Victorian Wild Harvest Abalone Fishery Management Plan Summary

The Victorian Government's primary objective for the abalone fishery is to optimise its long term value for the Victorian community, in accordance with the objectives and provisions specified in the Fisheries Act 1995.

The Victorian Wild Harvest Abalone Fishery Management Plan specifies the objectives, strategies and actions for managing the fishery for at least five years from the declaration of the plan.

Victoria is home to one of the last sustainable wild-catch abalone fisheries in the world, with a long history of success since its establishment in the early 1960s. In recent years, participants in the abalone fishery have responded to a range of environmental, social and market opportunities and challenges, including:

  • market factors influencing beach prices and profitability for the commercial harvest sector, such as strong demand for abalone in key export markets, competition from domestic and global aquaculture production, currency exchange rates and factors affecting operating costs;
  • growth and demographic change in the recreational fishing community which influences fishing preferences for abalone;
  • the occurrence or risk of an abalone disease;
  • the incorporation of traditional fishing grounds into Marine Protected Areas; and
  • an apparent increase in the abundance of sea urchins, particularly along the eastern coastline.

These opportunities and challenges will be addressed by sector participants and the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport, and Resources (DEDJTR) in a partnership approach, taking account of commercial fishers' entitlements, recreational and Aboriginal fishers' interests and the Victorian Government's policy and regulatory responsibilities.

DEDJTR reviewed the status of the abalone stock and the existing management arrangements for the fishery following a risk assessment process and consultation with fishery stakeholder groups (Appendix 1). DEDJTR also initiated an independent expert process to prepare A Review of Rebuilding Options for the Victorian Abalone Fishery to assist in identifying appropriate stock rebuilding strategies, taking account of the state of abalone stocks and other factors in each commercial fishery zone (DPI, 2012).

A major focus of this management plan is to rebuild the abalone biomass through the implementation and progressive refinement of a revised harvest strategy, with new decision rules that provide clear guidance for future management actions and which take account of the circumstances in each zone of the fishery. Total Allowable Commercial Catches will be set at levels that ensure a significant increase in the available biomass over the life of the management plan. The re-building strategy will also be supported by adjusting minimum legal size limits for abalone applicable to all sectors and retaining the use of the daily bag and possession limits for recreational fishing.

Other complementary actions are being assessed as part of the rebuilding strategy and can be activated by industry, government or both through agreement, including options to support the move to manage the harvest of abalone at a finer spatial (reef) scale, mitigate competition from sea urchins and reseed or translocate abalone on selected reefs.

The plan also builds on arrangements that have been endorsed previously and incorporates some adjusted or additional actions, which particularly include:

  • Retaining the existing eastern, central and western management zones as the foundation for managing the commercial abalone fishery;
  • Retaining the existing arrangements for applying the Total Allowable Commercial Catch and individually transferable quota units for each zone of the commercial abalone fishery;
  • Continuing the Victorian Government's funding (approximately $6.46 million in 2012/13) to significantly strengthen the State's fisheries compliance capabilities as an offset for the incorporation of fishing grounds into Marine Protected Areas. The Victorian Government has stated that no new marine parks will be established;
  • Providing an opportunity to formalise and strengthen the management of commercial abalone harvesting at a sub-zonal spatial scale, subject to developing appropriate governance and funding arrangements consistent with the respective responsibilities of industry and DEDJTR. This would include the development of voluntary and mandatory arrangements to enable efficient harvesting operations that are underpinned by agreed arrangements to electronically record and report fishing locations and catches at the sub-zonal level;
  • Applying a practical and efficient compliance approach to enable commercial abalone quota holders (and their divers) to land up to 10 kilograms of abalone above their annual individual quota allocations on their last day of fishing in a fishing period;
  • Reaffirming the use of the daily bag, possession and minimum size limits as the primary ways to manage recreational fishing for abalone;
  • Where applicable, developing governance arrangements to better empower commercial entitlement holders to make collective decisions to deliver selected management functions via a single industry entity for each fishery zone, subject to developing appropriate safeguards to protect the interests of individual entitlement holders and to enable government to satisfy its regulatory obligations for the sustainable and shared use of the community's abalone resource;
  • Retaining the combined cost recovery and royalty levy capped at 7.21 percent of the annual Gross Value of Production (GVP) for each fishery zone, as contained in the Fisheries Act 1995 and subordinate legislation and subject to:
    • Implementing provisions to verify the GVP to satisfy public financial accountabilities and ensure the efficient operation of the levy;
    • Clearly defining the type and level of science, management and compliance services to be delivered by DEDJTR to operate the fishery on the existing zonal basis;
    • Providing the opportunity for industry to collectively modify or request alternative arrangements in agreement with DEDJTR with additional services funded by industry;
    • Establishing and using performance indicators for the abalone fishery and its management; and
    • Recognising the wild abalone fishery's interaction with aquaculture noting that this management plan is not used to manage licensed aquaculture operations.

An implementation schedule for this plan is shown in the section of this document entitled Key Elements of the Victorian Wild Harvest Abalone Fishery Management Plan. This schedule includes the actions, targets, key partners, funding sources and performance indicators. Ongoing implementation of this plan will require consultation and action by DEDJTR, fishery participants or both, as relevant.

This management plan for the abalone fishery has been prepared in accordance with the requirements of the Fisheries Act 1995 and the Ministerial Guidelines published in the Victoria Government Gazette (21 June 2007).

The plan shall be interpreted by the Minister or Secretary (as relevant to their legislative authority) within the context of the Fisheries Act 1995 or subordinate legislation. The plan will be responsive to any other relevant legislation or government policies.

DEDJTR will prepare an annual progress report for the implementation of this management plan, taking account of the key performance indicators described in the plan. These reports will be provided to industry for review at Stock Assessment and Quota Setting Workshops and be available through the DEDJTR website.

A copy of the plan can be downloaded:

Victorian Wild Harvest Abalone Management Plan 2015 (PDF - 1.1 MB)
Victorian Wild Harvest Abalone Management Plan 2015 (WORD - 1.7 MB)