Status of Key Australian Fish Stocks Reports 2012

Project Number:



Department of Agriculture

Principal Investigator:

Matthew Flood

Project Status:


FRDC Expenditure:



Adoption, Environment


There is a need for a consolidated national report on the status of key wild catch Australian fish stocks, focusing on commercial and recreational target species. One pitfall of guides like the Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide is their focus on entire species, without considering differences among stocks within each species. Consequently, a poor status determination for one stock can result in a poor status determination for all stocks of that species regardless of whether or not the other stocks are healthy. Government can avoid this pitfall by clearly articulating the status of individual fish stocks. Australia’s different jurisdictions have demonstrated their capacity to work constructively together to achieve common goals (e.g. joint stock assessments for shared stocks). However, the current differences in scope, depth, terminology and benchmarking in jurisdictionally based Fishery Status Reports make it difficult to readily compare the status of stocks across jurisdictions and build a coherent national status of key species. The National Fishery Status Reports would not be promoted as an eco-labelling guide but rather as a government produced instrument designed to simplify comparison of the status of key wild capture fish stocks around Australia both within and among jurisdictions. This information would be available for the general public, policy makers and industry to make informed decisions in relation to the actual health of various stocks. The reports would also provide an important and accurate information source for international organisations (e.g. FAO). The process of producing these reports will improve communication between the jurisdictions, leading to a better understanding of the status determinations made by each jurisdiction and how these compare. One of the main outcomes already achieved from the recent jurisdictional planning workshops is the convergence on a common system of benchmarking and terminology for use across jurisdictions.


1. To produce the first National Fishery Status Reports.

Final Report - 2011-513-DLD - Status of key Australian fish stocks reports 2012. The inaugural process of production and lessons learned

Final Report
Date Published:December 2013

Principal InvestigatorMatthew Flood, ABARES
Keywords: biomass; fisheries; fishing mortality; fish stock; national; stock; stock status assessment;​

The Status of key Australian fish stocks reports are available on www.fish.gov.au, or in hard copy version from ABARES. Whilst the Status of key Australian fish stocks reports themselves are in essence the final report for this project, the current document has been designed to address any remaining ‘final report’ requirements, to provide an outline of the methodology that was used to produce the status reports, and to identify areas for development in future editions. Appendix 3 provides a brief summary of findings from the Status of key Australian fish stocks reports.

What was produced

The objective of producing the first Status of key Australian fish stocks reports was achieved in December 2012. The reports provide the first national, scientifically robust status assessments for key Australian fish stocks. They include 49 species chapters, each describing the distribution of stocks around the country and providing stock status classifications at the biological stock level where possible. The species chapters also include some species specific preliminary information on fishing methods, management measures, vessels numbers, catch quantities, the effects of fishing on the marine environment and environmental factors that can affect fish stocks.
The introductory chapter to the reports provides background information on Australian fisheries and fisheries management, and outlines the national framework on which stock status assessments were made. Information is also provided on the main fishing methods utilised around Australia. The reports provide a key information source on Australia’s fisheries management performance for both domestic and international stakeholders.

National framework

The national Status of key Australian fish stocks reports rely on a consistent reporting framework to assess the biological sustainability of key wild caught fish stocks (appendix 4). In short, for the key fish stocks the reports examine whether the abundance of fish (or biomass) and the level of harvest from the stock are sustainable. The framework was designed and agreed on by the Status of key Australian fish stocks reports Advisory Group.

Traditionally, fishery status reporting has been undertaken separately within each Australian jurisdiction for commercial wild-capture fisheries. The jurisdictional reports use differing terminology and reference points to classify fish stocks. The agreed national reporting framework for the Status of key Australian fish stocks reports improves consistency in reporting across jurisdictions and also allows for shared stocks (those that span the waters of more than one jurisdiction) to be assessed as single biological stocks. This recognises the biological boundaries of fish stocks rather than manmade boundaries of management units or jurisdictions.

Lessons learned from the initial production process

Key lessons learned during the production process include the importance of ensuring:
  • shared ownership with all jurisdictions and authors involved
  • sufficient resourcing, including realistic costings and timeframes
  • effective mechanisms for communication among all project collaborators
  • the provision of clear instructions on drafting
  • a flexible approach (in the first edition), to enable the evolution of the product as it is developed
  • broad stakeholder feedback on reporting frameworks early in the planning phase.

Future editions

The first edition of the Status of key Australian fish stocks reports is the first step towards national fishery-wide reporting, that may provide additional classifications against other aspects of ecologically sustainable development, such as the effects of fishing on the marine environment, economic performance, governance and social good. Future editions of the Status of key Australian fish stocks reports are also envisaged to consider a larger number of species. The possibility of including additional species chapters and updating existing chapters between formal editions of the Status of key Australian fish stocks reports will be discussed by the projects Advisory Group in 2013.
Planning for the next edition of the Status of key Australian fish stocks reports and companion national fishery status reports (providing fishery level assessments) commenced in early 2013.
The Status of key Australian fish stocks Reports is avaialble on line or in pdf version at: www.fish.gov.au