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Australian Fishing Zone

Under the Fisheries Management Act 1991, the Australian fishing zone means:

(a) the waters adjacent to Australia within the outer limits of the exclusive economic zone adjacent to the coast of Australia; and

(b) the waters adjacent to each external territory within the outer limits of the exclusive economic zone adjacent to the coast of the external Territory;

but does not include:

  • coastal waters of, or waters within the limits of, a State or internal Territory; or
  • waters that are excepted waters.


Total weight of a stock or a component of a stock.

Biomass limit reference point

The point beyond which the risk to the stock is regarded as unacceptably high.


Species taken incidentally in a fishery where other species are the target, and which are always discarded.


Any part of the catch that is kept or sold by the fisher but is not the target species.


Found on or near the sea floor (c.f. Pelagic).


Any part of the catch returned to the sea, whether dead or alive.


A measure of the resources used to harvest a fishery’s stocks. The measure of effort appropriate for a fishery depends on the methods used and the management arrangements. Common measures include the number of vessels, the number of hooks set or the number of fishing days.

Electronic monitoring

Electronic monitoring uses sensors and cameras to monitor and record information on fishing activity in a targeted way. Sensor data and video footage is analysed retrospectively to provide information and verify logbooks according to the needs identified for that fishery.

Fisheries Management Act 1991

One of the two main pieces of legislation (along with the Fisheries Administration Act 1991) that detail AFMA’s responsibilities and powers.

Fishing concession

A Statutory Fishing Right, or a fishing permit, or a foreign fishing boat licence granted under the provisions of the Fisheries Management Act 1991.

Fishing permit

A type of fishing concession granted under Section 32 of the Fisheries Management Act 1991 to a person, authorising the use of a specified Australian boat by that person, or a person acting on that person’s behalf, for fishing in a specified area of the Australian Fishing Zone or a specified fishery for specified species, using specified equipment.

Fishing season

The period during which a fishery can be accessed by fishers.


Type of passive fishing gear consisting of panels of net held vertically in the water column, in contact with the seabed, such that fish attempting to swim through the net are entangled. The mesh size of the net determines the size range of fish caught, as smaller fish can swim through the meshes and larger fish are not enmeshed.


GoFish is AFMA’s online business facility for fishers to submit their applications, view their record of fishing concessions as held by us, keep their contact details up to date, view quota and catch information, receive messages from AFMA and monitor progress of applications lodged with AFMA.

Harvest strategy

Strategy outlining how the catch in a fishery will be adjusted from year to year depending on the size of stock, the economic or social conditions of the fishery, conditions of other interdependent stocks or species, and uncertainty of biological knowledge. Well-managed fisheries have an unambiguous (explicit and quantitative) harvest strategy that is robust to the unpredictable biological fluctuations to which the stock may be subject.

Incidental catch

Any part of the catch that is not the target species, including bycatch and by-product.

Individual transferable quotas

Individual portions of a total allowable catch – units of quota – that allow the holder to catch that portion of the total allowable catch each season. The weight value of the individual transferable quotas changes in proportion to changes in the total allowable catch set for a species each season.

Individual transferable quotas are fully tradeable and can be sold or leased to other fishers.

Key commercial species

A species that is, or has been, specifically targeted and is, or has been, a significant component of a fishery.


Official record of catch-and-effort data completed by fishers. In many fisheries, a licence condition makes the return of logbooks mandatory.


Fishing gear in which short lines (branch lines or droppers) carrying hooks are attached to a longer main line at regular intervals. Pelagic longlines are suspended horizontally at a predetermined depth with the help of surface floats. The main lines can be as long as 100 kilometres and have several thousand hooks. Droppers on demersal longlines (set at the seabed with weights) are usually more closely spaced.

Maximum economic yield

The sustainable catch or effort level for a commercial fishery that allows net economic returns to be maximised. Note that for most practical discount rates and fishing costs maximum economic yield will imply that the equilibrium stock of fish is larger than that associated with maximum sustainable yield. In this sense maximum economic yield is more environmentally conservative than maximum sustainable yield and should in principle help protect the fishery from unfavourable environmental impacts that may diminish the fish population.

Maximum sustainable yield

The maximum average annual catch that can be removed from a stock over an indefinite period under prevailing environmental conditions.

Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) box

The area of the Australian Fishing Zone where traditional fishing by Indonesian nationals is permitted.

Nautical mile

A unit of distance derived from the angular measurement of one minute of arc of latitude, but standardised by international agreement as 1852 metres.

Net economic returns

A fishery net economic returns over a particular period are equal to fishing revenue less fishing costs.

Non target species

Species that are unintentionally taken by a fisher or not routinely assessed for fisheries management. See also Bycatch.

Offshore Constitutional Settlement

An agreement between one or more states and the Australian Government giving individual or joint jurisdiction for a particular fishery that is in both coastal waters and the Australian Fishing Zone.

When no Offshore Constitutional Settlement agreement has been reached, the fishery remains under the jurisdiction of the state out to three nautical miles, and of the Australian Government from three nautical miles to 200 nautical miles.

Output controls

Restrictions imposed on the quantity of fish that can be taken from a fishery within a specified period of time. This can be by either a competitive total allowable catch or a total allowable catch allocated to participants as individual transferable quotas.


A fish stock with a biomass below the biomass limit reference point. ‘Not overfished’ implies that the stock is not below the threshold, and is now used in place of the status classification of ‘fully fished’ or ‘underfished’.

Pelagic fish

Inhabiting surface waters rather than the sea floor: usually applied to free swimming species such as tunas and sharks.

Precautionary principle

A principle asserting that a degree of scientific uncertainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation in situations where there are threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage.


Amount of catch allocated to a fishery as a whole (total allowable catch) or to an individual fisher or company (individual transferable quota).

Quota management

A method of management based on output controls that allocates the total allowable catch among eligible operators as shares in the annual total allowable catch.

Reference point

An indicator of the level of fishing (or stock size), used as a benchmark for interpreting the results of an assessment.

Statutory Fishing Rights

Rights granted under Section 21 of the Fisheries Management Act 1991. The nature of Statutory Fishing Rights in a fishery is detailed in the plan of management that creates those rights. A Statutory Fishing Right may be a right to use a boat, a unit of fishing gear or a quantity of catch, or other rights as identified in the management plan.


Members of a species of fish that can breed with one another and produce fertile (capable of reproducing) offspring. In this way, a species maintains its ‘separateness’ from other species; for example, the yellowfin tuna and bigeye tuna are two distinct tuna species whereas the general term ‘tuna’ includes all tuna species.


A functionally discrete population of a species that is largely distinct from other populations of the same species. Such a population may be regarded as a separate entity for management or assessment purposes. Some species form a single stock (e.g. southern bluefin tuna) while others form several stocks (e.g. albacore tuna in the Pacific Ocean are divided up into separate Northern Pacific and Southern Pacific stocks).


Fishing selectively for particular species or sizes of fish.

Target species

The species being actively sought by fishers.

Torres Strait Protected Zone Joint Authority

An authority comprising the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources (Chairperson), the Queensland Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and the Chair of the Torres Strait Regional Authority. The authority is responsible for monitoring the condition of the jointly managed fisheries in the Torres Strait and the formulation of policies and plans for their management.

Torres Strait Treaty

The treaty between Australia and Papua New Guinea concerned with sovereignty, management and maritime boundaries in the area between the two countries and the protection of the way of life and livelihood of traditional inhabitants and the marine environment.

Total allowable catch

The amount of fish of a particular species that can be taken from a fishery in a prescribed period. Total allowable catches are set for fish species managed either through individual transferable quotas or through competitive total allowable catches.


Status of a fish stock for which there is inadequate or inappropriate information to make a reliable assessment.

Undercatch and overcatch

Undercatch and overcatch provide for ‘carry over’ or ‘carry under’ of an amount of end of season quota between fishing seasons thereby allowing fishers the flexibility to catch a certain amount of fish over or under their quota, and debit or credit this to or from the following season’s quota

Vessel monitoring system

Electronic device that transmits the identity and location of a vessel.