Media Release Fisheries

Landmark study finds declines in Australian fish stocks and urgent need for marine sanctuaries

June 8, 2018

The Australian Marine Conservation Society expressed alarm at today’s landmark study that reveals rapid declines in some Australian fish stocks and points to a failure of marine protectionaround Australia.

The study has tracked the decline of fish stocks and catches around Australia over the last decade. It shows that some stocks of large fishes have shrunk by about a third outside protected marine sanctuaries. The study also found that partially protected marine park zones, the core of the Federal government’s new marine park plans, did not adequately protect fish.

AMCS has tracked the health of popular Australian seafood species since 2004, through Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide. In that time, AMCS has consistently raised concerns about the impacts of fisheries and the need for marine sanctuaries that are fully protected from fishing as a safety net in the face of management failures.

Six species of popular seafood are now on Australia’s threatened species list because they have been fished too hard for too long. Species like orange roughy, eastern gemfish and school shark are still being caught, despite being fished to as little as 10% of their natural populations.

AMCS Fisheries and Threatened Species Campaigner Tooni Mahto said, “This is a huge wake up call. Australia claims to be a world leader in fisheries management, but if this is as good as it gets, the oceans are in trouble.

“We’ve watched the decline in some of Australia’s key fish stocks over the past 15 years of producing our seafood guide, and this study confirms our concerns.

“The Australian Government can no longer insist everything is fine – they must take action to turn around those declines in stocks.

“Marine sanctuaries are a crucial safety net for Australia’s oceans, yet the Australian Government is proposing to slash our marine sanctuaries (green zones / IUCNII) by an area almost twice the size of Victoria,”

“At a time when our oceans are under such pressure from a changing climate, we should be giving them all the care we can through increased marine sanctuaries and smarter, lighter fishing,” said Mahto.


The landmark study was produced by some of Australia’s leading marine scientists from the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania and the University of Technology Sydney. The paper considers findings from a decadal long research on over 500 of Australia’s reefs, as well as AFMA fisheries data, and shows that catches from Australia’s wild fisheries decreased by 31% over the past decade. It also shows that, over the same period, the biomass of large fishes decreased significantly on fished reefs but there was a negligible change in protected marine reserves where fishing is not permitted.