Charter Fishery Monitoring


A winch on the side of a boat that is on the ocaen

The NSW Charter Fishery is an important sector of the fisheries of NSW, involving hundreds of boats, catering to tens of thousands of anglers, with the potential to harvest large numbers of fish.

The NSW Charter Fishery is a licenced commercial operation that enables recreational fishing activities to occur and as such all catch from the fishery is regarded as recreational. Fishers on board charter boats must therefore abide by the same bag and size limit rules as all other NSW recreational fishers. These characteristics therefore provide an efficient platform for collecting data for use in monitoring and assessment of key recreational species caught in NSW waters.

How do we collect the information?

The Charter Fishery Monitoring component of the Recreational Fisheries Monitoring Program is comprised of 2 modules:

1) Logbook Monitoring

As part of their licence obligations, charter fishing operators are required to provide logbook records of all their fishing trips and the fish their clients catch. This information on catch and effort is used in monitoring the fishery and key species harvested by the fishery.

2) On-board Observer Program

Additional complementary data to monitor the fishery is provided by a state-wide on-board observer program for the nearshore marine charter fishery. This relies on trained scientific observers to collect additional information on species caught, fisher demographics, fleet fishing effort, locations fished, rates of discarding, condition of released individuals, interactions with protected species and the size composition of the catch.

The primary aim of this observer program is to collect statistically-representative biological information to meet stock assessment needs for key species harvested by the fishery. Currently priority species for monitoring include Snapper, Bluespotted Flathead, Grey Morwong, Pearl Perch, Yellowtail Kingfish and Teraglin; however data is collected from all species of recreational importance caught during an observer trip.

The On-board Observer Program is run simultaneously with the biennial 12 month Recreational Fishing Research Surveys.


1) Logbook Monitoring

In 2017/18, almost 90 charter boat businesses operated in nearshore marine charter fishery completing over 4,500 fishing trips with almost 34,000 anglers. State-wide, the nearshore marine charter fishery recorded the capture of 146 different species of finfish and invertebrates; the top five finfish species retained overall were Bluespotted Flathead (34,100), Snapper (20,600), Grey Morwong (13,800), Blue Mackerel (7,800) and ‘Other’ Flathead (7,000).

Whilst the majority of species taken by the Charter Fishery were from nearshore marine waters, the top 5 species retained by charter operators in estuarine waters were Dusky Flathead (1,800), Yellowtail Scad (1,100), Yellowfin Bream (900), Southern Calamari (800) and Yellowtail Kingfish (600).

Top 5 species taken by the Nearshore Marine Charter Fishery and Top 5 species taken by the Estuary Charter Fishery state-wide

A boy with a blue hat is measuring a fish

2) On-board Observer Program

Over 170 trips were sampled from 40 participating operators during the on-board observer program which operated between Newcastle and Eden in 2017/18.  This resulted in more than 1,300 charter clients being profiled by the program and over 10,000 fish being identified and measured.  The main species recorded (by number) were Bluespotted Flathead (1,500), Snapper (1,100), Grey Morwong (800), Redfish (660) and Blue Mackerel (500). Over 3,600 wildlife observations (e.g. seabirds and marine mammals) were also recorded, but very few interactions with the fishery.

Length data recorded by observers for key species such as Bluespotted Flathead, Blue Mackerel, Yellowtail Scad, Snapper, Grey Morwong, Silver Trevally, Yellowtail Kingfish and Ocean Leatherjackets caught by the fishery provided size compositions which were used in the ongoing assessment and monitoring of these key recreational fish species in NSW waters.

graph showing the size composition of Bluespotted flat, Snapper and Grey morwong - the frequency (%) by the total length (cm)

pie graph showing the Charter Fishery clients residences

Demographic data collected by on-board observers also revealed that charter fishers were primarily male (~90%) with people of all ages utilizing the NSW Charter Fishery.  On-board observer data also showed that 20% of charter clients came from inland regions of NSW, interstate or overseas (including 13 countries), highlighting the economic value of the sector in terms of non-charter costs, such as travel, accommodation and food, in addition to charter fees.

Visual Story

Immerse yourself in Results of the 2017/18 Charter Fishery Monitoring Visual Story.


The full report – "Charter Fishery Monitoring 2017/18" can be found here (PDF, 3445.49 KB).