In 1982, CSIRO applied to the Fishing Industry Research Trust Account for funding of a joint biological investigation of northern Australian pelagic fish stocks. At that time these stocks supported a Taiwanese surface gill-net fishery based on sharks, tunas and Spanish mackerel.
During the 1970's the total annual catch taken by the Taiwanese fishery from the area between northern Australia and Papua New Guinea averaged about 25,000 tonnes live weight. With declaration of the Australian Fishing Zone (AFZ) in 1979 the fishery came under Australian jurisdiction and management measures were introduced.
This study was initiated because of mounting government concern over the lack of research into the fishery, and because of increasing interest by industry in Australian exploitation of the resource. The program was a joint undertaking between CSIRO, the Commonwealth Department of Primary Industry and the State Fisheries of Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. The program aimed to provide information on the stock structure, migration, age and growth, recruitment and mortality of the principal species, and to examine the yield potential of the stocks and the potential for increased Australian participation in the fishery. It was particularly important to know whether the target species comprised single stocks or a number of discrete stocks across northern Australia. This information has implications for management of the foreign and domestic fisheries.