The purpose of this paper is to outline the Australian
approach to fisheries co-management. It is important to note that,
unlike the situation in Canada, in Australia both the states and
the federal government have constitutional authority over the regulation
of harvesting activity. Specifically, the states (and territories)
have management responsibility from the low-water mark to 3 nautical
miles, and federal government manages from 3 nautical miles to 200
Consequently, in Australia, there are 8 independent
fisheries management agencies that control domestic access to fisheries
resources. Six states and one territory manage their fisheries via
government departments, and the federal government uses an arm’s-length
statutory authority. This paper examines co-management arrangements
employed by the federal government.
As there is no generally accepted definition of
the term "co-management", this paper takes a broad approach
to discussing co-management arrangements in federally managed fisheries.
Co-management arrangements are examined under the following major
headings: decision-making structure, advisory structure, and other
components of the Australian co-management model.
Prior to 1992, federal fisheries were managed
by the Department of Primary Industry (now named the Department
of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry). However, in 1989, a federal
government policy statement, New Directions for Commonwealth Fisheries
in the 1990s, outlined a new framework for managing fisheries.
Under New Directions, and the subsequent enabling
legislation (Fisheries Administration Act 1991 and Fisheries Management
Act 1991), the Minister’s responsibility for day-to-day fisheries
management was transferred to a newly created statutory authority
– the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA). The
Department maintains authority for broader fisheries policy, international
negotiations and strategic policy issues.
In terms of management regimes, the federal government
has a publicly stated policy preference for individual transferable
quotas. However, a considerable degree of discretion is exercised
in implementing this policy. Of the federal government’s 14
major fisheries, 6 are managed with individual transferable quotas
(accounting for roughly 35% of total landed value), and the remaining
8 are managed with effort controls.
2. Decision-Making Structure
This section briefly outlines the decision-making
structure used to manage federal fisheries. The discussion focuses
on the decision-making role of the Australian Fisheries Management
Authority and the Minister.
1. Australian Fisheries Management Authority
An important feature of the Australian model
is the establishment of a statutory authority, AFMA, to make day-to-day
decisions on fisheries management at arm’s length from the
Minister with portfolio responsibility for fisheries.
An 8-member expertise-based Board of Directors
is responsible for overseeing AFMA’s operations and making
high-level decisions on fisheries management matters. The Board
includes a Chairperson, Government Director, Managing Director,
and 5 nominated Directors.
Directors are appointed by the Minister on the
basis of their skills and expertise in areas such as resource
management, commercial fishing, fisheries science, marine ecology,
economics, government and business management. The Chairperson
and Government Director are directly appointed by the Minister.
The Managing Director, who is responsible for day-to-day fisheries
management, is nominated by the AFMA Board, but the Minister must
approve the appointment.
With respect to the 5 nominated Directors, a
6-member Selection Committee is established by the Minister to
seek nominations for Directors from the public and the peak industry
body. The Selection Committee is composed of 2 members nominated
by the peak industry body, 2 members determined by the Minister
(one of whom has "environmental conservation" knowledge,
a Presiding member appointed by the Minister, and a member nominated
by the Ministerial Council. The Minister may reject the Selection
2. Ministerial Involvement
While AFMA operates at arm’s length from
the Minister, the Fisheries Administration Act 1991 allows the
Minister to give AFMA directions under exceptional circumstances,
||the Minister may give AFMA directions in
writing concerning the performance of its functions and the
exercise of its powers, and AFMA must comply with those directions;
||however, the Minister can only give a direction
to AFMA if the Minister is satisfied that, because of the existence
of exceptional circumstances, Ministerial direction is required
to ensure that AFMA, in pursuing its functions and exercising
its powers, does not conflict with major government policies;
||when the Minister gives a direction to AFMA,
the Minister must publish the particulars of the direction in
the Gazette and cause a copy of that notice to be laid before
each House of the Parliament.
In addition, the Minister must approve AFMA’s
Corporate Plan, Annual Operating Plan and all statutory fisheries
management plans (which are discussed later).
3. Advisory Structure: Co-operative Partnership
AFMA’s 1999/2000 Annual Report provides
the following two comments concerning stakeholder involvement:
The AFMA model, and the legislation which underpins
it, places a strong emphasis on a co-operative partnership approach
among key stakeholders, including fisheries managers, researchers,
fishing operators, environment/conservation and recreational fishing
interests (where appropriate) and other stakeholders, in the process
of developing and implementing fisheries management arrangements.
Central to this approach is the establishment and operation of
Management Advisory Committees for each major Commonwealth fishery.
The role of fishers in today’s management
environment has expanded well beyond the traditional role of catching
fish. Fishers are increasingly called upon to consider, and make
decisions about, issues such as bycatch, stock sustainability,
conservation, compliance, research priorities, resource sharing
and the costs of management.
The Management Advisory Committee (MAC) for
a fishery is AFMA’s key advisory source on all fisheries-related
AFMA has established 14 Management Advisory
Committees, one for each of its major fisheries. MACs have up
to 9 members. All MACs have an independent (from AFMA) chair,
an independent environment/conservation member (usually from various
NGOs), an independent research member, 3 to 5 industry members
(usually commercial harvesters), and one AFMA member. Some MACs
have one or more recreational/charter members and one MAC has
processing-sector member. In addition, most MACs have either a
State Government Member or Permanent Observer, as well as an independent
The AFMA Board appoints MAC members after seeking
nominations from the public and various industry and other stakeholder
Management Advisory Committees undertake a number
of specific management-related activities for AFMA, including:
||being a liaison body between AFMA and persons
engaged in a fishery;
||developing recommendations on the preferred
management regime - such as whether a fishery should be managed
under effort controls or individual transferable quotas;
||providing advice to AFMA in relation to the
preparation and operation of management plans;
||annual evaluation of and advice on management
expenditures for each fishery;
||monitoring, and reporting in relation to
scientific, economic and other information relating to a fishery,
||establishing a 5-year strategic research
||coordinating stock assessment activities
||developing bycatch recommendations; and
||providing advice on enforcement and compliance
Most MACs have set up Research, Enforcement
and Finance sub-committees. In addition, most MACs have established
Fisheries Assessment Groups, which are AFMAs major source for
both stock assessment and economic advice. The Fisheries Assessment
Groups generally have an independent chairperson, 3 or more industry
members, an AFMA management officer, an independent economist,
an independent conservation member, and independent stock assessment
biologists. The recreational/charter sector is also present in
some Fisheries Assessment Groups.
3. Other Components of the Australian Co-management
1. Management Plans and Access Entitlements
In all of its major fisheries, AFMA is moving
towards the establishment of formal management plans that are
implemented though delegated legislation.
Management plans are more than a simple list
of regulatory restrictions. Each management plan must state its
management objectives, measures by which the objectives are to
be attained, and performance criteria against which management
measures may be assessed.
AFMA’s legislation allows for the issuance
of 3 types of access entitlements – statutory fishing rights,
fishing permits and scientific permits. AFMA’s objective
is to use statutory fishing rights in most major fisheries. Statutory
fishing rights are simply access entitlements that are created
and allocated within a statutory fisheries management plan. As
a statutory management plan is delegated legislation, the statutory
fishing rights allocated under the plan continue to exist unless
the legislated management plan is revoked.
One example of statutory fishing right is the
right to take a particular quantity of fish, or to take a particular
quantity of fish of a particular species or type. Another example
is the right to a particular proportion of the total fishing capacity
that is permitted in a fishery.
AFMA must keep a register of statutory fishing
rights and third-party interests may be recorded on the register.
This in turn allows statutory fishing rights to be used as collateral.
According to AFMA’s legislation, holders of statutory fishing
rights may treat the right as "absolute owner." AFMA
must approve transfer of the ownership of a statutory fishing
right, however it may only refuse if the transfer would be contrary
to the requirements of the relevant statutory management plan.
Statutory rights cease to exist if the management
plan is revoked and no compensation is payable. However, there
are a number of legislated requirements with respect to statutory
fishing rights that follow the revocation of a management plan.
2. Statutory Fishing Rights and Revocation of
a Statutory Management Plan
This section briefly outlines the process to
be followed with respect to statutory fishing rights when a management
plan is revoked. Only a brief outline is provided here, those
interested in the details should consult the Fisheries Management
If a management plan is revoked, then statutory
fishing rights under the plan cease to exist, but holders of statutory
fishing rights under the revoked plan are issued statutory fishing
rights options. A statutory fishing rights option entitles the
holder of the option to be granted statutory fishing rights under
any plan of management determined for the fishery after the revocation
of the former plan.
As an example of how statutory fishing rights
options work, consider the situation where a plan of management
for a fishery is revoked and a new plan is introduced that has
some features in common with the previous plan. Specifically,
assume that at least one of the species, for which new statutory
fishing rights are to be allocated, was a species for which statutory
fishing rights were allocated under the previous plan. Under this
scenario, holders of statutory fishing rights options are entitled
to be granted such number of statutory fishing rights under the
new plan as AFMA determines to be fair and equitable. The Fisheries
Management Act 1991 details the factors that AFMA must take into
consideration when translating statutory fishing rights options
into statutory fishing rights.
3. Allocation Advisory Panels
Holders of access entitlements (e.g. fishing
licences) can face significant financial impacts from changes
in management regimes, for example, when management moves from
effort controls to individual transferable quotas.
In light of these possible impacts, AFMA has
developed an explicit policy whereby any re-allocation of access
entitlements (necessitated from a fundamental change in management
arrangements) is to be fair and equitable, and, to the maximum
extent possible, be based on minimizing wealth redistribution
amongst fishers. In other words, the move from one type of access
entitlement to another type, should not needlessly result in one
group of fishers benefiting at the direct expense of another group.
In such situations, AFMA also establishes
an independent Allocation Advisory Panel to provide advice to
the AFMA Board on how new access entitlements should be allocated.
Panels are composed of independent judge, an economist and a fisher
(not associated with the fishery in question).
For example the Southern Shark Fishery recently
moved from a system of effort controls (individual non-transferable
gear units) to individual transferable quotas. An independent
Allocation Advisory Panel was formed to provide recommendations
on how the total allowable catch should be distributed amongst
gear sectors and individuals.
4. Cost Recovery
Under government policy, the costs associated
with many commercial sector management services are recovered
from commercial fishers. Cost recovery levies are recovered on
a fisheries-by-fisheries basis, which in turn necessitates that
AFMA calculates management costs for each fishery on a detailed
basis. The federal government does not charge commercial fishers
AFMA’s 99/00 budget was roughly $22 million,
which is roughly 5% of landed value. Of the $22 million budget,
$13 million was used to deliver commercial fisheries management
services and $9 million went to the delivery of community service
Concerning the costs associated with commercial
fishery management services, 65% of the total cost of $13 million
was recovered from industry, and 35% was not cost-recovered. Under
current government policy, 50% of domestic surveillance and enforcement
costs are not subject to cost recovery.
In addition to commercial fisheries management
services, AFMA also supplies a number of community service obligations
for the federal government. Community service obligations, totalling
$9 million, include enforcement of illegal foreign fishing in
the Australian Fishing Zone and fisheries management services
associated with indigenous Torres Strait Islander fisheries management
(which is not cost recovered under government policy).
The costs of research are additional to the
above management costs. A separate statutory authority, the Fisheries
Research and Development Corporation, which is funded by both
industry and the Commonwealth, provides roughly $10 million yearly
4. AFMA’s Legislated Objectives
Both the Minister’s and AFMA’s decision-making
authority is fettered by the following objectives that are set out
in both the Fisheries Management Act 1991 and the Fisheries Administration
||implementing efficient and cost-effective
fisheries management on behalf of the Commonwealth;
||ensuring that the exploitation of fisheries
resources and the carrying on of any related activities are
conducted in a manner consistent with the principles of ecologically
sustainable development and the exercise of the precautionary
principle, in particular the need to have regard to the impact
of fishing activities on non-target species and the long term
sustainability of the marine environment; and ensuring that
the exploitation (and related activities) in the Australian
fishing zone and the high seas of fish stocks in relation to
which Australia has obligations under international agreements
is carried on consistently with those obligations;
||maximising economic efficiency in the exploitation
of marine resources;
||ensuring accountability to the fishing industry
and to the Australian community in AFMA’s management of
fisheries resources; and,
||achieving government targets in relation
to the recovery of AFMA’s costs.
A Perspective on the Australian Model
a. The use of an arms-length statutory
authority to manage fisheries has acted to de-politize day-to-day
fisheries management. However, there have been a few cases where
lobbying by stakeholders has drawn the political process into decision
making. For example, as a result of lobbying by the recreational
sector, the Fisheries Management Act 1991 was amended in 1998 to
require all domestic and foreign commercial fishers to return harvested
black and blue marlin (in a specific geographical area) to the sea.
Another example involves the re-allocation of statutory fishing
rights in the Northern Prawn Fishery, which was required by a fundamental
change in management arrangements. Dissatisfaction within some sectors
of industry with the proposed re-allocation formula resulted in
political lobbying, a motion of disallowance in the Senate, and
a Senate hearing on the issue.
b. The involvement of stakeholders
on the AFMA Board, Management Advisory Committees and Fisheries
Assessment Groups has provided the Minister with the vehicle needed
to redirect stakeholder lobbying efforts back to the fisheries management
c. The establishment of multi-stakeholder
Management Advisory Committees has helped to centralize and integrate
stakeholder advisory input into management decision making.
d. The stipulation of explicit management
objectives in legislation has acted both to constrain and focus
decision making with respect to fisheries management. This in turn
has also acted to de-politize decision making.
e. The use of independent Advisory
Allocation Panels has reduced tension between fishers and the management
agency (especially fisheries managers), and has helped to reduce
the risk of successful legal challenges when access entitlements
have been re-allocated.
f. There is greater transparency
and accountability concerning the cost and provision of management
services due to the explicit identification and recovery of management
g. The move from fisheries management
via a government department to an arm’s length statutory authority
acted to place the management authority somewhat out of the "bureaucracy"
loop, which took both time and effort to overcome.
h. It takes time for industry and
other stakeholders to mature to the role of providing independent
professional advice on Management Advisory Committees. The development
of fisheries management courses aimed at MAC members has helped
to improve advice from stakeholders on MACs.