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Small Pelagic Fishery

Map of Small Pelagic Fishery

Estimated Catch: 9733 tonnes

Stock Status of Target Species

Common name (scientific name)

Latest available status assessment



Fishing mortality


Fishing mortality


Australian sardine (Sardinops sagax)

Blue mackerel, east/west (Scomber australasicus)

Jack mackerel, east/west (Trachurus declivis)

Redbait, east/west (Emmelichthys nitidus

Not subject to overfishing

Not overfished

Not subject to overfishing

Not overfished

Source: Patterson, H, Williams, A, Woodhams, J and Curtotti, R 2019, Fishery status reports 2019, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra. CC BY 4.0.


The Small Pelagic Fishery is managed in accordance with the Small Pelagic Fishery Management Plan 2009. The management arrangements include the allocation of statutory fishing rights, area based catch limits and rules governing gear that may be used. There were no changes to the Small Pelagic Fishery Management Plan 2009 in 2018-19. The performance criteria detailed in the fishery management plan were all met in 2018-19.


Harvest Strategy

The Small Pelagic Fishery Harvest Strategy was reviewed and updated in 2017, with all aspects of the harvest strategy now quantitatively tested. The reference points and harvest rates were found to meet the biological, ecological and economic requirements of the fishery.

The harvest strategy uses Daily Egg Production Method surveys to provide an estimated biomass for each of the four Small Pelagic Fishery stocks. These surveys, along with an annual review of catch and effort data, are used to inform the catch limits set for commercially caught species in the fishery.

Performance – sustainability and economic returns

The results of the 2017-18 survey of redbait west were considered by the Small Pelagic Fishery Scientific Panel and South East Management Advisory Committee during 2018-19. As a result, this stock moved into the highest tier of the harvest strategy with the updated biomass estimate supporting an increased total allowable catch for the 2019-20 season.

The completion of this survey for redbait west means that all stocks have now had at least one survey completed. A further survey was undertaken for the jack mackerel east stock in 2018-19 with the results expected to become available in 2019-20.

Due to limited fishing effort, the total allowable catches for 2018-19 for the seven target stocks were under caught.

Performance – status of bycatch

During 2018-19 we finalised a review of the Small Pelagic Fishery Dolphin Mitigation Strategy. The strategy aims to minimise dolphin interactions in the midwater trawl sector of the fishery by creating incentives for fishers to innovate and adopt best practice to minimise interactions.

The Ecological Risk Assessment for the mid-water trawl sector of the Small Pelagic Fishery was published in March 2019. No species, habitat or community was assessed to be at high risk from fishing activity in the Small Pelagic Fishery. The report by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation applied the recently revised methodology for conducting ecological risk assessments for Commonwealth fisheries. The results of this assessment, along with other relevant information, will be used to prioritise future bycatch management.


The Small Pelagic Fishery remains accredited under Part 13 and is approved as a wildlife trade operation under Part 13A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The primary operator in the fishery is currently undergoing full assessment as a sustainable fishery by the Marine Stewardship Council, which is an independent global certifier of sustainable fisheries. In June 2019, the draft independent assessment report was released for public comment with a decision on certification to be made in 2019-20.

Small pelagics Photo courtesy Clayton McCloud AFMA Media LibrarySmall pelagics Photo courtesy Clayton McCloud AFMA Media Library