Commercial Scalefish Fishery

​​​​​​​What's New

The Tasmanian Scalefish Fishery and associated legislation, the Fisheries (Scalefish) Rules 2015, is complex. Now available is a document that sets out to be a 'plain English' guide for all holders of a scalefish licencenoting detailed information relating to the Banded Morwong Fishery can be found in a seperate operational guide hereand contains relevant information for those fishing in State waters utlising a scalefish licence. 

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 for the commercial Scalefish Fishery - Licence holder/supervisor responsibilities 2020 edition will assist anyone who has an interest in the commercial Scalefish Fishery.

  Operational guide for the commercial Scalefish Fishery   (2Mb)​

Summary of the 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 provisions of the Living Marine Resources Management Act 1995. The Act's objectives include conserving resources for future generations, taking account of community needs and interests, and encouraging community participation in the planning process. The Department seeks to achieve these objectives through a range of management measures and consultation processes.

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.

All retained catch must be recorded in a Commercial Catch, Effort & Disposal Record, which is submitted within 7 days of the end of the end of each calendar month. Receipts must be provided for all fish commercially sold or transferred.

Stock Assessment and Research

The Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) is the key research provider for Tasmanian fisheries. IMAS produces annual fishery assessment reports to ensure changes in stock status are detected early and suitable management responses can be implemented. The assessment report is largely based upon commercial catch and effort information which is collected in the Commercial Catch, Effort & Record. Licence holders are obliged to record all fishing trip details and retained catch within the logbook and these must be submitted within 14 days of the end of the month. The most recent Scalefish Fisheries Assessment Report is available on the web.

Industry Representation and Consultation

Representative industry bodies and individual fishers are involved in the planning and management process for all Tasmania's fisheries. This involvement is part of the co-management framework for managing Tasmania's marine resources. The commercial scalefish industry is represented by the seafood industry's peak body, the Tasmanian Seafood Industry Council (TSIC). The Government consults with TSIC on a broad range of issues relating to the fishery and TSIC also has representation on the Ministerially appointed Scalefish Fishery Advisory Committee (SFAC) The SFAC is comprised of industry, management, research and enforcement representatives that provide advice directly to the Minister on issues relevant to the fishery.

Advice on recreational fisheries matters is provided to the Minister by a similar committee, the Recreational Fisheries Advisory Committee (RecFAC).

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.

    For seasonal closure information relevant to the commercial Scalefish Fishery go to Commercial Fishing Seasons.

    Banded Morwong Fishery
    Fish illustration by Peter GouldthorpeThe banded morwong (Cheilodactylus spectabilis) fishery is a live net fishery where all banded morwong are caught and shipped alive to Asian restaurants and markets via Melbourne or Sydney. This fishery became restricted in 1996 when a limited number of non-transferable endorsements were issued. The fishing licence (banded morwong) was introduced in 1998 and was 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.

    Arrow image. More information on the Danish Seine Fishery.

    For more information on industry, research and fisheries management in other Australian jurisdictions, please click on the following logos and you will be taken to the relevant websites.

    Tasmanian Scalefish Industry website:

    The Tasmanian Seafood Industry Council (TSIC) is the peak body for the whole of the Tasmanian seafood industry. Its primary role is to promote and protect the interests of all those involved in the industry, i.e., the wild catch, aquaculture and processing sectors.

    Tasmanian Marine Research and Fisheries Assessments website:

    The Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) was created by the University of Tasmania in 2010 to encourage collaborative research in marine and Antarctic science between various parts of the University, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, the Australian Antarctic Division and other agencies. IMAS is both a teaching and research organisation.



    For Commonwealth Managed Fisheries:




    For State and Territory Managed Fisheries:

    NSW Government Industry and Investment Logo Northern Territory Government logo
    Queensland Government logo PIRSA Logo
    Victorian Government Primary Industries logo WA Fisheries Logo

    Frances Seaborn
    Fisheries Management Officer
    1 Franklin Wharf
    HOBART TAS 7000
    Phone: 03 6165 3044 or 1300 368 550

    Fish illustrations by Peter Gouldthorpe.

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