Toggle content

Australian fisheries

Australia’s marine domain, our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), is one of the largest in the world, covering around 10 million square kilometres1. This is larger than mainland Australia (7.69 million square kilometres). Australia has a long history of Indigenous, commercial and recreational fishing (including charter fishing) in our waters.

The Gross Value of Production (GVP) for all of Australia's commercial fishing and aquaculture in 2014-15 financial year was, $2.76 billion a year with wild-capture fisheries contributed 57 per cent ($1.57 billion) of the total value of Australia's fisheries production and produced more than 151 439 tonnes (t) of seafood, for local, domestic and export markets. Aquaculture (to be included in the future) contributed $1.19 billion and produced more than 91 036 tonnes.

Our commercial fisheries are diverse, operating from estuaries and bays, across the continental shelf to oceanic waters and, in some cases, on to the high seas. The seafood caught is also diverse, including scallops, prawns and squid, coastal fish such as whiting and flathead, reef fish such as Coral Trout, and oceanic tuna and billfish. Australian fisheries supply fresh seafood for local and domestic markets, as well as exporting high-value products.  

Figure 1: Real value of Australian fisheries production, by jurisdiction, 2004–05 to 2014–15

Value of Australian Fisheries Production 2004-05 to 2014-15 


Figure 2: Volume of Australian fisheries production, by jurisdiction, 2004–05 to 2014–15

Volume of Australian Fisheries Production 2004-05 to 2014-15

The fisheries and the wild fish stocks on which they are based are managed by eight jurisdictions within the Australian EEZ. In general, state and territory fisheries extend from the coast to a distance of 3 nautical miles from the coast, and the Commonwealth manages fisheries that extend from 3 nautical miles to the 200 nautical mile EEZ limit—that is, the Australian Fishing Zone (Figure 3). The Commonwealth also manages Australian vessels fishing on the high seas.

The jurisdictional boundaries are set out under the 1982 Offshore Constitutional Settlement, a package of uniform national, state and territory laws outlining responsibilities for offshore fisheries, mining, shipping and navigation. In some situations where fisheries or fish stocks fall within more than one jurisdiction, the default jurisdictional boundaries may not be compatible with sensible management of shared fish stocks. In these cases, the Australian, State and Northern Territory governments have developed arrangements to assign management responsibility to one jurisdiction.

Recreational and Indigenous fishers also depend on wild fish stocks. In many cases, less information is available for recreational and Indigenous fishing than for commercial fisheries, and different management approaches are used. The Status of Australian fish stocks reports 2016 focuses on the commercial fisheries. However, information on recreational and Indigenous fisheries is included if it is available.

Figure 3: Limit of the Australian Fishing Zone

Limit of the Australian Fishing Zone

Note: The Australian Fishing Zone extends from the 3 nautical mile limit (limit of state waters) to the limit of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) around the mainland of Australia and Macquarie Island, and, in the case of the external territories (for example, Norfolk Island), from the coastline to the limit of the EEZ.