Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts home page

About us | Contact us | Publications

header imagesheader imagesheader images

Publications archive - International Activities and Commitments

Disclaimer

Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Australia's report to the UNCSD - 1996

Implementation of Agenda 21
Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, 1996
ISBN 0 6422 4868 0

Case Study - Oceans

Structural Adjustment - Southern Bluefin Tuna fishery and the northern prawn fishery

In Australia, fisheries adjustment programs are used to remove excess fishing capacity. This case study outlines two contrasting approaches used by the Commonwealth Government to reduce fishing capacity in concert with the sustainable harvest level of the resource.

Both the Southern Bluefin Tuna Fishery and the Northern Prawn Fishery are managed for the Commonwealth by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority. Under its legislation, the authority has the responsibility to implement efficient and cost effective fisheries management, to ensure that fisheries activities are conducted according to the principles of ESD and to maximise economic efficiency in harvesting fish stocks.

Southern Bluefin Tuna fishery

Southern bluefin tuna are a highly migratory species which pass through Australia's southern waters. In 1961, the unrestricted global catch peaked at over 81 000 tonnes and began to decline to less than 40 000 tonnes in 1984 when quota arrangements were introduced. In 1990 Japan, New Zealand and Australia agreed upon a global total allowable catch (TAC) of 11 750 tonnes.

Within the Australian fishery, a system of individual transferable quotas (ITQs) was introduced in 1984-85 when the Australian total allowable catch quota was 14 500 tonnes. By the end of the 1980s the Australian TAC had been reduced to 5 265 tonnes where it remains today. Creation of ITQs fundamentally changed the nature of the access right for fishers in the Southern Bluefin Tuna Fishery, making the fishing right a far more recognisable and tradeable form of access right.

A primary advantage of an ITQ system is that the fishing fleet capacity adjusts in an autonomous way and direct government intervention is not needed. Since the introduction of ITQs, and at the same time that Australia's quota has been reduced by around sixty-five per cent for stock conservation purposes, significant autonomous structural adjustment has occurred. Fleet size has fallen from 134 boats in 1984 to around 80 boats at present, and there has been a dramatic shift in fishing strategy away from targeting small tuna for canning towards larger tuna for the fresh sashimi trade to Japan. Australian interests have also set up farming operations involving the grow-out or fattening of wild-caught southern bluefin tuna for export.

Northern prawn fishery

The Northern Prawn Fishery, which is managed by input controls, such as limited entry, gear restrictions, time and area closures, was for many years characterised by over-capacity. The preferred structural adjustment mechanism has been through direct government intervention. A voluntary buy-back system was introduced in 1985 using government and industry funds. Although the number of boats licensed to operate in the fishery fell from 238 in 1986 to 172 boats by 1991, the main impact of the scheme was to reduce the latent (unused) capacity of the fleet, rather than actual fishing effort.

The scheme was modified in 1991 and an element of compulsory surrender of units of fishing capacity was included in 1993. The combined adjustment measures have been very successful, with the current fleet size of 124 considered to be largely in balance with the sustainable level of the resource. Economic returns to the remaining fishers have improved as the costs of fishing have fallen.