University Of Tasmania

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Assessing the status of Australia’s fish stocks relative to target objectives

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-20, 08:36 authored by Nicholas HillNicholas Hill, Caleb GardnerCaleb Gardner, Haddon, M, Klaas HartmannKlaas Hartmann, Little, LR, Jeremy LyleJeremy Lyle, Bradley MooreBradley Moore
Communicating the performance of commercial fish stocks is a fundamental role of fisheries management. This is often undertaken by reporting stock status relative to limit reference points (LRP). Reporting against LRP is effective in drawing attention to stocks that are overfished but does not identify fisheries where performance could be improved by shifting stocks closer to target reference points (TRP), that is, benefit can be foregone despite stocks being fished sustainably. This study examined the performance of Australian fish stocks against a TRP of 40–60% of unfished biomass, the level at which economic performance is generally optimised. Stocks examined were drawn from the 2016 Status of Australian Fish Stocks report, which is designed to report on stock status relative to LRP at a national level. Only stocks with an estimate of biomass or status relative to explicitly defined reference points were considered. Of 123 stocks evaluated, 41 (33%) were at target biomass levels, 28% were above and 39% below. This result, in combination with the major output of the 2016 SAFS report, shows that although most Australian stocks are not overfished, many are outside levels that would deliver greatest benefits. While maintaining all stocks at target levels may be impractical given the dynamic nature of fisheries, failing to maximise the number of stocks at target levels reflects lost ecological, economic and social potential. Assessing stocks relative to TRP in addition to LRP would highlight opportunities for improving fisheries while still addressing the fundamental requirement of preventing stock depletion.


Publication title

Marine Policy



Article number









Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Elsevier Sci Ltd

Place of publication

The Boulevard, Langford Lane, Kidlington, Oxford, England, Oxon, Ox5 1Gb

Rights statement

Copyright 2019 Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Fisheries - wild caught not elsewhere classified