Australian Fishing Trade Association (AFTA)

Submission on the Commonwealth Fisheries Resource Sharing Network.

The Australian Fishing Trade Association (AFTA) is the peak Recreational Fishing Industry body representing the Manufacturing, Wholesale, Retail & Media businesses of the recreational fishing industry and therefore through the face to face engagement, the RecFishers across Australia.

Our industry has feedback on a daily basis from RecFishers across Australia, this is what shapes our industry and our policies.

AFTA has fought long and hard for an equitable share of the fish resource across our nation, our contribution to the nation’s economy and importantly to the social fabric is unique and not forgetting the health benefits, both physical & mental, from people engaging and simply getting outdoors.

The recreational fishing industry is made up of approximately 60 Australian Manufacturers (300 employees), 60 Wholesalers (600 employees) and 2000 Retailers (100000 employees) [1]  servicing the needs of approximately 3,362,990  RecFishers[2]. This does not take into account the downstream employment numbers through the flow on effect spreading to the whole of the community, not just the tourism sector.

There is unquestionably the need for defined resource sharing and in that, getting the balance right, however AFTA questions whether the data upon which determinations are made is correct.

The 2017 Productivity Commission Report into Marine Fisheries and Aquaculture (PC) reported an estimate of 3.4m RecFishers in Australia and correctly asserts that “A small number of fishers account for the majority of the recreational fishing effort”[3] and further asserts that “Surveys are undertaken on an ad-hoc basis and there is therefore little information on shifts in fishing activity and catch.”[4]

It is impossible to see how the total catch apportioned to the recreational fishing industry to date can be accurately determined when there are no accurate Australia wide figures on the actual number of recreational fishers, the participation rate at which they fish, and the species targeted and resultant catch rate.

Currently, recreational fishing licenses are required in NSW, Victoria, species & method specific licenses are required in Western Australia, Tasmania & South Australia and there is no licence requirement in Queensland or the Northern Territory.[5]

AFTA agree with the PC report that  “For maximum efficiency, licensing systems should have high coverage rates…… Governments may exempt certain groups from the payment of fees for welfare reasons, but there should be few, if any, exemptions from being ‘counted’ and contributing data.[6]

Resource sharing needs to be determined on accurate data to reflect that RecFishers have equitable access to all fish stocks.  Small scale surveys when combined with inaccurate extrapolation through estimated catch rates and bag limits do not provide accurate figures for quantification of the RecFisher catch.

Even if there were uniform licensing across Australia, that does not necessarily equate to an accurate assessment of fish take, as frequency, ability and regions are all determining factors, but it does allow for an accurate estimation of the number of RecFishers across the nation and therefore developing a more accurate assessment of the economic and social benefit.

Participation in fishing surveys by all levels of government to date have not been well supported due to 2 primary reasons, trust and a lack of awareness and engagement.

The trust issue came to the fore with the introduction of Marine Parks at both state & commonwealth levels where recreational fishers participating in surveys and identified areas of prime fish grounds and  watched as those areas were targeted as Marine Park – “No Recreational Fishing” Zones.

The awareness and engagement issue can easily be addressed by a nationwide introduction of “Compulsory Registration” whether a licence fee is applied by the relevant state government or not.  By harvesting contact details, the majority of Recfishers can be communicated with directly.

The current FRDC Recfish Survey is somewhat cumbersome and too long.  Perhaps a rolling survey, utilising the AFTA Kiosk program (in pilot stage at present), would be more engaging at the common point of contact for Recfishers, in tackle stores.

As a means of measuring catch effort, AFTA does not support the principle of “Harvest Tags” for Recfishers across all species as a means of controlling catch but do support the concept of “Tag & Release” programs as a means of building greater scientific research.

AFTA criticised the South Australian government “PIRSA” allocation program of 3030 Recreational Fishing Snapper Harvest Tags as a means of controlling the capture rate of the decimated snapper stocks.   Whilst the estimated number of Recfishers in SA is 277,000 only 3,624 Recfishers.   Recfishers applied for the 3030 tags with just 606 Recfishers being issued 5 tags each.  AFTA abhors the Snapper allocation of only 6000kg to Recfishers , 7,500kg (3788 tags) to Charter Boats whilst an allocation of 60,750kg went to commercial fishers as a fair distribution of the snapper fishery resource given the depletion was arguably brought about through overfishing by the commercial sector.

This is just another example that without a licensing system in SA, no accurate data upon which to base the distribution of the resource was available.

Clearly, across Australia there is a need to determine a fair and equitable share of the each of the fishery stock for the RecFishers, Customary fishing by Indigenous Australians  & Commercial fishing sectors and that once determined, isolate that quota independent of whether the Commercial Sector reach their portion of the TAC.

Transparency is critical, as such AFTA wants a published list from AFMA of each species allocation including the past 10 years allocation history, species by species, state by state.

AFTA want a year on year incremental allocation increase to Recfishers from the current allocation, e.g. 80/20. The increase should be stepped year by year with a 1% increase per annum to bring about an equitable distribution of allocation resulting in a 10% increase over the next decade.

It is critical  that all levels of government address the fact that a shared resource is not a first in best dressed solution outcome as highlighted recently in Qld where the Black Jewfish became a banned species from capture for all fishers because the commercial sector has caught their TAC quota.  AFTA questioned the Qld Minister on how was that was an equitable distribution of the fishing effort?

The same needs to be taken into consideration across the whole range of fish species and not discounting the larger scale incidental by-catch, particularly with long lining.  An example of that is commercially banned species such as Black & Blue Marlin being captured whilst targeting either Tuna or Stripped Marlin.

In relation to the Southern Bluefin Tuna (SBT) the equitable sharing of the resource is absolutely critical to the Recfishers of Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia in particular where the income derived from Recfishers spend in pursuing these fish as targets is of high economic impact throughout the community in what is a relatively short season.

The banning of Recfishers from capture of SBT, whilst at the same time maintaining quota’s for collection of relatively juvenile size stock for fish farming will not sit well across the recreational fishing sector.    The depletion of the tuna biomass for all species, in particular SBT and Yellowfin,  has been due to commercial pressure, poor past management and not that of recreational fishing effort.

AFTA also note that there are many species not targeted, nor caught as bycatch, due to the location of the waters in which they habitat.  Fisheries stock management and resource sharing allocation in this area needs to be addressed in an entirely different manner to that where Recfishers compete for the same species.

AFTA considers that whilst there has been considerable progress and a genuine desire by government for a fair and equitable resource allocation across all sectors, without intended resource allocations being quantified for each species & sector, it is difficult to appraise the result against the intent.

AFTA is committed to working with governments of all levels, Indigenous Australians  and the commercial sector to ensure the guiding principles of resource sharing are not only observed, but more importantly committed to and achieved.

The Hon Bob Baldwin
Australian Fishing Trade Association (AFTA)

[1] These are conservative estimates based on AFTA industry feedback.

[2] Productivity Commission report into Marine Fisheries and Aquaculture, Chapter 4, Table 4.1 Estimates of State-wide participations on recreational fishing

[3] Ibid, Page 124,

[4] Ibid, Page 125,

[5] Ibid, Page 127, Table 4.2, Recreational Fishing Licenses – Independent Fishers

[6] Ibid, Page 9