Background on the Inland Restricted Fishery

The NSW Inland Restricted Fishery (previously Inland Commercial Fishery) has operated for well over 100 years, the major targeted species being Murray cod and golden perch with catches of carp and particularly yabbies increasing over recent decades.

In recent years, the Inland Commercial Fishery has undergone significant changes, including the end of commercial fishing for all native finfish in September 2001.

In 1997, the NSW Rivers Survey reported that native fish were under threat from habitat degradation, fishing pressure, disease, and introduced species. A review of the inland commercial fishery followed in early 1998. Given the scientific concern about the viability of native finfish stocks and the opposition to the continued existence of the commercial fishery, particularly from the recreational fishing sector, it was determined that commercial fishing for native finfish would cease as of 1 September 2001, and fishing effort would be redirected towards under utilised yabby and carp resources.

A structural adjustment package was implemented in December 1999 to enable transition from native finfish to the yabby and carp only fishery. Under this structural adjustment package, the 40 remaining commercial fishers could surrender their licence in exchange for an ex-gratia payment, or continue fishing under a transferable yabby and carp only endorsement, subject to additional gear and area restrictions. By late 1999, a final total of 19 fishers had surrendered their commercial licence, in exchange for ex-gratia payments totalling around $760,000. These and additional payments for the surrender of commercial fishing gear were made possible by the introduction of the Freshwater Recreational Fishing Licence Fee.

Commercial fishing for Yabbies did not start to develop until 1974/75, and has subsequently shown large variability in catches. The commercial market for yabbies is mainly directed towards human consumption, however some small markets for bait fishing also exist. During the late 1970’s export earnings for yabbies rose dramatically due to a shortage of crayfish in Europe as a result of the crayfish plague. However by 1978 the fishing grounds had failed, with catches falling dramatically from over 100 to less than 10 kilograms/man/day. Reasons attributed to this crash were over fishing, competition from increasing numbers of exotic species, and the natural “boom and bust” cycle in yabby populations. In 1984 the yabby fishery showed signs of recovery with average catches of approximately 55 tonnes per year taken from inland NSW waters. Subsequent to this, yabby catches have varied according to natural environmental cycles, primarily attributed to the availability of water and natural population fluctuations.

The Inland Commercial Fishery is now managed as a ‘restricted fishery’. To date a total of 27 commercial fishers remain in the Inland Restricted Fishery, of which 21 of these operators hold transferable Class A yabby and carp endorsements.

Endorsement type

Endorsement description

Number of Endorsements

Class A:

Yabby and carp endorsement (transferable)


Class B:

Carp endorsement (transferable)


Class D:

Carp endorsement (non-transferable)



  • NSW Fisheries 1998/99 Status of Fisheries Resources by Dr W Fletcher and T McVea, NSW Fisheries Research Institute, Jan 2000.
  • NSW Inland Commercial Fishery Data Analysis by D Reid, J Harris and D Chapman, Fisheries Research and development Corporation, Dec 1997.