4632.0.55.001 - Discussion Paper: From Nature to the Table: Environmental-Economic Accounting for Agriculture, 2015-16 Quality Declaration 
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 29/11/2017  First Issue
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This section presents the first experimental step in compiling Australian accounts for fish and other aquatic resources in accordance with the SEEA AFF Framework. Some of the desired indicators within each account are not yet available and feedback is sought from users about the potential uses of these accounts, additional sources of data, and priority data gaps. See the Approach taken and future plans section.


In the SEEA AFF framework, there are two key accounts that are used for analysis of fishing and aquaculture resources:

  • Physical flow account for fish and other aquatic products ('000 tonnes)
  • Asset account for fish and aquatic products ('000 tonnes).

The physical flow account aims to record total supply and use of all fish and aquatic products from capture (or 'wild catch') fisheries and aquaculture in live weight equivalents. Total supply consists of domestic production and imports. Total use covers intermediate use of fish products, final consumption by households, changes in inventories and exports. The scope of this account includes all products listed in the International Standard Statistical Classification of Fishery Commodities (ISSCFC).

The asset account aims to record the total biomass of fish and aquatic resources (live weight equivalent), that are subject to harvesting or cultivation within the national boundary over an accounting period. Additions and reductions through natural growth, catches and other factors should be recorded where possible.

In compiling these accounts a distinction is made between capture fisheries (International Standard Industrial Classification (ISIC) 031) and aquaculture (ISIC 032) to enable the analysis of each stock.

Subsistence and recreational fishing should also be included, but due to a lack of readily available data have not been included at this time.


Australia’s Commonwealth, state and territory governments manage fisheries in consultation with the fishing industry, scientists, economists and other user groups (such as those that represent traditional fishing, recreational fishing and environmental non-government organisations). Policies are designed to ensure that healthy and fresh local seafood is available and affordable to all Australians for current and future generations. At the national level, fisheries management policies are developed to support the legislative and regulatory framework for Commonwealth fisheries. In addition, fish can reflect the overall health of the ecosystem in which they live.

Fisheries management processes are used to implement controls, such as limits on catch or effort levels, and regulation of fishing methods in order to manage Australia’s fisheries in a sustainable way. Fisheries authorities manage and monitor commercial fishing to maintain fish stocks and ensure the fishing industry remains viable.

Environmental economic accounts can support integrated decision making about fisheries policy and management because they include the ability to compile a range of environmental and economic information on fish stocks, value produced and environmental considerations such as biodiversity. A particular concern for fisheries policy makers is the fragmentary nature of its data, such that a comprehensive and consistent accounting for fish stocks, fishing activity and imports and exports does not currently exist in Australia. Environmental economic accounts can use data structures that highlight these data gaps and provide a mechanism to work towards prioritising and resolving data deficiencies.

The supply and use format of the physical flow account informs analysis of production, trade and consumption of fish products, as well as comparison with other agricultural and forestry activities.

Asset accounts for fishing and aquatic resources enable users to understand reasons for changes in stock in relation to harvest, catastrophic losses and other reasons for change. These can inform on topics such as degradation of habitat, water pollution, over-exploitation etc.


Physical flow account

The experimental physical flow account is available for Australia in Table 13 and for the states in Table 14 from the Downloads tab.

Total fishing and aquaculture production in 2014-15 was 235,710 tonnes, an increase of 12,624 tonnes (5%) from 2013-14 to 2014-15. This was driven by a large increase of 14,288 tonnes (20%) in aquaculture production, despite a slight reduction in capture fisheries production of 1,665 tonnes (-1%) over the same period. Of the aquaculture products, salmon and allies had the greatest increase of 6,768 tonnes from 2013-14 to 2014-15.

GRAPH 1: FISHING AND AQUACULTURE PRODUCTION, Australia, 2010-11 to 2014-15

GRAPH 1: FISHING AND AQUACULTURE PRODUCTION, Australia, 2010-11 to 2014-15

(a) To avoid double counting, total output for Fisheries and Aquaculture and Aquaculture total has been adjusted to exclude southern bluefin tuna caught in the Commonwealth, Southern Bluefin Tuna Fishery and introduced into farms in South Australia.

Source(s): ABARES, Fishing and aquaculture statistics, 2016

In terms of production volumes, Australia is a net importer of selected fish and aquaculture products (Graph 2).
  • Imports had been steadily increasing from 2010-11 to 2013-14 but decreased by 5,581 tonnes (-4%) from 2013-14 to 2014-15, driven largely by a decrease in imports of prawns.
  • Exports increased by 4,799 tonnes (14%) over the period of 2013-14 to 2014-15, driven by an increase of 3,093 tonnes (254%) in exports of salmon and allies products.



(a) Measured in net product weight.

Source(s): ABS

In 2014-15 capture fisheries production accounted for approximately 64% of total fisheries and aquaculture physical production. Key products from total output including salmon and allies and herrings (Australian sardine). Graph 3 shows that imports of selected fish products from 2011-12 to 2012-13 increased by 13%, driven by a reduction in fish production of -4% over the same period.

GRAPH 3: PHYSICAL FLOW FISH PRODUCTS, Australia, 2010-11 to 2014-15

GRAPH 3: PHYSICAL FLOW FISH PRODUCTS, Australia, 2010-11 to 2014-15

(a) Measured live whole weight.
(b) Measured in net product weight.
(c) Aquaculture has been adjusted to exclude southern bluefin tuna caught in the Commonwealth Southern Bluefin Tuna Fishery and introduced into farms in South Australia.

Source(s): ABS, ABARES, Fishing and aquaculture statistics, 2015.

Asset account

A qualitative method was adopted at this point for assets using data for the total allowable catch (TAC) for the Commonwealth fisheries. The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) utilise TAC limits, among other management strategies, for a number of fisheries and fish species to ensure Australia’s fish stocks are sustainably managed.

Table 15 from the Downloads tab presents an experimental TAC asset account based on these limits.

Catch estimates have been sourced from the AFMA's "Catchwatch" program. Catchwatch reports are produced for the large scale fisheries using data from AFMA’s various data collection programs such as logbooks and catch disposal records. They enable AFMA and stakeholders to monitor the catch of key quota species and are available on the AFMA website. The reports show how much of the fishing quota has been caught in a season and can help fishers choose which species of fish they should target toward the end of the season or indicate how expensive quota might be to buy throughout the season.

For more information on the determination of TAC limits, refer to the ABARES, Fisheries Status Reports series.

Table 1 below shows an extract from the TAC asset account examining fish species from the Small Pelagic Fishery. Based on the information presented in Table 1 below, the catch did not exceed limits for the 2014-15 fishing season in the Small Pelagic Fishery. Using the TAC as an indicator for fish stocks, an increase in TAC may suggest an increase in stocks or sustainable fish population whereas a negative change indicates the fish stocks may be under pressure or decreasing. Measuring actual catch (harvest) against the TAC also gives an indication of overfishing for specific fisheries.


Fish Species
Opening TAC (t) 2014-15
Catch (t) 2014-15 (b)
Net change TAC (t)
Closing TAC (t) 2015-16

Australian sardine
1 320
1 880
Blue mackerel, east
2 630
2 630
Blue mackerel, west
6 500
Jack mackerel, east
10 230
8 440
18 670
Jack mackerel, west
5 000
-1 400
3 600
Redbait – eastern sub-area
5 000
-1 690
3 310
Redbait – western sub-area
5 000
-2 120
2 880

- nil or rounded to zero (including null cells).
(a) Based on fishing season which does not align exactly with financial year.
(b) Derived from the Australian Fisheries Management Authority's catchwatch records and do not include state catches.
Source(s): ABARES, Fishery Status Reports 2016.


The current scope of these accounts includes all fish and aquatic products as recorded by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) fisheries and aquaculture statistics. These data were supplemented by international trade categories of “fish and crustaceans, molluscs and other aquatic invertebrates” products (AHECC 03 and HTISC 03). Canned and preserved products were not included as the raw weight of the product could not be extracted from the gross weight which includes packaging. The Australian version of SEEA AFF diverges from the international framework on the suggested breakdown of fish products. Refer to the Explanatory Notes section for further detail of selected products.

One of the challenges in existing data sets are the units of measurement. In these experimental presentations, production data are measured in live whole weight whereas imports and exports are recorded in net product weight. While currently totals cannot be computed due to this discrepancy, these data still enable analysis of trends in trade and production over time.

There are gaps in measuring the physical flows of fish products. Information is needed in a consistent format for such aspects as gross catch, discarded catch, consumption by industry and households and any product inventory changes by financial year. Information on food and non-food supply and use both for domestic and international physical flows are needed. Imports and exports data were not available at the state level.

While preparing the physical flow account, ABS found that SEEA AFF did not provide scope for showing transfers between capture fisheries and aquaculture stocks (for example wild catch, such as tuna, being intermediately consumed by aquaculture - see Graph 3 above). This provides an opportunity to improve the SEEA AFF framework so that it better illustrates stock flows between fishing industries.

From an assets perspective, this publication presents a qualitative assessment of fish available for harvesting. Measuring fish stocks is a challenging exercise and requires specialist scientific input and consistent measurements for addressing issues of sustainability. While it may be preferable to adopt observational surveys or other abundance measures (which will be investigated for future releases), using Total Allowable Catch statistics for the asset account represents the quota of fish allowed to be caught in that fishery and is based on scientific assessments of the condition of the fish stock.

Subsistence and recreational fishing should also be included, but due to a lack of readily available data have not been included at this time.