Fisheries – Domestic

We have deep domain knowledge across several Australian marine ecosystems and deliver end-to-end scientific advice to support the management of Australian federally and State managed fisheries. Our work supports efforts to maintain fish stocks at ecologically sustainable levels and maximise the triple bottom line outcomes for the Australian community. 

CSIRO is an important research provider for domestic fisheries within Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and for several other nations in the Indo-Pacific region. Domestic fisheries are managed subject to national sovereign laws. In Australia, these include state and federal jurisdictions and apply to commercial, recreational, and Indigenous end-users. Australian federally managed fisheries have a gross value of production (GVP) of about $400 million, accounting for 23 per cent of Australian wild-catch fisheries value ($1.75 billion), and 13.2 per cent of Australia’s total seafood production value.

Domestic fisheries and CSIRO research have been through several phases over the past 30 years, following the exclusion of international fleets from our EEZ. These included a discovery and expansion phase, effort control and introduction of quota-based management, and most recently, the development of harvest strategies, ecological risk assessments and advanced assessment techniques. Each phase has needed H3 science efforts and the current phase of ensuring long-term sustainability in a crowded ocean is no exception.

Currently, the Australian Government manages fisheries based on scientific information on stock status, productivity and the likely impacts of climate variation and change, with objectives of maintaining fish stocks at ecologically sustainable levels and maximising the net economic returns to the Australian community. Legislation and policy also require managers to consider the impact of fishing on non-target species and the wider marine environment. Achieving these goals requires an understanding of the biological status of fish stocks, the effect of management actions, the costs of management programs, the economic status of fisheries, social connections around fisheries, climate and environmental impacts of fish stocks and the broader environment and the state of the marine socioecological environment. This involves the development of highly technical data collection capabilities, system-wide ecological understanding, application of quantitative analysis methods, as well as research on economic and social drivers of fishery sustainability.

While many fisheries occur across Australia, CSIRO has a long-standing reputation and scientific expertise in five Australian marine ecosystems:

  • Northern Australia, including the Gulf of Carpentaria
  • Torres Strait
  • South-east
  • Pelagic offshore
  • Sub-Antarctic

This history provides a unique research advantage, in terms of data and system understanding, which has allowed us to rapidly develop new approaches that address current and future management and policy challenges. We hold a large reservoir of Australian institutional memory in the activities that operate in these and other ecosystems, which also allows our cutting-edge research to sit alongside delivery to enhance Indigenous and non-Indigenous outcomes in often contested fishery sectors.

Science objectives

    The Australian Domestic Fisheries strategy has three main objectives:

    • Develop innovative, internationally recognized cutting-edge approaches to address questions in fisheries science.
    • Be global leaders in fisheries and environmental science excellence through delivery of independent, peer-reviewed scientific contributions.
    • Support triple bottom line outcomes for Australians, including Indigenous, fishers and communities, through collaborative and valued research projects.


    Science Challenges

    The CSIRO Domestic Fisheries strategy recognises our strength and market advantage in end-to-end fisheries science and acknowledges that our researchers are trusted advisors and world leaders in the development of new methods to address current and emerging problems in fisheries science and the management of the world’s oceans: from data collection and data management, to data analysis, modelling and assessment, and to the provision of independent management advice to the Australian government, industry and community. This involves a range of research from low-risk application of technical expertise, referred to as Horizon 1 research, through to science in recently established areas (Horizon 2) and new areas (Horizon 3).

    These areas include, but are not limited to:

    Horizon 1 – Maintaining current core focus, and application of technical expertise

    • Our long-standing research in areas such as the Gulf of Carpentaria, Torres Strait and Pelagic marine ecosystems include fisheries surveys that provide high quality data that are the basis of the analytical approaches and trusted advice. Survey designs are updated and optimized to allow rapid and accurate data collection. This is critical to industry and management trust in our work
    • We continually work for cost-efficient provision of stock assessments, ecological risk assessments (ERAs), and ecosystem modelling
    • Our participation and representation in management forums including Resource Assessment Groups, Management Advisory Committees, and Policy reviews is built upon our practical experience, which differentiates us from academic fisheries researchers

    Horizon 2 – Nurturing development of established scientific areas

    • Genetic tagging including CKMR, and advanced acoustics
    • Tactical ecosystem advice and multi-species, ecosystem assessments, decision support tools for supporting ecosystem-based management in data poor fisheries, and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (see other emerging strategies)
    • Harvest strategy development for small-scale and multi-species fisheries, and whole of ecosystem management

    Horizon 3 – Exploring new scientific areas, and applying innovative approaches

    • Automation of end-to-end fishery management processes
    • New fisheries data collection techniques
      • eDNA methods to infer abundance, and epigenetics to estimate fish age
      • Advanced acoustic and optical data
    • New shared data platforms and data analysis:
      • Utilisation of AI/ML approaches for fisheries monitoring and compliance
      • Analysis and application of close-kin mark-recapture data
    • Cross sector, and multiple-use management including indigenous and recreational fishing management.

    Other Resources

    Demystifying MSE: Management Strategy Evaluation

    Fishing for the Future: The Case for Harvest Strategies

    Using Machine Learning and Artifical Intelligence in Fisheries Management

    Fisheries – From boat to plate

    Key Contact

    Group Leader, Fisheries Assessment, Economics & MSE, CSIRO Environment