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Role and functions

AFMA is the Australian Government agency responsible for the provision of regulatory and other services to ensure efficient and sustainable management of Commonwealth fisheries on behalf of the Australian community. The challenge in delivering these services is to find the right balance between competitive and profitable seafood production and managing fishing of Australia’s marine ecosystems within sustainable and acceptable risk levels.

Our fisheries management practices aim to maintain the ecological sustainability of Commonwealth commercial fisheries for Australians both now and into the future. These practices have regard to non-target species and the long-term health of the broader marine environment.

We generally manage commercial fisheries from three nautical miles offshore to the boundary of the AFZ (200 nautical miles offshore), as well as Australian boats fishing on the high seas outside the AFZ. State and territory governments generally manage fisheries within their borders and inside three nautical miles from shore, except where Offshore Constitutional Settlement (OCS) agreements exist for the management of fish species between the Commonwealth and state/territory governments.

The Commonwealth is also responsible for international fisheries matters, including preventing illegal foreign fishing in the AFZ. Since ratifying the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement in 1999, Australia has been actively involved in negotiating regional arrangements to manage a range of highly migratory, straddling stocks and international stocks that are targeted by Australian operators. AFMA participates in management, monitoring, control and surveillance activities as well as developing capacity building activities, providing advice and training to countries in our region.

As a regulator we pursue efficient and cost effective fisheries management in a way that accounts for the effects of fishing and ensures ecologically sustainable development. We also regulate the harvest of fisheries resources with the aim of maximising net economic returns to the Australian community.

Australia’s Commonwealth commercial fisheries are managed in accordance with the government’s cost recovery policy. The Commonwealth commercial fishing industry pays for costs directly attributed to, and recoverable from, the fishing industry, while the government pays for activities that benefit the broader Australian community. During 2019-20 cost recovered revenue from the fishing industry represented about 31 per cent of total revenue. The percentage would be some 39 per cent after taking into account the levy relief package which provided some $10.3 million in order to waive any further levies for all Commonwealth fisheries for the remainder of the 2019-20 year.


AFMA proactively engages with scientists, commercial fishers and fishing associations, researchers, environment and conservation organisations, other Australian Government, territory and state agencies, and recreational and Indigenous fishers about our management of Commonwealth fisheries and compliance activities. We continue to encourage and promote a partnership approach with stakeholders, involving them in developing policies and actions and to share responsibility (and the associated risks) for fisheries management where appropriate.

We also provide fisheries management services to Joint Authorities of the Commonwealth and state governments, including the Torres Strait Protected Zone Joint Authority (PZJA) under the Torres Strait Fisheries Act 1984. The status of these fisheries and AFMA’s activities in managing them are reported separately through the PZJA annual report and relevant Joint Authority reports between the States/Northern Territory and the Commonwealth.

Our values

AFMA individually and collectively underpins our service, partnerships and accountability to stakeholders by adhering to the principles of public sector governance.

We are:

  • Impartial – we are apolitical and provide the government with advice that is frank, honest, timely and based on the best available evidence
  • Committed to service – we are professional, objective, innovative and efficient, and we work collaboratively to achieve the best results for the Australian community and the government
  • Accountable – we are open and accountable to the Australian community under the law and within the framework of Ministerial responsibility
  • Respectful – we respect all people, including their rights and their heritage
  • Ethical – we demonstrate leadership, are trustworthy, and act with integrity, in all that we do.

AFMA’s Client Service Charter also expresses our ongoing commitment to providing stakeholders with quality service. The Client Service Charter is available at our website at afma.gov.au.