Marine Scalefish Fishery reform FAQs

The following Marine Scalefish Fishery reform FAQs contain information about:

  • the reform package
  • voluntary licence surrender process
  • management zones
  • quotas
  • research and consultation.

Marine Scalefish Fishery Reform package

Why is the reform of the South Australian Marine Scalefish Fishery necessary?

Taking the South Australian Marine Scalefish Fishery (MSF) into a sustainable and viable future is behind a $24.51 million reform package for the sector announced by the State Government.

The major underlying problem in the South Australian Marine Scalefish Fishery is that there are too many commercial fishers and not enough fish to sustain a vibrant and profitable industry.

The state now faces a serious challenge in relation to the future management of key species in the fishery – the current three year closure of the snapper fishery in gulf waters is symptomatic of broader problems facing the Marine Scalefish Fishery.

To address this, the State Government is committed to implementing key reforms in the commercial sector of the Marine Scalefish Fishery to ensure long-term resource sustainability and improve the industry’s future viability.

Just what will the reform package involve?

The package delivers on the Government’s election commitment to support the reform of the fishery by undertaking the necessary decisive action that is required to not only achieve ongoing sustainability but to foster a vibrant and profitable commercial industry into the future. It includes:

  • Introduction of four regional fisheries management zones – West Coast, Spencer Gulf, Gulf St Vincent/Kangaroo Island and South East.
  • Introduction of a Total Allowable Commercial Catch for priority species; King George whiting, snapper, southern calamari and southern garfish.
  • Allocating quota to fishers, which will be transferable, to manage commercial catch limits.
  • A cap on fee increases for the fishery to CPI for 4 years.
  • A voluntary licence reduction program to remove up to 150 commercial licences from the fishery.
  • Cutting fishing red tape by at least a third.

What is being implemented first – regionalisation or voluntary licence surrender?

The voluntary licence surrender of commercial fishing licences in the fishery will form the initial stage of the reform process, while the introduction of the four management zones – West Coast, Spencer Gulf, Gulf St Vincent/Kangaroo Island and South East - will be implemented, along with a TACC and quota system for priority species, to come into effect from 1 July 2021.

When will the reform measures be fully in place?

This reform of the South Australian Marine Scalefish Fishery should be fully in place by 1 July 2021.

Will there be any red tape reduction as part of the reform process?

With the Marine Scalefish Fishery transitioning to an output controlled fishery, the State Government will also undertake further consultation with the sector to implement relevant regulatory reform with the aim of reducing unnecessary red tape. This will be a key component of the reform.

Will the fishery remain an owner-operator fishery?

The Commercial Marine Scalefish Fishery Reform Committee reported a strong desire for the fishery to remain an ‘owner-operator’ fishery. The Government will consult with industry to determine how to achieve this aspiration.  With regionalisation, it is possible controls on trade of ITQ could be tailored to the needs of the industry. Proposed arrangements will be provided to all licence holders for feedback in July 2020.

What will the fishery look like on 1 July 2021?

By 1 July 2021:

  • there will be fewer commercial Marine Scalefish Fishery licences, each enjoying greater security in their share of the primary species under sustainable quota limits
  • fishers will be working to provide real time information to PIRSA about their catch by digital means. The specifics of the technologies used will be determined in consultation with the sector. As a part of industry’s co-contribution to reform, fishers will pay for this technology
  • fishers will be able to trade their Individual Transferable Quota (ITQ) units allowing them to restructure, invest and build their businesses
  • a new contemporary management framework will be in place to reduce red tape and deliver significant social and economic benefits to the fishing industry and the broader community.

What are the long-term benefits of this reform?

Once these reforms are introduced and key fish stocks recover to sustainable levels, the increased production from improved fish stocks will increase the value and profitability of the fishery.

The fishery will be in a positive, market-driven business environment that supports:

  • profitable fish production
  • business specialisation
  • a confident investment climate
  • greater stewardship.

Voluntary licence surrender program

Voluntary licence surrender – why is it happening?

The Marine Scalefish Fishery Reform aims to improve the long-term sustainability of fish stocks in South Australia and increase the profitability of fishing businesses.

The voluntary licence surrender provides licence holders with the opportunity to exit the industry before the remaining reforms are implemented.

Is there a target number of licences to rationalise from each zone?

No, there is no target for the removal of licences from each zone. The voluntary surrender aims to remove up to 150 commercial longline, line and net fishing licences. There are currently 307 licences in the fishery.

Why is the licence surrender process voluntary rather than compulsory?

The State Government determined right from the outset in December 2017 when announcing the election commitment to reform the MSF that any licence surrender would be voluntary.

Is there independent oversight of the program?

PIRSA will administer the voluntary licence surrender process to receive individual proposals, check the authenticity of proposals, assess the proposals against the guidelines and established criteria and provide recommendations to the Minister. The process will be observed by an independent probity adviser.

Will amalgamated and non-amalgamated licences be treated differently?

There will be no discrimination in the payment value for a licence based on its amalgamated status or if it is a restricted marine scalefish Fishery licence. The only difference in values will be between a net licence and a line licence.

Will the government purchase my fishing gear and/or boat?

No. The voluntary surrender removes the authority to fish commercially. The government will not acquire gear or boats.

Can I offer to surrender some entitlements and retain my licence?

No. Only whole Marine Scalefish Fishery or Restricted Marine Scalefish Fishery licences can be surrendered. Splitting of licence packages or transferrable quota entitlements will not be considered.

Why are other fisheries with access to marine scale species not eligible?

The option to voluntarily surrender a licence is limited to Marine Scalefish Fishery and Restricted Marine Scalefish Fishery licence holders only. Details on how other fisheries with access to marine scalefish species will form part of the broader reform program and proposed quota management system.

If 150 licences are not surrendered what will happen?

If the target is not met it will be an indication there are more licence holders who expect a better future in the fishery than first anticipated by industry. The option to surrender a licence is voluntary and there will be no compulsory removal of licences.

How much will I get for my licence?

Independent economic analysis of the value of licences in the South Australia Marine Scalefish Fishery have been undertaken by BDO Econsearch. Based on this information, payment values for the surrender of licences have been set at:

  • $140,000 per line licence
  • $180,000 per net licence.

Management zones

Where are the management zones and how will they be determined?

The four management zones – West Coast, Spencer Gulf, Gulf St Vincent/Kangaroo Island and South East – will take effect from 1 July 2021. In June 2020, proposed boundaries were released for feedback. The boundaries are based on the biological stock structure of priority species, current marine fishing area reporting system, delineation of current fishing activity (by area) and the cost effectiveness of management and compliance.

You can view the proposed management zones (PDF 717.6 KB) in this map.

Why are the regional management zones being implemented?

The implementation of regional management zones is to provide separate management arrangements for different biological fish stocks, to reflect spatial differences in coastal habitats and infrastructure and in consideration of the pressures placed on fishery resources through growing coastal populations and sectors that access marine scalefish stocks.

Are fishers only going to be allowed in one zone?

The management zone arrangements (in particular boundaries) are yet to be finalised. Licence holders will be consulted on these arrangements, including whether remaining MSF licences will be state-wide or zoned.

Quota – total allowable commercial catch system

Why is a total allowable commercial catch supported by individual transferable quotas being implemented?

An Individual Transferable Quota management system was assessed by the Commercial Marine Scalefish Fishery Reform Advisory Committee (CMSFRAC) as the best management option to meet the principles of ecological sustainable development – a key objective of the Fisheries Management Act 2007.

The combined use of the quota system and regionalisation as part of the reform process will allow fishers to maximise their profitability per kilogram of fish, innovate and develop new markets to unlock the potential of priority and lesser known species. This will increase economic growth in the sector.

Read the CMSFRAC report (PDF 610.1 KB).

Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) – how will it be set?

Information on indicative 2021/22 TACCs has been released for feedback.

The final TACCs for 2021/2022 will be based on information from SARDI and PIRSA and advised by a co-management committee, and determined by the Minister.

For seasons 2022/2023 and onwards, TACCs for primary species will be set in a similar way to other South Australian quota-managed fisheries (e.g. rock lobster, abalone, blue swimmer crabs), which are generally determined on an annual basis.

Co-management principles will be applied and a co-management committee formed to provide recommendations on appropriate TACCs. A structured framework for the TACC decision making process will be developed as part of new harvest strategies for key species in a future review of the Management Plan for the South Australian Commercial Marine Scalefish Fishery.

TACCs will be developed using the best available information about fish stock status, which can include a combination of:

  • commercial catch and effort information
  • recreational fishing data
  • biological information
  • fishery independent data (such as biomass estimates or recruitment surveys).

Sophisticated fisheries models exist for key species such as Snapper, King George Whiting and Garfish. This modelling helps estimate fishable biomass, recruitment, and exploitation rates, and determine sustainable catch limits (or recommended biological catches). Where this information isn’t available, TACCs can be determined from an understanding of catch history, the biology of the species, and supported by expertise from stakeholders. TACC setting will rely on the best scientific information available at the time and will be responsive when new information arises.

When will industry know the formula for allocating quota?

Allocating quota to individual fishers in an established fishery, particularly a multi-species and share-access fishery and one as diverse as the Marine Scalefish Fishery is a very challenging task.

An Independent Allocation Advisory Panel comprising members with independent legal, economic and industry expertise has been appointed and has commenced the work to investigate and advise on the most appropriate basis for the allocation of quota for the priority species among licence holders.

The Panel will provide its initial recommendations to the government by 30 June 2020 and information will be provided to licence holders for consultation in mid July 2020.

Ultimately the amount of quota to be allocated to individual fishers will depend on how many licence holders exit the industry and how many remain.

Will there be any quota system for lesser known species?

Initially, it is expected a quota management system will only apply to priority species such as snapper, King George whiting, garfish and calamari. However, any species in future which come under sustainability concerns will be managed by quota also.

Will there be a dispute resolution process?

Disputes can arise in regard to individual quota allocation. PIRSA will establish an appeals process, in liaison with industry following the determination of quota allocation.

Why is there no cap on recreational catch in this reform?

As committed before the election, the Government is delivering a commercial fishing reform. Minister Whetstone takes advice regarding the recreational sector from the Minister’s Recreational Fishing Advisory Council. Minister Whetstone does not take advice about the recreational sector from the commercial sector, or visa versa.

The recreational fishery is subject to a range of restrictions to limit their catch, including:

  • size, bag, boat and possession limits
  • restrictions on the types of gear that may be used
  • temporal and spatial closures where necessary.

A new national recreational fishing research project is currently underway to better inform recreational catch estimates through a modern recreational fishing survey methodology. This will help develop a more accurate picture of recreational fishing catch data and improve fishing management in the future.

Rock lobster, Lakes and Coorong, sardine and prawn fisheries also have access to marine scale species – will they be subject to a Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC)?

The rock lobster, Lakes and Coorong and sardine net endorsed marine scalefish fishers will be subject to the TACCs set for the primary marine scalefish species. Separate consideration may need to be given on how to best manage calamari taken as a permitted by-catch in prawn trawling.

Research behind the reform

What research has been undertaken to inform the reform package?

To assist the State Government in developing the reform package BDO EconSearch were commissioned to undertake an economic evaluation of the fishery to inform consideration of the value of Marine Scalefish Fishery licences and the number that need to be removed to make the fishery profitable over the long term for remaining fishers.

Based on indicative TACCs for each region and a number of other assumptions, 197 licences need to be removed from the fishery to achieve net economic return.

The consultation process

Who has been involved in developing the reform package?

As part of its election commitment to undertake a reform of the Marine Scalefish Fishery, the State Government in November 2018 established the Commercial Marine Scalefish Fishery Reform Advisory Committee (CMSFRAC) with the purpose to develop in consultation with licence holders and key stakeholders, recommendations on a reform package for the fishery.

The Committee received technical support from the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) Research Project Working Group that analysed available information about the fishery in order to evaluate possible options for zoning, licence reduction and unitised management. The CMSFRAC also worked with the Marine Fishers Association (MFA) Industry Forum, which provided initial industry input and feedback on reform options as they were developed.

What consultation occurred as part of developing the reform package?

The MFA Industry Forum which provided initial industry feedback and input to the CMSFRAC, included representation from the different regions, gear types and sectors within the industry.

Following the initial forum-led industry feedback, the CMSFRAC then prepared an Industry Consultation Paper that provided the strategic options identified as necessary to achieve the required reform. The paper was released for a six week consultation period in September 2019 to seek broader feedback and submissions relating to the reform proposals.

During the consultation period, a series of regional consultative meetings were also undertaken across the state with all MSF licence holders invited to attend at least one meeting.

Feedback from the consultation period were taken into account by the CMSFRAC when presenting their recommendations to the State Government (PDF 610.1 KB).

Background on the Marine Scalefish Fishery reform

What comprises the Marine Scalefish Fishery?

The Marine Scalefish Fishery is South Australia’s most prominent shared access fishery, underpinning the commercial, recreational and Aboriginal traditional fishing sectors.

The Marine Scalefish Fishery consists of 307 licences with approximately 90 percent of the licences actively used.

Fish stocks supporting the fishery include iconic species such as King George whiting, snapper, southern garfish and southern calamari. These fish stocks are important to South Australian seafood consumers and are important species to our recreational fishery, whilst also supporting significant regional tourism opportunities.

Other species such as Australian herring, sand crabs, blue swimmer crab, West Australian salmon and leatherjackets are also important to the fishery.

The fishery also includes species such as vongole, Australian sardine, Australian anchovy and Goolwa pipi. However these species are already quota managed and are not part of the current proposed reforms.

More Information

Visit PIRSA’s Marine Scale Fishery reform page for more information on the proposed reform process, including relevant reports.

Sign up to receive fishery reform updates.

Page Last Reviewed: 20 Jun 2020
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