Positions On Issues



Prepared for the B.C Seafood Alliance Conference on Sustainability through Co-management: Managing for a Sustainable, Profitable Fishery
Prepared by
Barry Kaufmann

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 miles.

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.

1. Background

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 (AFMA)

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 Committee’s nominations.

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, specifically:

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; and
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 Approach

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 management issues.

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 executive officer.

The AFMA Board appoints MAC members after seeking nominations from the public and various industry and other stakeholder organisations.

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, including
establishing a 5-year strategic research program
coordinating stock assessment activities
developing bycatch recommendations; and
providing advice on enforcement and compliance programs.

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 Model

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 Act 1991.

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 access fees.

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 obligations.

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 for research.

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 Act 1991:

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 agency.

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 costs.

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.