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Government of Western Australia - Department of Fisheries

Commercial fishing guide

​Commercial fishing, including pearling and aquaculture, contributes around one billion dollars to Western Australia’s economy each year, providing direct employment for 5,000 people, plus many more in associated industries.

This contribution is subject to change as a result of catch variations in the major fisheries (particularly the West Coast Rock Lobster Fishery), as well as fluctuations in exchange rates and market forces.

Western Australia's major commercial fisheries - West Coast Rock Lobster, Abalone, Exmouth Gulf Prawn, Shark Bay Prawn and Shark Bay Scallop​ - are low-volume, high-value fisheries, accounting for about 90 per cent of the market (by value). The remaining ten per cent comes from a large number of small commercial fisheries, many based in inshore and estuarine areas.

The Patagonian toothfish, swordfish and tuna fisheries are managed by the Federal Government under the Australian Fisheries Management Authority.

Based primarily on small family businesses, 85 per cent of WA's commercial fishing activity is conducted in remote coastal communities. The commercial fishing industry, including the catching, processing, exporting and retailing sectors, is the State's third most important industry, after mining and agriculture.

Operators in commercial fisheries and the fish processing sector must be licensed by the Department of Fisheries.

A commercial fishing identification guide​ is available for download. Printed versions are available at DPIRD licencing offices.

Western Australia’s managed fisheries

Most of our fisheries are now fully managed under management plans.

Management controls used in the management of commercial fisheries are primarily:

  • Input controls - controlling what goes into the water, such as limiting the number of licences issued, gear restrictions, seasonal closures and limits on total fishing time (all of which directly control the total catch of fish); or
  • Output controls - controlling what comes out of the water, such as limiting the quantity of fish that can be landed.

Where necessary, additional controls are also used, such as:

  • Permanently closing areas to fishing to protect important habitats;
  • Specific measures to protect juvenile or breeding fish (such as size limits and seasonal and area closures).

An ecologically sustainable fishing industry

We support the ecologically sustainable development of fisheries through management strategies which regulate the impact of all users – including the commercial and recreational sectors - on fish stocks and their associated habitats.

Government and industry partnerships, along with arrangements developed in consultation with user groups, work to ensure the State’s fisheries will be in excellent health for future generations.​

Last modified: 16/08/2023 9:36 AM

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