Fish Stocks Reports show world leading fisheries management

8 June 2021

The fifth edition of the Status of Australian Fish Stocks (SAFS) Reports shows the sustainability of Australia’s world class fisheries is growing from strength to strength.

Assistant Minister for Forestry and Fisheries Jonno Duniam said the reports – released today on World Ocean Day – showed the continued success of Australia’s fisheries management systems, and the scientific capability that underpins them. 

“Australia has a great record in fisheries management, and the new reports demonstrate this with respect to the wild-caught fish stocks that are the basis of our fisheries,” Assistant Minister Duniam said. 

“Australians can be confident that locally-caught seafood is being sourced from fisheries that are being managed for sustainability.

“The 2020 reports show a trend towards overall greater sustainability, compared with the previous 2018 report, but also show that both managers and fishers alike cannot rest on their laurels and past performance.” 

The 2020 report sees the inclusion of 25 new species including finfish, sharks and rays, and found numerous stocks and species have retained their statuses from 2018. 

For example, the iconic Western Australian species, the Baldchin Groper, maintained its recovering status in 2020, indicating continued stock rebuilding in this species. 

The SAFS Reports, which are compiled every two years since 2012, provide a sustainability rating for 477 stocks or population units.  

The reports assessed 148 species of finfish, crustaceans, molluscs and sharks and rays, providing a high level of detail on where fish are caught, as well as historical catch data.

The reports compile stock assessment information that is used to inform fisheries management around the country to give an overall picture of the sustainability of Australia’s fish stocks, used by commercial, recreational and Indigenous fishers. 

FRDC’s Managing Director Dr Patrick Hone said the SAFS Reports put Australia in an enviable position to look after our fisheries. 

“The SAFS Reports not only provide the opportunity to highlight sustainable species, but also to understand where there are issues such as data gaps or the need for management intervention or additional research,” Dr Hone said. 

Seafood Industry Australia CEO Veronica Papacosta said the reports were a celebration of the shared stewardship of our oceans and fisheries management. 

“Australia’s seafood industry is responsibly managed and produces some of the best seafood in the world, which has been reaffirmed by this year’s stock reports,” Ms Papacosta said.

“As an industry, we are subject to some of the most intensive fisheries management and reporting protocols in the world. Accountability and transparency are incredibly important to us. Our Fisheries Managers let our fishers know what they can catch, where, when and how they can catch it; and most importantly, it’s working. 

“Australians can be confident that every time they buy Great Australian Seafood that it comes from well-managed, sustainable fisheries, which ensures that our fish stocks will be around for generations to come.”

Report results: 

  • 148 species (or species complexes) were assessed across Australia and 25 new species were added to the reports.
  • 477 stock assessments completed, by 81 stock assessment scientists and 39 reviewers
  • The 2020 reports found that 302 stocks were sustainable, 36 as depleted, 17 depleting, and 16 recovering. 
  • 70 stocks were classified as undefined, a result of adding new species and stocks to the reports, with a large number of additions from relatively data-poor fisheries.
  • 36 were negligible.

As of July 2018, SAFS summary information has been used to inform Australia’s progress against the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 14: Life below water. In particular, the indicator to assess progress towards this target is 14.4.1: Proportion of fish stocks within biologically sustainable levels.

Released by the Australian Government’s Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC), this edition marks ten years of the reports and is available at fish.gov.au.