Countdown to the New Aquatic Resources Management Act

On 1 January 2019, Western Australia (WA) will have a new Act to manage fishing and aquaculture in the State. The Aquatic Resources Management Act 2016 (ARMA) will replace two existing Acts – the Fish Resources Management Act 1994 and the Pearling Act 1990.

ARMA will build on WA’s world class management of fisheries and aquatic resources by supporting resource-wide management that recognises all user groups and provides for stronger access rights.

Importantly, ARMA has been developed to allow an orderly transition from the existing legislation, with minimal change to occur when it commences.

ARMA and the Pearling Industry

The Pinctada maxima (P. maxima) pearl oyster industry will be the first to move to the new resource-based management framework provided for under ARMA. A high level policy document called an Aquatic Resource Management Strategy (ARMS) will set out matters such as how the resource is allocated, management objectives and the method for setting and monitoring the Total Allowable Catch. This will be underpinned by operational legislation in the form of an Aquatic Resource Use Plan (which is similar to a commercial fishery management plan) and related regulations. This management framework will be rolled out for a number of other resources over time and in consultation with stakeholders.

The draft P. maxima ARMS is available for public comment until 12 September 2018 at http://www.fish.wa.gov.au/Documents/other/public_comment/armp1-draft.pdf.

ARMA and Commercial Fisheries

For those in the commercial fishing industry (other than pearling), there will be minimal change from 1 January 2019. All management plans and other commercial fishing management arrangements will remain in place, so the rules people are fishing under on 31 December this year will be the same as the ones they will be fishing under on 1 January next year.

The main change for the commercial fishing sector from 1 January 2019 will be that Fish Processors Licences will no longer exist. Instead, those who receive wild-caught fish from WA waters for wholesale sale will need to hold a Fish Receivers Licence. The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) is working to implement this change with as little inconvenience to industry as possible and will contact Fish Processors Licence holders regarding the transition.

From 2020, Commercial Fishing Licences (CFLs) will no longer be required. Instead, only the Master of the fishing operation will need to be licensed. DPIRD will provide CFL holders with more information on this change during 2019.