Commercial Scalefish Fishery


The Tasmanian Scalefish Fishery is a multi-species and multi-gear fishery that is predominantly made up of small owner operated commercial businesses and a large and diverse recreational fishery.

The Scalefish Fishery is managed under the Living Marine Resources Management Act 1995 and the Fisheries (Scalefish) Rules 2015. Catch and effort in the fishery are largely controlled through input controls such as limited entry (capped licence numbers), closed seasons and gear restrictions. Output controls such as minimum and maximum size limits and trip limits are also used, and recently a quota management system was introduced to manage the commercial take of banded morwong from the east coast.

Commercial Licences

To commercially catch and sell scalefish species from Tasmanian waters, fishers are required to hold specific scalefish licences. Tables 1 to 4 lists all licences that are relevant to the Scalefish Fishery. The platform for a commercial scalefish licence package is a fishing licence (vessel). A fishing licence (vessel) has four (4) different vessel length categories: 0-<6 metres; 0-<10 metres; 0-<20 metres and >20 metres. There are a limited number of vessel licences in each length category.

Under the Scalefish Fishery Management Plan, a fishing licence (rock lobster) is also classed as a scalefish licence due to the limited amount of scalefish gear rock lobster fishers are permitted to use. However, rock lobster fishers do have catch limits on certain species, which can be found in more detail in the Fisheries (Scalefish) Rules 2015.

Table 1: The commercial gear based licence types (including Australian salmon and octopus which both have gear allocations) and numbers that are relevant to the Scalefish Fishery. This table does not indicate the number of packages that operate in the commercial scalefish fishery. There can be several licence types in one package that are attached to a fishing licence (vessel). The licensing year is from 1 March to the end of February the following year for all scalefish licences. If a licence is not renewed for the new licensing year the licence holder has 12 months from the expiry date to renew the licence, otherwise it is automatically surrendered.

Table 2: The commercial species based licence types and numbers that are relevant to the Scalefish Fishery. These licences must be used in conjunction with a gear type licence. The licensing year is from 1 March to the end of February the following year for all scalefish licences. If a licence is not renewed for the new licensing year the licence holder has 12 months from the expiry date to renew the licence, otherwise it is automatically surrendered.

Updated 5 February 2020.

Table 3: Other commercial licence types and numbers that are relevant to the Scalefish Fishery. Please note that the number of mackerel and personal licences will not be available until after the renewal period for those licences. If a licence is not renewed for the new licensing year the licence holder has 12 months from the expiry date to renew the licence, otherwise it is automatically surrendered. Note: the mackerel licence period is from 1 May to 30 April in the following year and personal licence period is from 1 September to 31 August in the following year.

Updated 5 February 2020.

Table 4: The commercial licence endorsements and numbers in 2006 and 2011 to 2015 that are relevant to the Scalefish Fishery. Note "Trans" equals transferable. Endorsements are held on a fishing licence (personal) [except Danish seine and Macquarie Harbour].

​Endorsements ​Trans ​2006/07 ​2011/12 ​2012/13 ​2013/14 ​2014/152015/162016/17
​Beach seine - Tamar
​Beach seine - NW coast
​Danish seine - whiting codend in Derwent
​Dipnet - Tamar
​Foot fisher - Pitt Water, flounder only
​Gillnet - Frederick Henry & Norfolk Bays
​Gillnet - Mercury Passage
​Gillnet - Tamar
​Gillnet - Port Sorell
​Small mesh gillnet - north coast
​Unattended north coast night netting
​Macquarie Harbour

Na = not available at time of report.

    Snapshot of the Scalefish Fishery

    The Scalefish Fishery is diverse and many types and sizes of vessels and different fishing gears are used. Some examples include gillnets, hook and line, longlines, spears, drop lines, squid jigs, automatic squid jig machines, fish traps, purse seine nets, beach seine nets, dipnets, octopus pots and Danish seine.

    Some of the species commercially targeted include: banded morwong, southern calamari, octopus, tiger flathead, school whiting, southern garfish, wrasse, Gould's squid, bastard trumpeter, blue warehou, silver warehou, flounder, silver trevally and striped trumpeter.

    Banded Morwong Fishery
    Fish illustration by Peter GouldthorpeThe banded morwong (Cheilodactylus spectabilis) fishery is a live net fishery where fish are caught and shipped alive to restaurants and markets via Melbourne or Sydney. This fishery was restricted in 1996 when a limited number of non-transferable endorsements were issued. The fishing licence (banded morwong) was introduced in 1998 and limited to 29 licences. There was concern about the increasing pressure on east coast stocks and as a result of a review of the fishery, part of the fishery moved to transferable quota management in October 2008. In the 2016/17 quota year the fisher moved from the original numbers to a weight based quota management system.

    Danish Seine Fishery
    The Danish seine fishery is a small component of the Tasmanian Scalefish Fishery. Once managed under the umbrella of the Tasmanian Inshore Trawl Fishery along with demersal trawling, now only Danish seines are permitted to be used following the prohibition on demersal trawling in State waters in 2001.
    Danish seine vessels have been operating in Tasmania since the mid 1930s and the method used today is largely unchanged from the original. Danish seine vessel typically range between 13 to 16 metres in length.

    Tiger flathead (Neoplatycephalus richardsoni) Tiger flathead illustration by Peter Gouldthorpeand southern school whiting (Sillago flindersi)Southern school whiting illustration by Peter Gouldthorpe are the two key target species of the fishery. A small number of non-target species are also retained.

    The majority of fishing effort is concentrated in the south and south-east regions of the State, with small amounts of activity in the north east and north west. (See maps.)

    Danish seine fishing nets looks similar to a small demersal or 'otter' trawl net, however, the two gear types have quite different modes of operation. A Danish seine has no otter boards providing little or no ability for the net to remain open whilst being towed. Instead, long warps (ropes) are attached and set in a diamond shape to create a herding effect when hauling of the net commences. See Figure 1 for a pictorial representation of the operation.

    Danish seine illustration  

    Figure 1: Pictorial representation of Danish seine operation (source:

    The nature of the fishing method means that the net is significantly lighter and smaller than a demersal trawl net and is limited to operating in areas of soft sandy bottom. Each set and retrieval of the net takes from 1 to 1½ hours.

    Operational Guide

    An Operational Guide is available for those fishing in State waters under a scalefish licence. Information relating to the Banded Morwong Fishery can be found in a separate operational guide.

    Licence holders are reminded of their responsibility to ensure that any person specified as an authorised supervisor on their licence is made aware of the relevant management arrangements. The Operational Guide assists anyone who has an interest in the commercial Scalefish Fishery.

      Operational Guide for the Commercial Scalefish Fishery   (2Mb)​

    2021 Operational Guide for the Commercial Banded Morwong Fishery   (1Mb)

    More information

    Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies - Scalefish Fisheries Assessment Report

    Industry Representation and Consultation - Scalefish Fishery Advisory Committee (SFAC)

    Season closures - Commercial Fishing Seasons.


    Fisheries Management Officer (Scalefish)
    Frances Seaborn
    Level 3, 134 Macquarie Street
    GPO Box 44
    HOBART TAS 7001
    Phone: 03 6165 3044
    Fax: 03 6223 1539

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