For definitions and descriptions of types of fishing gear (e.g. trawl, long-lines) please refer to the Wild Capture & Farming Methods section.

Aquaculture: Also known as ‘fish-farming’, the term aquaculture means the commercial growing or farming of marine species such as salmon, barramundi, kingfish, prawns, mussels, scallops and oysters. Also see ‘Ranching’ and ‘Catch and Grow Fisheries’.

Artisanal: A term referring to small-scale, traditional fisheries.

Australian Fish Names Standard: Fish sold by retailers should use the Fish Names Standard – this helps to reduce mis-labelling and prevent different common names being used for the same species. It is the responsibility of all seafood retailing outlets to ensure they are using the correct name.

Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA): AFMA oversee fisheries management of fisheries under the Commonwealth’s jurisdiction. This is generally fisheries from 3 nautical miles from shore to the edge of the area of ocean under Australia’s control, which is out to 200 nautical miles offshore.

Benthic: This term refers to species living on or in the seabed.

Biodiversity: Describes the diversity of all living things, and accounts for all the ecological interactions that result from relationships between different animals. The degree of biodiversity within an ecosystem can be used as a measure of the area’s health.

Biomass: In relation to fisheries, biomass is a measure of quantity that generally relates to the weight of the fish stock in question.

Bivalve: Mussels, scallops and clams are examples of bivalves – these are all molluscs with two shells.

Bycatch: Aquatic life that has been taken incidentally during fishing activities; bycatch can either be kept if it has commercial value, or is discarded. Bycatch can also refer to threatened species inadvertently taken during fishing activities (also see Byproduct and Discards).

Byproduct: Any non-target species that is caught and retained in a fishery before being sold to the market.

Capture fisheries (see also Wild Fisheries): Wild aquatic and marine species that are caught for sale using a range of fishing methods (For more information on fishing methods, go to the Wild Capture & Farming Methods web page).

Catch and Grow Fisheries: Production systems that involve wild harvest followed by a grow-out phase e.g. mussel farming based on wild spat collection.

Certification: Generally relating to the MSC and ASC, certification is where a fishery or aquaculture operation is successfully assessed against published sustainability requirements by an independent third-party body. A fishery or aquaculture operation is only certified as sustainable against these standards if it meets sustainability criteria.

Chain of Custody Certification Methodology: The MSC certification requirements that explain the rules and procedures to be followed when assessing and certifying organisations against the MSC Chain of Custody Standard.

Chain of Custody Standard: The MSC Chain of Custody standard for seafood traceability makes sure that the MSC label is only displayed on seafood from an MSC certified sustainable fishery. It means that consumers and seafood buyers can have confidence that the fish they are buying can be traced back to a fishery that meets the MSC environmental standard for sustainable fishing.

Cod-end: The end section of a fishing net where the catch accumulates.

Deep-water species: Those species living in depths of more than 400m, which is generally a fair distance offshore. Deep-water species tend to be longer living and reach sexual maturity later in life than those living in shallower waters.

Demersal: Species living or occurring on the bottom of the sea – the demersal zone is just above the benthic zone.

Depleted: In a fisheries context, this means that a stock has been fished to beyond a point where fish numbers are at a healthy level; if fishing continues at the same rate, it is likely recovery of the fish stock will be compromised.

Destructive Fishing Practices: Fishing using practises that destroy the environment in which it takes place, for example fishing with dynamite or cyanide.

Discards: Fish that are caught during fishing operations that are then disposed of at sea. This can be because fishers have exceeded the amount they are regulated to take (quota), the fish are of low or no commercial value and are not worth keeping, the fish are under the size limit allowed to be caught, or the fish are within quota, but are disposed of to make room for fish of a higher market value (also see Bycatch and Byproduct).

Ecolabel: A label on a product that assures consumers they are buying a product that has been independently assessed and certified to environmental and/or social standards; for example, the MSC ecolabel for sustainable fisheries, the Fairtrade certification mark, Soil Association Organic and Australian Certified Organic certification, FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) standard for responsible forest practice.

Ecosystem: An interacting and inter-dependent community of living organisms and physical structures that functions as a unit in nature.

Ecosystem approach: An approach to fisheries management that considers not only the target fish stock, but also the different components of the ecosystem that interact with it in order to maintain the ecosystem’s structure and function in supporting marine life.

Environmentally limited: A fish stock has reduced productivity due to external impacts associated with habitat modifications or environmental factors. Reduced stock levels are not primarily due to fishing, although fishing may be a contributing factor to concerns regarding low stock levels. For example, black bream in SA are environmentally limited as a result of low Murray River flow in previous years.

Eutrophication: This describes a process where water is ‘fertilised’ by nutrient input, which results in excessive algal growth. Death and decay of the algae results in reduced oxygen content of the water. Eutrophication is a possible result of poorly managed fish farming, where faeces and excess fish feed introduce a high nutrient content into surrounding waterways.

Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ): The area of sea around a country that is exclusively owned by that jurisdiction; that country has sovereign rights over all economic resources of the sea, seabed and subsoil. The EEZ is generally from the shoreline out to 200 nautical miles offshore.


Commercial extinction – a species is depleted to the extent that it is no longer commercially viable to fish.

Ecological extinction – a species has declined to such low abundance that it ceases to play its role in the ecosystem.

Biological extinction – a species is permanently lost, with no living members still in existence.

Fish Stock: A group of individuals in a single species that occupy a particular area. Stocks are distinct from each other and are considered separate entities for fisheries management.

Fishers: Individuals who take part in fishing conducted from a fishing vessel, a floating or fixed platform, or from shore.

Fishery: From a management point of view, different fishing operations are separated off into discrete units defined by the geographical area they operate in, and/or by the type of fishing gear used and/or the species it is targeting. For example, the Northern Prawn Fishery operates in Commonwealth waters spanning from northern Western Australia to northern Queensland, mainly uses Otter trawl fishing gear and targets 9 species of prawns.

Feed Conversion Ratio (FCR): This is a measure of an animal’s efficiency in converting food into body mass, and is generally used in aquaculture operations to describe how much feed is required to grow a certain amount of marketable product. Note that FCR generally describes the dry weight of fish feed used to grow a wet weight of fish product; a better measurement to use is the weight of wet fish used to grow wet marketable fish.

Fishmeal: Used to feed fish in aquaculture operations, including salmon, barramundi and prawns, fishmeal is made from ground up processed fish. Fish oil is an essential ingredient of fishmeal, as this is the origin of the omega-3 fatty acids that are desirable for health and growth.

Food chain: This describes the linkages between different animals living in the same ecosystem, whereby energy from the sun trapped by marine algae is passed through different animals through predator-prey relationships e.g. tuna are top predators that consume food lower down the food chain.

Fully fished: A fish stock is ‘fully fished’ when catches are at the maximum limit (as defined by management targets) of what can be sustained by the stock indefinitely before overfishing will likely occur.

Ghost fishing: The accidental capture and killing of marine wildlife in fishing gear, usually nets or traps, which have been lost at sea.

High-grading: A practice where fishers discard target fish in order to fill their legal quota with better quality or larger sized fish that will present a higher market value.

Imported: Species imported from wild fisheries and aquaculture enterprises operating outside Australia, e.g. Hoki from New Zealand, Vannamei Prawns from South East Asia.

Industrial fisheries/fishing: Generally, industrial fisheries describe fisheries that aren’t targeting fish for human consumption; for example, the phrase is used to refer to the anchovy fishery in Peru, which almost exclusively catches anchovy for grinding up to make into fishmeal. Industrial fishing also describes the large-scale methods of fishing – e.g. in reference to the large supertrawlers that can process huge quantities of fish on-board.

Introduced: Species brought into a marine environment where they would not otherwise naturally occur, often deliberately for aquaculture production or stocking programs, e.g. trout, Atlantic Salmon, Pacific oysters.

Keystone species: A species that has a major influence on the structure or functioning of an ecosystem. Its presence affects many other members of the ecosystem and if its population dwindles or disappears, there can be far reaching consequences for the ecosystem. For example, sharks, as top predators, are keystone species.

Line-caught: Description of a fish that has been caught with either a rod and fishing line, on a long-line or handline or using the pole and line method.

Landing: A measurement of the amount of fish caught at sea and brought back to port for selling. This measurement does not include fish that are discarded or bycatch of marine wildlife.

Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY): The maximum catch that can be removed from a stock under current environmental conditions, without diminishing the future capacity of the stock to keep on providing. Note that MSY is generally a less precautionary measure than MEY.

Maximum Economic Yield (MEY): The sustainable catch level for a commercial fishery that maximises the financial returns of the fishery, which often have lower catch levels than MSY. Theoretically, as MEY is more environmentally conservative, managing to MEY should provide additional protection to a fish stock from environmental fluctuations.

Mis-reporting: False or incorrect reporting of the amount of fish caught, the species caught the area in which they were caught and/or the amount and nature of capture of threatened, endangered or protected species.

Mixed species fishery: Many fisheries, as a result of either the type of fishing gear used or the way in which the ecosystem functions, cannot practically target a single species of fish. Therefore, they catch a variety of different species, most of which are given a specific quota allowance. For example, the Commonwealth Trawl Sector catches blue grenadier, flathead, pink link and silver warehou.

MSC-certified fish: Whole fish or products that are, or are derived from, any aquatic organism harvested in an MSC certified fishery.

Overcapacity: This describes a situation when there are too many boats vying for too few fisheries resources. If there is overcapacity in a fishery, generally the fishery is not operating in an economically effective manner.

Overfished: A stock is overfished when it has been depleted below a defined acceptable level; an overfished stock can have negative knock-on impacts on the ecosystem as a whole.

Recruitment overfished: Overfishing has reduced the population to a level where recruitment (the number of larval fish added to the stock) is significantly suppressed. The result may be stock collapse if overfishing is prolonged and combined with poor environmental conditions.

Growth overfished: Too many juvenile or small fish of a species are caught; reducing catches and/or increasing the size at which fish are caught would help rebuild the fishery.

Overfishing: The extent of fishing is too high – when overfishing occurs, the fish stock are being caught faster than it can replenish itself through reproduction. Continued overfishing will lead to an overfished stock/species.

Pelagic: This describes the upper layers of the ocean, also known as open water. The marine pelagic environment is the largest aquatic habitat on earth.

Quota/quota allocation: Amount of catch allocated to a whole fishery, or the part of the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) allocated to an individual fisher.

Ranching: Sometimes called aquaculture, ranching generally refers to the growing out of wild caught individuals, which, when they reach marketable size or value are then slaughtered and sold. An example of a ranching operation in Australia is where juvenile southern bluefin tuna are caught in purse seines, taken to sea-cages off South Australia and fed up until they reach a desirable size.

Regional Fishery Management Organisation (RFMO): Many species of fish migrate between the jurisdictions of a number of different countries, or are fished in the high seas, which are sections of the sea not managed by any one individual country. RFMO’s are responsible for management of these species, and are made up of countries with an interest in fishing that species. Many tuna species are managed by RFMO’s; for example, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Convention (WCPFC) manages albacore, skipjack and yellowfin tuna in the west Pacific.

Seal Excluder Device (SED): Seals often get caught up in fishing nets, or enter fishing nets looking for a free feed. SEDs are ‘trap-door’ devices fitted to nets that enable seals to escape from the net before drowning.

Selectivity/selective fishing: This refers to the ability to target and catch fish by size and species. Ensuring fishing gear is selective can reduce the impact of the fishery on non-target, juvenile and/or TEP species.

Sustainable: Generally, ‘sustainable’ can be defined as the capacity to endure. Fisheries are ecologically sustainable when the stocks of target species, non-target species and their surrounding ecosystems are maintained over the long term. A truly sustainable fishery meets the long-term needs of fishermen, seafood consumers and the environment together.

Seasonality: In seafood, this term refers to the preferred periods for catching and consuming seafood; generally the months that are outside the breeding season.  In many instances, avoiding eating immature or baby fish and fish during their breeding or spawning times will help maintain stock levels.

Stock (also see Fish Stock): A group of individuals in a single species that occupy a particular area; stocks are distinct from each other, and are considered separate entities for fisheries management.

Stocking density: A measure of the number of individuals maintained in an aquaculture or ranching operation. Overly high stocking densities can cause distress to individuals, which can result in an increase in disease and infection in the operation; increased disease leads to increased use of chemicals to treat diseases and infections.

Target species: The species or group of species that are the primary or intended catch of a particular fishery.

Threatened, Endangered or Protected Species (TEP): Species recognised by national legislation and/or international agreements that are recognised to be vulnerable. This can include species listed on Commonwealth, State and/or Northern Territory legislation, listed on CITES Appendices and are therefore subject to trade restrictions, and/or are identified as threatened with extinction on the IUCN Red List.

Total Allowable Catch (TAC): This is a catch limit imposed on a fishery, based on scientific evaluation of the abundance of the species for which the TAC is set. The TAC is usually given in tonnes and allocated within a defined geographical area. Quota, which is shared between fishers in a fishery, is allocated from the TAC.

Trophic: The trophic level of a species is defined by the position it occupies on a food chain, what it eats and what eats it. For example a low trophic species would be mussels as they are at the bottom of the food chain, whereas tuna is a top predator and would be defined as a higher trophic species.

Turtle Excluder Device (TED): A device fitted to a fishing net that allows turtles inadvertently caught in fishing gear an escape route. For example, all vessels operating in the Northern Prawn Fishery must have a TED fitted to their fishing nets.

Wild fisheries (See also Capture Fisheries): Wild aquatic species that are caught for sale using a range of fishing methods (For more information on fishing methods, go to the Wild Capture & Farming Methods web page).