Guidelines for the ecologically sustainable management of fisheries

Department of the Environment and Water Resources, 2007

2nd edition

About the guidelines

Following consultation with governments and environmental groups, a revised approach to the fishery assessment process under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) was approved by the Hon. Malcolm Turnbull, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources in August 2007. The updated version of the Guidelines for the Ecologically Sustainable Management of Fisheries - Edition 2 (the Guidelines) includes a revised streamlined process for reporting and submission requirements for fishery assessments under the EPBC Act. The updated Guidelines are available for downloading above.

The fishery assessments are conducted against the Guidelines which outline specific principles and objectives designed to ensure a strategic and transparent way of evaluating the ecological sustainability of fishery management arrangements.


To satisfy the Australian Government requirements for a demonstrably ecologically sustainable fishery, the fishery or fisheries if a species is caught in more than one fishery, must operate under a management regime that meets Principles 1 and 2. The management regime must take into account arrangements in other jurisdictions, and adhere to arrangements established under Australian laws and international agreements.

The management regime does not have to be a formal statutory fishery management plan as such, and may include non-statutory management arrangements or management policies and programs.

The regime should:

  • Be documented, publicly available and transparent;
  • Be developed through a consultative process providing opportunity to all interested and affected parties, including the general public;
  • Ensure that a range of expertise and community interests are involved in individual fishery management committees and during the stock assessment process;
  • Be strategic, containing objectives and performance criteria by which the effectiveness of the management arrangements are measured;
  • Be capable of controlling the level of harvest in the fishery using input and/or output controls;
  • Contain the means of enforcing critical aspects of the management arrangements;
  • Provide for the periodic review of the performance of the fishery management arrangements and the management strategies, objectives and criteria;
  • Be capable of assessing, monitoring and avoiding, remedying or mitigating any adverse impacts on the wider marine ecosystem in which the target species lives and the fishery operates; and
  • Require compliance with relevant threat abatement plans, recovery plans, the National Policy on Fisheries Bycatch, and bycatch action strategies developed under that policy.

The management regime also must comply with any relevant international or regional management regime to which Australia is a party. Compliance with the international or regional regime does not mean Australia cannot place upon the management of the Australian component of the fishery management controls that are more stringent than those required through the international or regional regime.

Fisheries assessments

An independent assessment of all export and all Australian Government managed fisheries is required. These assessments ensure that, over time, fisheries are managed in an ecologically sustainable way.

The assessments are conducted against the Guidelines for the Ecologically Sustainable Management of Fisheries- Edition 2 (the Guidelines). The Guidelines outline specific principles and objectives designed to ensure a strategic and transparent way of evaluating the ecological sustainability of fishery management arrangements.

In August 2007, the Guidelines were also revised to include new reporting and submission requirements to ensure a streamlined process and alignment with each jurisdiction's annual reporting requirements.

The assessment process is designed to incorporate a flow of communication between fishery managers and the SFS, in order to facilitate the best outcome for the fishery. Each fishery is unique, and assessment is based on the merits of the combination of management measures in place and fishery specific issues.

See also