Fisheries Ministers Meeting

​Communiqué – Australian, New South Wales, Western Australia, Tasmania, South Australia, Victoria, Queensland and Northern Territory Governments

December 2014

Ministers and senior officials from Australian, state and Northern Territory governments met in Melbourne on 10 December 2014 to discuss a collaborative approach to the management of wild catch-commercial, recreational and Indigenous fisheries and aquaculture.

The meeting provided an opportunity to strengthen relationships and ensure effective and coordinated management of our fish stocks. There was a focus on the streamlining of regulations with the goal of reducing the cost of compliance for the fishing industry.

It was recognised that communication across governments is important and can lead to real gains in deregulation, enhanced services and an exchange of experience.

The meeting acknowledged the work that industry and governments have done to ensure the sustainability of Australia’s fisheries, which are internationally regarded as reliable, safe and coming from sustainably managed fisheries.

The meeting was hosted by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture, Senator the Hon. Richard Colbeck.

Senator Colbeck thanked the ministers and senior fisheries officials for their attendance at the first meeting of Australian Fisheries Ministers in more than a decade.

“I am very pleased with the level of cooperation and willingness to engage that was displayed at the meeting. There is a real opportunity for the jurisdictions to continue to work together to improve fisheries management around Australia, including reducing the complexity and duplication of management and the cost to government and industry,” he said.

New South Wales Minister for Primary Industries the Hon. Katrina Hodgkinson MP said the meeting was a great opportunity to discuss the important issues affecting Australia’s fishing industry with state and federal counterparts.

“Importantly it was good to see all States agreeing to work together to remove the red tape that holds our fisheries industries up,” Minister Hodgkinson said.

“NSW supports continuing to work closely with the other States and Commonwealth jurisdictions to ensure Australia’s reputation as a world leader in fisheries management continues.”

Jeremy Rockliff, Tasmanian Minister for Primary Industries and Water, said the meeting was an excellent forum to discuss efficiencies that can be made.

“Red tape reduction is a priority for the Tasmanian Government. Many of Tasmania's fishery and aquaculture issues are unique, but it is pleasing to see that the Commonwealth, states and Northern Territory are keen to work together to support sustainable fisheries, best practice management and our unique seafood brands," he said.

Ken Baston, the Western Australia Minister for Agriculture and Food; fisheries, said the WA Government maintains a strong commitment to world class fisheries management and the outcomes of this meeting will go a long way to help our fishing and aquaculture industries  sustainably grow into the future.

“WA supports a continuation of the states and Commonwealth working closely together to ensure that Australia’s reputation as a world leader in fisheries management continues.”

Kyam Maher, South Australian Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, expressed support for a number of joint initiatives including the commencement of discussions to review Offshore Constitutional Settlement agreements, opportunities to reduce red tape and streamline Commonwealth environmental approvals for low risk fisheries.

“The endorsement by all jurisdictions of the ‘National Guidelines to Develop Fishery Harvest Strategies’ is reflective of the understanding by all attendees of the need to ensure there is consistency in the approach for harvest strategy decision-making. South Australia was pleased to have been involved in leading the work on this important document which underpins sustainable fishery management,” Mr Maher said.

Four themes were the focus of the discussion:

  • Streamlining regulation by all governments at all levels to reduce unnecessary costs to the fisher and consumer.
  • Applying common and agreed principles to fisheries management so that everyone understands the basis of Australia’s fisheries management, particularly ensuring solid science underpins good fisheries management.
  • Communicating the effectiveness of Australian fisheries management with the Australian community and markets.
    Using Australia’s strengths in fisheries management as a base for maintaining and growing markets domestically and overseas.

Outcomes from the meeting are:

  • Welcomed streamlined approaches to environmental regulation and supported moves by the Australian Government Department of the Environment to investigate whether independent accreditation of the sustainable management of a fishery can meet the requirements under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).​
  • Agreed that there are real benefits to be gained from working better across agencies and removing duplication and inefficient regulation.
  • Agreed to explore further opportunities for sharing services as a means of reducing costs of fisheries management, for example the monitoring and compliance services the Australian Fisheries Management Authority provides to the Northern Territory.
  • Agreed that the state jurisdictions were best placed to work bilaterally on ensuring consistent stock management. 
  • Agreed further discussion is needed to align recreational fishing surveys so that jurisdictions can better capture the benefits of linking recreational fishing with tourism and economic development.
  • Agreed that each jurisdiction had its areas of expertise that would benefit other jurisdictions. For example, the Northern Territory has had success working with Indigenous communities to build capacity and South Australia has a well-developed aquaculture industry with a one-stop shop approach for environmental and transport approvals.
  • Agreed to work towards the development and adoption of biotoxin management plans. Tasmania shared its experiences of the 2011-12 biotoxin event involving the detection of the toxic algal species Alexandrium tamarense in mussels and the impact these events can have on Australia’s reputation for safe food.
  • Agreed to work together to develop a national aquaculture strategy. The strategy will be a national document, owned equally by all governments, along with the aquaculture industry. 
  • Recognised the importance of food safety standards, aquatic animal health and biosecurity and the benefits of streamlined approvals for the ongoing success of the aquaculture industry.
  • Recognised the need for the wider community to be involved and understand Australia’s seafood industry and that industry has a role in explaining clearly and simply how it supports the ongoing sustainability of fisheries.
  • Recognised the value of the Australian Fish Names Standard in helping consumers to easily identify which fish they are buying e.g. the use of the name ‘flake’.
  • Acknowledged the importance of the recreational fishing sector and agreed that working towards the application of more consistent management arrangements, where appropriate, would create benefits for the recreational sector.
  • Endorsed the National Guidelines to Develop Fishery Harvest Strategies as an important step in fisheries management. The guidelines, developed through an SA-led project funded by the Fisheries Research Development Corporation, provide a national framework to support consistent harvest strategy development across Australian fisheries.
  • The Australian Fisheries Management Forum—an advisory group comprising senior fisheries officials from all the jurisdictions, the Australian Government Department of the Environment, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority and the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation—were tasked with progressing outcomes from this meeting.
  • Officials to meet and develop principles for prioritising and reforming Offshore Constitutional Settlement agreements—the arrangements which determine which jurisdiction(s) is responsible for managing each fishery— and report back to their ministers.
  • Expressed a desire to meet annually