Commercial Fishing Sector - Wild-catch


The commercial fishing sector has a long history in Australia. It strives to strike a balance between long-term environmental sustainability and economic viability.


The commercial fishing industry is made up of about 15,000 licence holders. A small number of operators take a large portion of the harvest (by value and volume). These are diverse enterprises that may hold multiple licences. They may work in a range of fisheries and, in some instances, are integrated along the supply chain.

The remainder of the commercial fishing sector is made up of a large number of small owner-operator businesses. They are vital to sustaining small coastal communities and are passionate about what they do — supplying Australia with seafood.

The sector produces excellent quality seafood that is highly regarded internationally. Advances and adoption of best-practices have resulted in high-quality live, fresh and frozen Australian seafood reaching markets around the world such as Hong Kong, Japan, USA and China.

In 2014-15, the commercial sector of the fishing industry produced 151 439 tonnes, worth $1.6 billion. This accounted for 58 per cent of the gross value of Australian fisheries and aquaculture production.


In recent times the commercial fishing sector has focused on obtaining third-party certification of fishing practices and management to display its sustainability credentials and this will continue.

The sector will have to consider sustainability issues arising from external environmental factors such as pollution, climate variability, disease, biosecurity and habitat destruction, including through coastal development.


Australia's marine waters are increasingly a multi-user environment, reducing access to areas for all types of fishing and aquaculture production. There are competing claims for these waters, not only between fishing and aquaculture, but from other users such as the oil and gas industry, and from those wanting more areas protected. 

Economic viability of the sector requires long-term meaningful access to resources, efficient harvesting methods, elimination of unnecessarily complex legislation, better use of underutilised species and opportunities to increase yield.

Streamlining governance and regulation is an on-going priority for those involved in commercial fishing. Within this is the desire to continue investigating co-management approaches, to give greater responsibility and stewardship to commercial fishers. 

Sector Statistics (2014-15) 

  • Gross Production value of $1.6 billion
  • Gross production volume of 151 439 tonnes
  • Sector accounts for 58 per cent gross fisheries production value
  • Top Species (in order of production value): Rock lobster, prawns, abalone, tuna
  • Jurisdictions (in order of production value): WA ($488m), Commonwealth ($350m), SA ($240m), QLD ($177m), TAS ($175m), NSW ($87m), VIC ($59m), NT ($31m)  
  • The most valuable wild-catch species in 2014-15 was rock lobster, with its catch value at $668 million for a volume of 10 307 tonnes.
  • Rock lobster accounted for 67 per cent of total wild-caught crustaceans by value and 29 per cent by volume.
  • Rock lobster catch value has increased since 2011-12 by 14 per cent even though its volume decreased by 1 per cent.

For the latest information on fisheries statistics refer to Australian Fisheries Statistics.

Representative Organisation

The FRDC is accountable under the Primary Industries and Energy Research and Development Act (PIERD Act 1989) to representative bodies nominated by the responsible Minister. 

The FRDC has four representative organisations with which it consults. 

  • Australian Recreational and Sport Fishing Industry Confederation Inc. (trading as Recfish Australia)
  • National Aquaculture Council Inc. (NAC).
  • Commonwealth Fisheries Association Inc. (CFA).
  • National Seafood Industry Alliance (NSIA).

On 12 September 2011, the Parliamentary Secretary Dr Mike Kelly approved and gazetted the National Seafood Industry Alliance as the fourth representative organisation for the FRDC.

Information on National Seafood Industry Alliance visit their website at