Licensing

Commercial fishing licences

Commercial Torres Strait fisheries are managed under the Torres Strait Fisheries Act 1984. All commercial fishing operations within the Torres Strait Protected Zone are managed by the Protected Zone Joint Authority (PZJA). AFMA issues licences for these fisheries on behalf of the PZJA.

Since 1985, new commercial fishing licences have only been issued to traditional inhabitants. Traditional inhabitants can enter any Torres Strait commercial fishery, except the prawn fishery, by obtaining a traditional inhabitant fishing boat licence. Non-traditional inhabitants who want to enter a Torres Strait commercial fishery must buy one of the transferable licences from an existing operator.

Torres Strait licences expire annually (or, for a certain subset of master fisherman’s licences, every 5 years). Holders of Torres Strait licences are invited to renew licences close to the licence expiry date recorded on the licence. Updated licences are supplied following successful applications to renew or amend licences.

This guide contains information about Torres Strait commercial fishing licences, including applying for new licences, changing the details of existing licences and transferring licences.

The responsibility for providing licensing on behalf of the PZJA has transferred from Queensland Fisheries to the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) on 1 July 2015. All Torres Strait commercial licensing enquiries should be directed to AFMA direct on 1300 723 621.

Torres Strait fishing boat licence

A boat recorded on a Torres Strait fishing boat licence can be crewed by traditional inhabitants, non-traditional inhabitants or a combination of both. In any operation, there must be an equal number of Torres Strait master fisherman’s licences and Torres Strait fishing boat licences.

Torres Strait fishing boat licences record fishery symbols for one or more of the following fisheries:

  • tropical rock lobster fishery (CR)
  • pearl shell fishery (PL)
  • prawn fishery (PR).

Some commercial fishers carry Torres Strait fishing boat licences that no longer have any of these fishery symbols. Such licences can operate in Torres Strait fisheries that are not covered by a management arrangement (e.g. squid).

Torres Strait licence register

A Torres Strait Licence Register is now available. The purpose of the register is to enable greater accountability for commercial fishers and fish receivers in the Torres Strait by providing transparency of the number of licences for each fishery, and the ownership of licences

Having this information available improves accountability to stakeholders in the management of Torres Strait fisheries by openly displaying who owns licences, which fisheries the licences can operate in and the amount of licences that exist.

Additionally, it helps industry to comply with fisheries regulations, such as maintaining active licences and meeting the requirements of the fish receiver system to be implemented on 1 December 2017.  The register provides a self-service tool for fishers and fish receivers to check their own licences, and check licences of others to ensure those who receive fish are actually licenced.

View the licence register via afma.gov.au.

Transfer Torres Strait fishing boat licence

AFMA do not issue new Torres Strait fishing boat licences; however, existing licences in the fisheries listed above are transferable between Australian citizens by lodging an application for temporary transfer of fishing/carrier Processor/Carrier boat licence.

You can also lodge an application for temporary transfer of fishing boat licence, where the ownership of the authority remains unchanged.

If you are transferring ownership of a Torres Strait fishing boat licence that has a prawn fishery symbol (PR), and it is your last licence of that type with that symbol, you must lodge an application for permanent transfer of units of capacity equivalent to all of your quota holding in the Torres Strait prawn fishery (i.e. if you sell your last licence containing your last prawn fishery symbol, you will need to sell your prawn quota; you cannot continue to hold quota after you have transferred your last licence with that symbol).

Attach a new boat to a Torres Strait fishing boat licence

Replacing a primary and/or tender boat

If you want to use a different boat other than the one recorded on your licence, you will need to lodge an application for TVH or TPC application.

If a boat is recorded on a Queensland and Torres Strait licence package (i.e. each jurisdiction’s licence shares the same boat mark) and the primary boat is replaced with another boat, applications must be lodged to change the boat on both jurisdictions’ licences.

Flow-on effect of boat replacement

If your operation has any crew who hold Torres Strait master fisherman’s licences based on a nomination from you, their licence will have a condition on it that identifies the operation they can work aboard (by the primary boat’s name and boat mark).

When you replace the primary boat in your operation, the conditions on the nominated Torres Strait master fisherman’s licence also need to be updated. This allows your crew to continue working aboard the operation.

Updating master fisherman’s licences

Both the primary boat operator and the holder(s) of the Torres Strait master fisherman’s licence(s) are responsible for updating the conditions on the licence.

To update the conditions, the primary boat licence holder must send in the above application form, along with a letter requesting for conditions on the nominated master fisherman’s licences to be amended. All nominated master fisherman’s licences to be amended must also be enclosed. Please send this information to the address listed below.

If you are changing crew members, you will need to revise your nominations on your licence. You can do this by requesting that AFMA amend your master fisherman’s licence with new details. Send requests by letter to:

AFMA
Box 7051
Canberra Business Centre ACT 2610

Alternatively, send a request by fax to (02) 5225 5440.

Torres Strait prawn fishery quota

The Torres Strait prawn fishery is subject to quota, which is referred to as ‘units of entitlement’. These units are required for a Torres Strait fishing boat licence with a prawn fishery symbol (PR) to operate in the fishery. They are converted to fishing days each season (which runs from 6pm 1 March to 6am 1 December) at a rate determined for a given season.

Units that are not used in a current season do not accumulate for use in another season.

Transfer of Torres Strait prawn quota

Units can be transferred (a permanent change of ownership) between the holders of Torres Strait fishing boat licences with a prawn fishery symbol (PR) by lodging an application for temporarily transfer of units of fishing capacity.

Temporary transfer of Torres Strait prawn quota

Unused units can be temporarily transferred between the holders of Torres Strait fishing boat licences with a prawn fishery symbol (PR) by lodging application for temporarily transfer of units of fishing capacity. This transaction does not change the ownership of the units, and the temporary transfer only has effect during the current fishing season.

Torres Strait carrier and processor-carrier boat licences

Licence classes

As well as requiring a Torres Strait fishing boat licence, you may also require a Torres Strait carrier and/or Torres Strait processor-carrier boat licences, depending on how your boat will be operating with other boats:

  • A processor-carrier boat licence class A is required to allow a primary boat to process and carry product taken by its associated tender boats.
  • A carrier boat licence class B allows the identified boat to carry product taken by other licensed operations, but does not allow the product to be processed while aboard.
  • A processor-carrier boat licence class C allows the identified boat to process and carry product taken by other licensed operations.

In all cases, the processing and/or carrying activities are limited to product related to the fishery symbols recorded on the licence.

Apply for a new Torres Strait carrier or processor-carrier boat licence

To apply for a carrier or a processor-carrier boat licence, you will need to complete and lodge a TVH or TPC application.

Transfer a Torres Strait processor-carrier boat licence

To transfer a licence, you will need to lodge an transfer of fish processor application. If a licence was obtained by the transferor under criteria as a traditional inhabitant, the licence can only be transferred to another person who meets the same criteria.

Attach a new boat to a Torres Strait carrier or processor-carrier boat licence

The boat being used for the fishing, processing and/or carrying activities must be recorded on the relevant licences. If you want to use a boat other than the one recorded on the licence, you will need to apply to attach the new boat to your licence.

To attach a new boat onto a carrier or processor-carrier boat licence, you need to:

  1. surrender the existing carrier or processor-carrier boat licence by sending the licence, along with a letter, to AFMA, Box 7051, Canberra Business Centre ACT 2610.
  2. apply for a new carrier or processor-carrier licence that records the details of the new boat. Lodge a TVH or TPC application.

You cannot use the new boat until your application has been processed and the new boat recorded on the licence. There are restrictions on the size of boats that can be recorded on licences with various fishery symbols. For more information about the boat replacement policies, please contact AFMA Direct on 1300 723 671.

Renew a Torres Strait carrier or processor-carrier boat licence

Renewal applications are automatically sent to licence holders approximately 6-8 weeks before the licence’s expiry date. If you need to renew an existing licence, but have not received your renewal application, contact AFMA Direct on 1300 723 671.

A boat recorded on a Torres Strait sunset fishing boat licence can be crewed by traditional inhabitants, non-traditional inhabitants or a combination of both. In any operation, there must be an equal number of Torres Strait master fisherman’s licences and Torres Strait fishing boat licences.

Sunset fishing boat licences record fishery symbols for one or more of the following fisheries:

  • reef line fishery (LN)
  • Spanish mackerel fishery (MK).

Sunset fishing boat licences are designed to help non-traditional inhabitants operate in the above fisheries, while traditional inhabitants work to increase their fishing effort to the full commercial capacity of the fisheries.

Sunset fishing boat licences are only issued to the Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA). Each year the TSRA identifies non-traditional inhabitants who want to operate in these fisheries. The TSRA and the interested parties then apply to the Protected Zone Joint Authority to have the sunset fishing boat licences temporarily transferred for all or part of a fishing season.

Sunset fishing boat licences are designed to help non-traditional inhabitants operate in the above fisheries, while traditional inhabitants work to increase their fishing effort to the full commercial capacity of the fisheries.

Torres Strait traditional inhabitant fishing boat licence

Traditional inhabitants can fish commercially on any boat that has a Torres Strait traditional inhabitant fishing boat licence. Only traditional inhabitants can own and use this type of licence. One or more of the following fishery symbols can appear on a Torres Strait traditional inhabitant fishing boat licence:

  • beche-de-mer fishery (BD)
  • crab fishery (CB)
  • tropical rock lobster fishery (CR)
  • reef line fishery (LN)
  • Spanish mackerel fishery (MK)
  • pearl shell fishery (PL)
  • trochus fishery (TR).

Currently, maximum boat lengths apply to new applications for this type of licence in the following fisheries:

  • beche-de-mer fishery (maximum boat length of 7m)
  • crab fishery (maximum boat length of 14m).

Traditional inhabitant identification

Applicants for a traditional inhabitant fishing boat licence must first be recognised as traditional inhabitants by lodging a Torres Strait Traditional Inhabitants ID form. The identification form must be completed by the councillor of a relevant community and the mayor of the same council. Relevant communities are those that are represented by the following councils:

Apply for a new Torres Strait traditional inhabitant fishing boat licence

Traditional inhabitant fishing boat licences are issued to individual traditional inhabitants for 12 months and are renewable each year. To apply for a new licence you need to lodge a TIB Application form.

You can also use this application form to:

  • renew an existing Torres Strait traditional inhabitant fishing boat licence
  • add fishery symbols to an existing Torres Strait traditional inhabitant fishing boat licence
  • apply to record a different boat on an existing Torres Strait traditional inhabitant fishing boat licence.

Transfer a Torres Strait traditional inhabitant fishing boat licence

Traditional inhabitant fishing boat licences are also transferable (i.e. they can be bought and sold between traditional inhabitants). Both the transferor and the transferee must sign a Transfer of fish processor.

If you are the new licence-holder, you must also be the owner of the boat recorded on the licence. If your boat is not recorded on the licence, you will also need to lodge a TIB Application form at the same time you lodge the transfer application.

Attach a new boat to a Torres Strait traditional inhabitant fishing boat licence

The boat being used for the fishing, processing and/or carrying activities must be recorded on the relevant traditional inhabitant fishing boat licence. To use a boat other than the one recorded on your licence; you will need to lodge a TIB application form.

The new boat cannot be used until your application has been processed, and the new boat has been recorded on your licence. There are restrictions regarding the size of boats that can be recorded on licences with various fishery symbols. For more information about the boat replacement policies, please contact AFMA Direct 1300 723 671.

Renew a Torres Strait traditional inhabitant fishing boat licence

Renewal applications are automatically sent to licence holders approximately 6-8 weeks before the licence expires. If you need to renew an existing licence, but have not received your renewal application, contact AFMA Direct 1300 723 671.

Sunset fishing boat licences are only issued to the Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA). Each year the TSRA identifies non-traditional inhabitants who want to operate in these fisheries. The TSRA and the interested parties then apply to the Protected Zone Joint Authority to have the sunset fishing boat licences temporarily transferred for all or part of a fishing season.

Torres Strait master fisherman’s licence

If you are working aboard a boat recorded on a Torres Strait fishing boat licence or Torres Strait sunset fishing boat licence, one person aboard each boat (primary or tender boats) in these operations must hold a Torres Strait master fisherman’s licence that records the appropriate fishery symbols, and either:

  • has no conditions imposed (i.e. the licence is held by a traditional inhabitant, the licence was issued before 1989 or the licence only has a prawn fishery symbol); or
  • has conditions imposed that allow the holder to work aboard only the specific operation (identified by primary boat name and boat mark).

Apply for a new master fisherman’s licence

In most Torres Strait fisheries, there are restrictions regarding the number of licences non-traditional inhabitants can use.

In all fisheries (except the prawn fishery), non-traditional inhabitants obtaining a new Torres Strait master fisherman’s licence require a nomination from the owner of a Torres Strait fishing operation you will need to lodge a MFL application form.

Master fisherman’s licences are not transferable, but there are arrangements to surrender a licence held by one non-traditional inhabitant in return for another licence being issued to another non-traditional inhabitant. This process keeps the number of licences being used by non-traditional inhabitants to a minimum.

Note that the number of non-traditional inhabitants who can be nominated to hold Torres Strait master fisherman’s licences for an operation is different for each operation.

Renew a master fisherman’s licence

Renewal applications are automatically sent to licence holders approximately 6-8 weeks before the licence expires.

If you need to renew an existing licence, but have not received your renewal application, you can lodge an MFL application form, or you can contact AFMA Direct on 1300 723 671.

Grant/renewal/making an entry in/variation of licence

Applications under this heading are for the grant of a new licence, renewal of an existing licence, making an entry in (adding fishery endorsements to) an existing licence, or variation of (changing the boat recorded against) an existing licence.

Please note that renewal applications are automatically sent to authority holders 6-8 weeks before the authority expires. If you need to renew an existing authority but have not received your renewal application, contact AFMA Direct on 1300 723 671 to get a copy of your renewal application sent to you.

Transfer authority

Applications under this heading are to register the permanent transfer of ownership of an authority. This includes adding or removing people or companies from the existing holders of the authority.

Temporary transfer of authority

Applications under this heading are to temporarily transfer use of an authority, but ownership of the authority remains unchanged:

Traditional inhabitant identification

All first-time applicants who are traditional inhabitants must supply a traditional inhabitant identification form with their application for any licences listed above:

Torres Strait commercial fishing fees

To calculate the fee for a grant or renewal of any type of fishing boat licence, you must first know the length of the boat measured in accordance with the Protected Zone Joint Authority’s fisheries management notice number 47, and the number of fisheries recorded on the licence.

If you have any questions, please AFMA Direct on 1300 723 671.

Fees payable under Torres Strait Fisheries Regulations 1985

Matter Cost
Grant or renew a master fisherman’s licence (1 year) $50
Grant or renew a master fisherman’s licence (5 years) $100
Grant or renew any type of fishing boat licence $100
Fishery entry on any type of fishing boat licence on a boat up to 5.99m long $10/entry
Fishery entry on any type of fishing boat licence on a boat 6m up to 9.99m long $20/entry
Fishery entry on any type of fishing boat licence on a boat 10m up to 14.99m long $40/entry
Fishery entry on any type of fishing boat licence on a boat 15m or longer $80/entry
Grant or renew a processor-carrier boat licence (Class A) $20
Grant or renew a carrier boat licence (Class B) $80
Grant or renew a processor-carrier boat licence (Class C) $100
Transfer or temporary transfer of a licence $10/licence

 

Fees payable under Fisheries Levy (Torres Strait Prawn Fishery) Regulation 1998

Matter Cost
Levy on fishing boat licence with a prawn entry* $3573.12/licence
Levy on prawn quota unit* $24.05/unit

* These levies relate to the 2015 prawn fishing season. Levies are reviewed and amended in legislation each year.

Torres Strait fishery symbols

Listed below are the different symbols for Torres Strait commercial fisheries.

Please consider any investment and increased effort warnings before you:

  • obtain a licence that records one or more of the below fishery symbols
  • apply for a new Torres Strait traditional inhabitant fishing boat licence
  • apply to add a new Torres Strait symbol onto your existing traditional inhabitant fishing boat licence.
Symbol Description
BD Beche-de-mer fishery
CB Crab fishery
CR Tropical rock lobster fishery
LN Reef line fishery
MK Spanish mackerel fishery
PL Pearl shell fishery
PR Prawn fishery
TR Trochus fishery

Maps of these fishery areas can be found on the Protected Zone Joint Authority website.

For a description and full details of each fishery symbol (called an ‘entry’ in Torres Strait legislation), refer to the Torres Strait Fisheries Regulations 1985 and the fishery management plans.

Torres Strait commercial fishing application forms

  1. Temporary transfer of a TPA (PDF, 610 KB)
  2. Temporary transfer of boat application PDF, 532 KB)
  3. Application permanent transfer units of capacity (PDF, 363 KB)
  4. TVH or TPC application (PDF, 571 KB)
  5. Application to temporarily transfer units of capacity (PDF, 350 KB)
  6. Transfer of fish processor (PDF, 552 KB)
  7. MFL Application (PDF, 555 KB)
  8. TIB Application (PDF, 539 KB)
  9. Torres Strait Traditional Inhabitants ID (PDF, 431 KB)

Changes made to a licence issued in respect of a boat dually licensed for Queensland and Torres Strait jurisdictions must be amended in both jurisdictions by completing both Queensland and Torres Strait application forms (fees may apply). You must check Queensland Fisheries for Queensland licence requirements.

Scientific permits

Scientific permits to conduct research in the Torres Strait Protected Zone are handled on behalf of the PZJA by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA). This arrangement avoids a possible conflict of interest when State Government Departments seek scientific permits. Scientific permits are issued to allow for scientific research by way of fishing in an area of Australian jurisdiction.

How to apply

To apply for a scientific permit, please download the application form, complete the details and return to:

Australian Fisheries Management Authority
PO Box 376, Thursday Island QLD 4875 Australia
Telephone (07) 4069 1990
Facsimile (07) 4069 1277

Where do you go for more information?

Contact AFMA Direct on 07 4069 1990 for more details.

Developmental Permits

Developmental permits in the Torres Strait Protected Zone are handled on behalf of the PZJA by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA). Developmental permits are issued to allow for developmental trials by way of fishing in an area of Australian jurisdiction.

How to apply

To apply for a developmental permit, please download the application form below, complete the details and return to:

Australian Fisheries Management Authority

PO Box 7051

Canberra Business Centre

ACT 2610

Telephone: 1300 723 621

Facsimile: (07) 4069 1277

Developmental permit application form