The opportunity to take people recreational fishing whilst earning an income is appealing to many and operating a charter fishing business can be a very rewarding and satisfying venture. However, you must do your due diligence prior to committing to the industry. The following resources are intended to assist people who are considering entering the industry and new entrants. Resources for developing a business plan are available online (link: business.gov.au/planning/business-plans/develop-your-business-plan)
The NSW Charter fishery is a limited entry fishery, meaning that if you wish to enter the industry you must purchase an existing declared charter fishing business from an operator that wishes to sell their business (e.g., 1 in / 1 out). This arrangement limits fishing effort to ensure the fisheries resource is harvested in a sustainable manner. A declared charter fishing business is recognised under the Fisheries Management Act 1994, being made up of its components, the licences (declared charter fishing activities) and the seats (passenger fishing capacity). The declared fishing activities authorise the taking of certain fish species either in estuarine or ocean waters up to the available seats authorised for those waters by the licence.
There are four charter fishing activities that are declared charter fishing activities under the Fisheries Management Act 1994. These are defined below:
Deep Sea Bottom Fishing includes any charter fishing activity that involves taking fish or attempting to take fish, other than protected species, in ocean waters (as defined in the Regulation) as listed in Schedule 1.
Game Fishing includes any charter fishing activity that involves taking fish, or attempting to take fish, other than protected species, in ocean waters (as defined in the regulation) as listed in Schedules 2 and 3 and according to bag and size limits. Recreational fishers under this category can take an incidental catch of one individual fish per boat trip from Schedules 1 and 4.
Nearshore Bottom Fishing and Sport Fishing means any charter fishing activity that involves taking or attempting to take fish in ocean waters (as defined by the Regulation), other than protected species, as listed in Schedules 3 and 4 and according to bag and size limits. Recreational fishers under this category can take an incidental catch of one individual fish per boat trip from Schedule 1 or 2.
Estuarine Fishing means any charter fishing activity that involves taking fish, or attempting to take fish, other than protected species, in estuarine waters (as defined by the Regulation) as listed in Schedules 3 and 4 and according to bag and size limits. Recreational fishers under this category can take an incidental catch of one individual fish per boat trip from Schedule 1 or 2.
The species that may be taken under a declared charter fishing activity are listed in table below. Harvest of fish species must adhere to bag and size limit rules.
The intention of this schedule is to include those deepwater species that are keenly targeted by commercial fishers and charter boat fishers. These taxa are those most likely to be overexploited by the combined effects of commercial and recreational fishing.
The intention of this schedule is to include large gamefish species, such as, billfishes, large species of tunas, and large species of sharks that are targeted by charter boats that specialise in gamefish fishing. These taxa are the main targets of the gamefish fishery.
Southern bluefin tuna
The intention of this schedule is to include all the main overlap species that are commonly targeted by both the gamefish fishery AND the nearshore bottom and sport fishery. These taxa may also be targeted in the estuarine fishery.
Yellowtail, jack mackerel, trevallies, rainbow runner, kingfish, samson fish, amberjacks.
Mackerels, wahoo, bonitos, skipjack tuna, mackerel tuna
(excluding Thunnus spp.)
Whaler sharks, blue shark
(excluding Galeocerdo cuvier)
Barracudas, snook, striped seapike
All other fish taxa (excluding protected species and those listed in Schedules 1, 2, and 3).
A ‘seat’ is a notional seat or position in a boat that can be used or made available for use by a charter fishing client when the boat is used for a charter fishing activity. There are two classes of seats, Ocean and Estuary. The fishing capacity (number of clients) the boat is limited to the number of seats displayed on the charter fishing licence card, being either estuarine or ocean waters.
Charter fishing operators must also make and submit records of fishing activities (records of catch and effort) to DPI each calendar month. The records can be made using either the manual logbook or the Departments FishOnline system (FisherDirect). The responsible person (the skipper or master of the vessel) and the clientele are responsible for ensuring catches onboard the fishing charter comply with bag and size limits in accordance with the recreational fishing rules. Further, fish taken during the charter fishing operation cannot be sold and specific species of fish, as outlined in regulation, retained during the recreational charter fishing trip must have their right side pectoral fin removed, just above the fin base.
Domestic commercial vessel rules (maritime safety) apply to NSW charter fishing vessels. It is a legislative requirement that vessels used for charter operations must hold a current certificate of survey (unless exempt). The masters/skipper of the vessel must be appropriately qualified to operate the vessel (Coxswains/Masters etc).
The Australia Maritime Safety Authority is the agency responsible for governing these rules. For further information, please visit: . www.amsa.gov.au.
Commercial vessel rules and operations in NSW is managed by Transport of NSW – Roads and Maritime. Further information on specific / local commercial vessel rules and restrictions, please visit: www.maritime.nsw.gov.au
Charter fishing activities in NSW Marine Parks maybe subject to additional rules, including applying for a permit to operate or transit through the Marine Park. If you intend on operating within or transiting through a Marine Park with your charter fishing vessel, please contact the appropriate Marine Park office.
The ‘Go Charter fishing in NSW ’ webpage is an industry initiative designed to help promote the sector. Existing licenced operators may advertise their business on this website, which is the primary source of industry promotion reaching potential clientele through social media platforms and other media sources including brochures.
Your clientele (recreational fishers) may not need to have paid the recreational fishing fee (commonly referred to as the recreational fishing licence) whilst onboard a licenced charter fishing boat. If the fishing charter has an exemption certificate. Most charter boat operators have purchased an exemption certificate, which allows their customers to fish without having to pay the individual recreational fishing fee. The purchase price of the exemption certificate is paid into the Recreational Fishing Trusts. Funds from the trust are used to better fishing by the charter operator and his/her customers. The exemption certificate application form is available here.
If you're a recreational fisher, you should check if the charter fishing boat operator has an exemption certificate before you go fishing. If the operator does not hold a current exemption certificate, you must have a paid the recreational fishing fee, unless you're exempt.
Charter fishing businesses that are for sale are advertised on various online platforms, including the NSW DPI fishonline notice board.
Prospective industry participants should review the particulars of the charter fishing business they are considering purchasing and ensure that the licence authorised the declared charter fishing activities required and that the number of seats (client fishing capacity) meets their business needs. A full description of Charter fishing business licencing arrangements can be in the NSW Charter Fishing Business Licence Administration Guide August 2022.
For further information, please contact charter fishing management on (02) 6691 9606 or (02) 4424 7419, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Section 127I of the Fisheries Management Act 1994 requires that a register of charter fishing business determinations be kept and made available publicly. Please read and take particular note of the important information and disclaimers.