Marine Scalefish Fishery (MSF), and concludes that the fishery needs to be restructured in order to ensure its longterm sustainability and economic viability.

The heterogeneous mixture of participants, fishing devices, licence conditions and regulations associated with this fishery make the task of administering and managing it extremely challenging.

These complexities intertwined within a highly dynamic fleet that is capable of shifting fishing effort amongst species and regions often alter the emphasis of its overarching management.

The Working Group recommends a reform program for the MSF to:

  • consolidate existing management strategies
  • identify key management options
  • gain Government approval
  • develop a structural adjustment program

The proposed aim is to complete the reform program by 2022.

This process would be undertaken in close communication and consultation with industry, PIRSA and the relevant stakeholder groups.

Key management options include: augmenting existing strategies (i.e. leasing licences, amalgamation scheme); assessing the feasibility of regionalisation; Individual Transferable Quotas (ITQs) or Individual Transferable Effort units (ITEs); and a critical review of existing controls.

The Working Group recommends that following agreement about key management measures, a ‘Structural Adjustment Program’ be implemented in the MSF to provide an opportunity for those who wish to exit the fishery to do so. The removal of latent and effective commercial fishing effort from the MSF would assist the Government and Industry to directly achieve resource sustainability goals as well as contribute to improving the overall viability and profitability of those who remain in the fishery.

It is recommended the Structural Adjustment Program be funded by both industry and Government as a co-investment in the fisheries future. It is critical that licence holders be informed of the agreed arrangements to reform and rationalise the management of the fishery prior to any adjustment program being implemented.

In order to optimise this structural reform, it is necessary to disentangle and understand the fleet dynamics of this multi-faceted fishery to provide an empirical baseline to which the MSF Strategic Review can refer in its decision-making processes.

In addition, given that there are fishers who are considering exiting the fishery in the short term, it is recommended the existing licence amalgamation scheme be maintained. Lastly, the Working Group recommends PIRSA continue to explore possible regulatory measures to reduce or prevent the short-term transfer of licences in the MSF

Following an industry-led consultation process in August and September 2017, the peak representative industry body - the Marine Fishers Association - presented its position to the Government on 20 October 2017 on the future management direction for the Marine Scalefish Fishery and requested government assistance for reform.

In response to the strategic review process and the proposals from both the recreational and commercial fishing sectors, on 27 December 2017 the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries announced a multi-million dollar reform package to secure the sustainable future of key South Australian fish stocks.

Download the report (PDF 3.2 MB).

Page Last Reviewed: 28 Dec 2017
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