Vessel Tracking Review

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Vessel Tracking Review - Engagement Portal


Vessel tracking is a satellite surveillance system that tracks and monitors the locations and movement of commercial fishing boats. Vessel tracking units send position reports that include time, date and location.

Vessel tracking helps the department carry out real-time monitoring of the commercial fishing fleet for management and compliance purposes. Data from vessel tracking is used to:

  • monitor quota in near real time (e.g. deducting fishing days from individual’s quota)
  • monitor compliance with area and seasonal closures (including marine park zones)
  • provide intelligence and evidence for investigations
  • help validate logbook data on where and when fishing occurred
  • provide fishing effort data that is used in stock assessments to estimate the biomass of a fish stock
  • help inform fishery management changes that may be needed.

Vessel tracking is required on all commercial fishing boats (primary and tender boats) in the major commercial fisheries including net, line, crab, trawl and harvest (aquarium fish, sea cucumber (beche-de-mer), coral, trochus, crayfish and rock lobster) fisheries.

The department has been using vessel tracking since 1996 as part of ongoing management of several fisheries within Queensland, including the east coast trawl fleet and sea cucumber (beche-de-mer) as well as some net fisheries. The rollout of vessel tracking to the remaining net, line, crab, harvest and trawl fisheries was staged across 2019 and 2020.

Newer vessel tracking units were approved in 2018 following a general market scan, assessment of units against the department’s requirements and trialling on commercial fishing boats. The units were approved on the basis that they meet the specifications set out by the department, be successfully trialled and present a low to medium risk level for the fishery.

Commercial fishers are required to purchase approved vessel tracking units associated with an approved polling rate and data plan for their fishery. The units are required to be installed in accordance with the department’s Vessel Tracking Installation and Maintenance Standard and registered on FishNet Secure. Confirmation of vessel tracking units polling must be received by commercial fishers prior to commencing a commercial fishing trip.

The department has committed to commissioning a post implementation review (PIR) of vessel tracking following the recommendations of the State Development, Natural Resources and Agricultural Industry Development Committee’s examination of the Fisheries (Sustainable Fisheries Strategy) Amendment Bill 2018.

In addition, following a number of complaints from commercial fishers since 2019, the administration of vessel tracking was investigated by the Queensland Ombudsman. The Ombudsman has outlined a number of observations and proposed actions about issues of concern, as well as a proposal for the department to cooperate with the Ombudsman’s office by undertaking a broader review of vessel tracking. It is intended that this broader review progresses consideration of the Ombudsman’s concerns alongside the PIR.

The investigation has been discontinued on the basis of the department’s agreement to undertake the broad review in accordance with s.23(1)(f) of the Ombudsman Act 2001.

A PIR is a review conducted to assess the impacts, effectiveness and continued relevance of regulations that have been recently made and are in force. Undertaking a PIR requires an agency to focus on:

  • whether a problem (requiring regulation) still exists
  • the actual (rather than expected) impacts of a proposal
  • whether there were any unintended consequences from the regulation’s implementation
  • whether the regulation should continue, including whether any amendments should be made.

The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries is leading the review in consultation with the Office of Best Practice Regulation, which is part of the Queensland Productivity Commission.

A PIR involves the following 3-stage process:

The department will:

  • project manage the review
  • identify and engage with key stakeholders (commercial fishers and other government agencies)
  • collect data through engagement with stakeholders and information from stakeholders
  • analyse data
  • develop recommended actions as a result of the review.

The review will be undertaken in consultation with the Office of Best Practice Regulation (OBPR) and align with the Queensland Government Guide to Better Regulation. The review process will include release of a Consultation Review Report for stakeholder feedback (28 days). OBPR will review the Consultation Review Report for adequacy prior to its release (28 days).

The department will consider stakeholder feedback prior to publishing the Decision (Final) Review Report.

The department has committed to implement consultation arrangements to assist in improving the administration of vessel tracking, with a strong focus on providing a broad range of opportunities for engagement and greater transparency and accountability in decision making. In doing so, the department has established / is establishing the following:

  • an engagement portal to publish updates of the review and online surveys
  • a vessel tracking working group to provide operational advice and recommendations to support the review
  • an engagement mailbox (

The first stage of consultation is planned to occur from March 2021 to September 2021 and includes targeted stakeholder consultation through channels such as structured interviews and an online survey. Stakeholders will be asked about their experiences and views on the rollout of vessel tracking, and the effect on the community, industry and government. Feedback received will form part of the draft Consultation Review Report.

The second stage of consultation will occur in December 2021. At this time the draft Consultation Review Report is anticipated to be available for public comment for 28 days on the Get Involved and the Queensland Productivity Commission websites.

The Post Implementation Decision (Final) Review Report may be used to:

  • suggest potential amendments to the vessel tracking requirements in the Fisheries Act 1994
  • suggest non-legislative actions to support the objective of the vessel tracking requirements in the Fisheries Act 1994.

Our key deliverables and anticipated timeframes are:

  • Publish the final terms of reference – June 2021
  • Release the Consultation Review Report – December 2021
  • Release the Decision (Final) Review Report – June 2022

For further information about the review, please email the review team on

The vessel tracking working group is established to provide operational advice and recommendations to support the review undertaken by the department on the management, implementation and administration of vessel tracking across commercial fisheries.

Members of the working group are appointed by the department following an expression of interest (EoI) process. 

The 2021 selection process for working groups has been completed and members have been appointed for a two-year period. Members of the vessel tracking working group are listed in the terms of reference at this website.