Scalefish Fishery Overview
In palawa kani, the language of Tasmanian Aborigines, with thanks to the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre.
The Tasmanian Scalefish Fishery is a multi-species fishery that operates in state waters and encompasses a wide variety of species and capture methods. The primary gear types include gillnet, hooks and seine nets. Other fishing gears used include traps, Danish seine, dip nets and spears. The Scalefish Fishery Management Plan (amended in 2015) provides the management framework for the fishery (More information under Fishery Management).
The Scalefish fishery is dynamic with fishers readily adapting and changing their operations in response to changes in fish availability, legal requirements, and market opportunities. In consequence, only a small proportion of the fleet has specialised in a single activity or targets a single primary species (Ziegler 2012). For many operators, scalefish represent an adjunct to other activities, such as Rock Lobster fishing.
The annual Tasmanian Scalefish reporting is conducted by the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) for the Department of Natural Resources and Environment, Tasmania (NRE Tas) and covers assessments of selected taxa within the Scalefish Fishery, including species of teleosts (a diverse group of ray-finned fishes) and cephalopods, under Tasmanian jurisdiction. In addition, the reporting includes some species under Commonwealth jurisdiction that are also taken in state waters by state-licensed operators.
Annual commercial catches of the major species in Tasmania have generally declined since the early 1990s. This decline can be explained, in part, by changed targeting practices, market demand fluctuations, the introduction of the Scalefish Fishery Management Plan in 1998, and the transfer of the Southern Shark Fishery to the Commonwealth in 2000. The general decline in commercial catches has been accompanied by a continuous decline in both the number of vessels participating and in the number of scalefish fishing licences since 2000.
Although catch is commonly declining due to declining effort, there is insufficient information or ongoing concern about the status of half of all species assessed in the annual fisheries reporting. There is also concern regarding the level of latent capacity within the fishery from licence holders who are currently participating either at low levels or not actively.
The full 2020/21 Scalefish Assessment, released Dec 2022, can be found at the link:
The Scalefish Fishery Management Plan [Fisheries (Scalefish) Rules 1998] was first introduced in 1998 (DPIF 1998) and reviewed in 2001, 2004, 2009 and 2015. The management plan provides the regulatory framework for the fishery, which covers commercial and recreational components. Further details of the Scalefish Fishery Management Plan can be viewed here:
Commercial Catch Trends
Total annual commercial catches have generally declined, scalefish production of the main species (including all species assessed here ) shows a decline from more than 1,000 t in the late 1990s to less than 400 t in 2019/20. See below for more detail:
More detailed breakdown of catch, effort and CPUE by species can be viewed here:
Stock assessments are conducted annually for selected species within the Scalefish Fishery, including teleost (a diverse group of ray-finned fishes) and cephalopod fisheries under Tasmanian jurisdiction and some species under Commonwealth jurisdiction that are also taken in state waters by state-licensed operators. More details of the methods used can be found here:
Two different assessment methods are outlined below:
Numbers of both Commercial Scalefish Licenses and Recreational Gillnet Licences can be viewed here: