26 September 2023

Audit finds industry fishing rules weak

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Auditor General, Caroline Spencer has tabled a report, Regulation of Commercial Fishing, in Parliament

The Auditor General’s performance audit examines the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development’s monitoring and enforcement of regulatory compliance in commercial fishing.

Ms Spencer said it was critical the Department effectively regulated fishing to protect the sustainability of the State’s resources and to deter fishers from breaking the law.

“We found the Department has significant engagement with the fishing industry, but weaknesses in key areas of its regulation activities increase the risk of illegal fishing,” Ms Spencer said.

“The Department does not clearly target its compliance activities to the areas of highest risk, nor does it track the completion and effectiveness of its monitoring and enforcement activities to know where it needs to strengthen or divert its future efforts.”

She said the Department needed to use its understanding of compliance risks to ensure its Fisheries Officers spent their time on tasks that were most likely to detect and deter serious offending in vulnerable fisheries.

“The audit found gaps in the Department’s integrity framework relating to conflicts of interest, ongoing integrity checks and managing complaints,” Ms Spencer said.

“Because Fisheries Officers can work with the same commercial fishers over a long period, and live and raise their families in the same small communities, the risk of over-familiarity needs to be explicitly considered and managed.”

She said the Department also needed to explicitly recognise the risk of industry capture at a corporate level.

“With a few straightforward but important improvements, the Department can shift its commercial fishing regulation into a coherent and effective risk-based model and strengthen its integrity framework,” The Auditor General said.

The audit team was Jason Beeley, Andrew Harris, Michelle Higgins, Jayd King, Nicholas Chin and Keagan Vorster, and

The Auditor General’s 25-page report can be accessed at this PS News link with the audit team Jason Beeley, Andrew Harris, Michelle Higgins, Jayd King, Nicholas Chin and Keagan Vorster.

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