Progress in Managing Fisheries

   in Australia 1800 - 1990

The National Picture:

Fisheries management in Australia began well before the nation was created. In the twenty years before federation there was an awakening of public interest in both developing the potential of fisheries resources and the need to conserve them. Reckless harvesting of whales, seals and oysters had already demonstrated the need for governments to regulate the industry.

In the 1880s the Government of Tasmania started a formal process of fisheries development and regulation based on good scientific advice. This initiative was picked up by other colonies and a suite of Fisheries Acts provided a legal foundation for conserving marine living resources. The colonies expected the new national parliament to build on their initiatives.

The Development of Fisheries Management in Tasmania:

The Tasmanian  Parliament enacted its first fisheries law in the 1830s regulating whaling. An Act for the conservation of oysters followed in 1853 and for certain freshwater fish in 1859. The first comprehensive Fisheries Act came in 1884 following a Royal Commission in 1882. All commercial boats have been licensed since 1889.

Hobart Fish Market 1908
Smoking barracouta 1908
Hobart Fish Market 1908
Barracouta fisahing in Storm Bay 1930.
Deepwater trawlers at Hobart in 1990.
Rock Lobster fleet in Victoria Dock Hobart

Tasmania established a Fisheries Department in 1884 with professional staff. Financial constraints led to its replacement with a board of honorary Commissioners in 1889. The prime interest of this body was to nurture trout fishing but it also managed commercial sea fishing. In 1925 responsibility for the two sectors was split with the establishment of the Sea Fisheries Board. In 1941 their responsibilities were taken over by the Fisheries division of the Department of Agriculture. A specialist fisheries agency was reintroduced in 1977 when the Tasmanian Fisheries Development Authority was formed with the prime objective of to create new fishing industries particularly trawling and aquaculture.

Almost exactly 100 years after the first Fisheries Department was formed another was created from the disbanded TFDA and history repeated itself whenit lost its independent status and was swallowed by the Department of Agriculture in 1989.

*Abalone and Lobster Fisheries:

Fisheries based on abalone and spiny rock lobster are the States most important fisheries.  Lobsters were a keenly sought food item from the time of white settlement and have been actively managed since 1885. These early conservation measures have now been continuously applied and steadily modified and expanded for the past for well over a century. The abalone fishery began in 1963 and has been greatly assisted by having scientific management and monitoring from its beginning.

*A Century of Fisheries Research :

Although many naturalists observed and described Tasmanian fish and shellfish during the previous hundred years, professional scientific research into Tasmanian fisheries dates from 1884. This account documents the work and achievements from then until 1985.

*Fisheries Development and Protest

On two occassions developers attempted to utilise undeveloped stocks of jack mackerel off eastern Tasmania to produce fishmeal. Both were met with vociferous protests from some fishermen, community groups and political groupings. the protest campaigns had many similarities but a few notable differences.

* Biographies

William Saville-Kent, - Biologist, aquaculturalist, author.

Thomson Theodore Flynn - Professor of Biology, fisheries researcher, (father of Errol)

The Cramp Brothers - anglers and fisheries administrators.



* About the Author

To contact the author please email ahvem at or phone fax 62 3 62781591