Guidelines for fisheries management agencies

Best practice guidelines for Australian fisheries management agencies


An agency that successfully implements these management functions in accordance with the guidelines will be well-placed to deliver the goal of “sustainable fisheries”.


The project (concluded in 2019) was developed in consultation with the Australian Fisheries Management Authority and State/Territory fisheries agencies. The idea of a publicly available set of standards or guidelines for marine fishery management agencies has been under discussion within fisheries agencies for some time and is consistent with broader directions in government policy and expectations of stakeholders and the broader community. The main output of this project is a set of guidelines provided in a Guidance Document.

The Guidance Document:

  1. Outlines the need for Guidelines and their context
  2. Describes how the functions were identified and tested
  3. Describes the functions
  4. Shows application to agencies
  5. Provides guidance on how to implement these Guidelines
  6. Shows application to fisheries via a set of case studies

Use of these Guidelines offers a range of benefits for Fishery Agencies including to demonstrate best practice and support continuous improvement, inform strategic planning, structural and legislative reform, harmonise or coordinate functions between jurisdictions, and build credibility and transparency with external parties, such as media and general public. The Guidelines can assist with reporting and justification of management costs including highlighting efficiencies and cost savings, development of co-management approaches by clearly describing key functions for each partner, and support external certification processes

Main result

On the basis of a comprehensive review of existing domestic and international regulatory frameworks, policies, standards and guidelines, a core set of 21 functions of fisheries management agencies were identified in five categories:

  1. Development of policy and legislation – Setting the stage for good management
  2. Operational management – Day-to-day functions for management agencies
  3. Review and Performance evaluation – Checking Agency performance
  4. Communication and reporting – Outward-facing agency communication
  5. Cross cutting – issues that are explicit or implicit in many management functions

A description of each function and best practise features is accompanied by examples of how Australian fisheries management agencies currently seek to implement each function. Further, examples of evidence that could demonstrate that the function has been successfully delivered are also provided.

The application of the Guidelines to agencies was tested via review of existing agency legislation, policy and other documents and ten case studies spanning Australia’s fishery jurisdictions. Undertaken in partnership with fishery managers, these case studies showed that the Guidelines are also relevant to fisheries managed by an Agency, regardless of fishery attributes, such as size, species, and sector. Evidence to demonstrate that the functions were being performed at a fishery level was also perceived as readily available for most functions.

Project team: Alistair Hobday, Rich Little, Cathy Bulman, Caleb Gardner, Belinda McGrath-Steer, Emily Ogier, Nick Rayns, Sevaly Sen, Sean Sloan, Tony Smith, Linda Thomas

Project steering committee: Neil MacDonald, Heather Brayford, Jo-Anne McCrea, Simon Nicol, Ilona Stobutzki.


  • Hobday, A.J., et al. CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere (2019) Best practice guidelines for Australian fisheries management agencies, Hobart,
    Australia, May, 2019 (available here)