Evaluating the potential for an increased and sustainable commercial fisheries production across multiple jurisdictions and diverse fisheries

David C. Smith, Malcolm Haddon, André E. Punt, Caleb Gardner, L. Richard Little, Stephen Mayfield, Michael F. O'Neill, Thor Saunders, John Stewart, Brent Wise, Elizabeth A. Fulton, Simon Conron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


We describe a first estimate of the potential to increase production from Australia's commercial fisheries based on the difference between current catches and maximum sustainable yield (MSY). MSY is not being advocated as a target reference point but enables a level of consistency across species and/or jurisdictions with different reference points. MSY estimates were obtained for 290 species/stocks that comprised 84% of annual landings. 75% of the estimates were computed using methods applied specifically for this study, aided by an assessment framework, and supporting software. The catch-MSY method was used extensively given the lack of formal assessments for many species, and the limitations of taking this approach are discussed. The results indicated that potential production could be more than double the current national catch (an increase over current catches of about 124%), but potential increases varied considerably among Federal, State and Territory jurisdictions. The potential for increased production was particularly influenced by predictions for highly productive small pelagic fishes, although ignoring the potential for increased catches of these species still led to an estimate of an increase of almost 80% over current catches. Other factors such as whether an increase in production has market demand are also clearly important, along with other social and economic issues. Impacts on ecosystem sustainability and the consequences of climate change were beyond the scope of this study and would need to be considered in separate analyses. However, in making our estimates of potential production we acknowledged the issues with attempting to use single species approaches to provide fish community wide estimates and acted conservatively with our interpretation. Consequently, the results presented in this paper provide useful insights into possible biologically sustainable catches and the potential for increased production.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104353
JournalMarine Policy
StatePublished - Feb 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Australia
  • Catch-MSY
  • Commercial fisheries
  • Maximum sustainable yield
  • Stock assessment
  • Total production


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