NSW Professional Fishing Industry

The Value of the NSW Fishing Industry

The NSW professional fishing industry contributes more than $436 million in revenue annually and accounts for around 3,300 full-time jobs. This includes the fishers, service industries, sales and marketing. Tourism and hospitality also benefit as local wild-caught fish, crabs, lobsters and prawns are menu favourites among tourists and locals.

Protecting the Environment

The professional fishing industry is highly regulated, and fishers must comply with a range of restrictions on when, where and how they can fish and the size of their catch. All fisheries must pass environmental impact assessments. Professional fishers play an active role in monitoring environmental conditions in their local area and often are first to sound the alarm about environmental damage or pollution events. They are actively involved in keeping NSW marine environments clean and healthy and are also a valuable source of knowledge about the environments where they fish.

We take pride in sustainability of the environment to protect our industry for generation to come.

Methods for Catching NSW Seafood

In part, our fisheries are distinguished by the way the seafood is caught. Some of these methods have been used for hundreds, if not thousands of years. A skillset passed on through the generations, these tried and tested methods are overseen by both fishers and Governments alike to ensure the sustainable practice of wild catch harvesting is available for future generations to enjoy.

Common methods include:

  • estuary meshing of fish and prawns
  • line fishing (catch includes Snapper and Kingfish)
  • trapping of Mud crabs, Lobster and fish
  • trawling or purse-seining (catch includes Flathead and Sardines and prawns)
  • ocean (including beach) hauling (catch includes Mullet and Salmon)
  • diving for Abalone and Sea Urchins.
  • hand gathering of pipis and worms
PFA Catching NSW Seafood

Our Regions Fisheries

Fisheries in NSW are sustainably managed through the NSW Department of Primary Industries and Commonwealth agencies. Our industry is governed by legislation and guidance under each category to ensure sustainable governance including restrictions on catch amounts, size limits, harvest strategies, licencing, assessments and consultation.

As defined by the NSW Department of Primary Industries, commercial fisheries in NSW include:


Abalone are commercially harvested from rocky reefs by divers typically using surface-supplied air or scuba. In practice, most professional abalone fishing takes place on the south coast of NSW, primarily from Jervis Bay to the Victorian border, with most abalone found close to the shore. Abalone harvesting gained prevalence in the 1960s

See the NSW Department of Primary Industry website for more information and fact sheets on Abalone Fishery.

Estuary General Fishery

Commercial estuary fishing covers a wide range of fishing species and a diverse range of methods.

The Estuary General Fishery is a share management fishery and is divided geographically into seven regions from the Far North Coast to the Far South Coast of NSW (Please see the Estuary General Zoning Map on NSW DPI website for more details). All of these regions have representation and members within the PFA

Legislation in NSW for this fishery covers the entire state and allows fishers to utilise 17 types of fishing gear. See the NSW DPI website for more information on Estuary General Fishery.

Estuary Prawn Trawl Fisheries

There is a long history of trawling for prawns in NSW spanning almost 100 years with practices beginning in Port Jackson, Sydney in 1926. Prawn trawling is limited to the Clarence, Hunter, and Hawkesbury Rivers.

Further information is available on the NSW DPI’s web page on Estuary Prawn Trawl Fishery.

Inland Restricted Fishery

This is a small commercial fishery with fishers who operate primarily in the waters of the Murray-Darling River. This fishery harvests carp and yabbies only.

For more information, please see the NSW DPI webpage about the Inland Restricted Fishery.

Lobster Fishery

The first records of professional lobster fishing in NSW dates back to the 1800’s. This fishery grew after the second world war with the return of ex-servicemen returning to the shores to begin a new career as professional fishers in the industry. At that time the fishery was centred around the northern ports between Evans Head and Crowdy Head, near Taree.
Now, it is more geographically diverse and extends to the Queensland and Victorian borders, but still smaller in size than other fisheries, with a high value. This fishery is managed through Individual Transferable Quota.

Current information on this fishery is available on the NSW DPI website page detailing the NSW Lobster Fishery.

Ocean Hauling Fisheries

One of the first methods carried out on Australian waters by European settlers was seine netting or beach hauling. These methods have been regulated since the mid 1800’s. By the end of the 19th century there were regulations restricting the type, size and use of fishing nets, fishing closures and licensing of fishers and boats.

The ocean hauling fishery became a restricted fishery in 1995 and licensed fishers were able to apply for endorsement in the fishery with eligibility based on their historical participation and ownership of fishing gear.

Up to date information and facts are available on the NSW Government’s page on the Ocean Hauling Fishery.

Ocean Trap and Line Fishery

The NSW ocean trap and line fishery in NSW is a broad method and species fishery that mainly consists of the professional fishing of snapper, yellowtail kingfish, leatherjackets, bonito and trevally.

This fishery has a history in Australia dating back to the 1860s and beyond – when line fishing (handlining) was used to catch fish off sailing boats. This fishery covers the entire NSW coastline.

More information on this fishery, endorsements, monitoring and its management is available on the NDW DPI website at the Ocean Trap & Line Fishery page.

Ocean Trawl Fishery

The NSW Department of Primary Industry recognises two sectors to the NSW Ocean Trawl Fishery: the prawn trawl sector and the fish trawl sector. Both sectors use similar gear, the otter trawl net, and many of the fishers endorsed for fish trawling are also endorsed for prawn trawling. 

See the DPI website for more information on NSW’s Ocean Trawl Fishery.

Sea Urchin and Turban Shell

In Australia, commercial fishing for sea urchins occurs in NSW, Victoria, Tasmania, and South Australia. The taking of turban shell commercially is mainly restricted to NSW waters. The NSW Sea Urchin and Turban Shell (SUTS) restricted fishery is relatively small with few divers participating. The main constraint on development in NSW at this time is high processing costs and limited domestic markets

See more information on the Sea Urchin and Turban Shell Restricted Fishery.

Developmental Fisheries

From time-to-time individuals and groups express an interest in exploring opportunities to harvest fisheries resources they perceive to be under-utilised in NSW waters, or using unique fishing methods not authorised under the State’s existing Fisheries Management Strategies. This is constantly reviewed and monitored by the NSW DPI.

See here for more information on current NSW Developmental Commercial Fisheries.