Key industry reforms negotiated by the Tasmanian Abalone Council Ltd (TACL) on behalf of its members since 1994.

The year 1994 was an important year for the Tasmanian Abalone industry.

The Tasmanian Abalone Council Ltd (TACL) was formed, replacing the Tasmanian Abalone Divers Association (TADA) that had existed since the seventies. The move to the new “fully incorporated” entity with a “more inclusive” title was deemed necessary in order to properly recognise and acknowledge that by the early nineties, the abalone industry had developed into a more diverse and complex industry involving three key stakeholder sectors: divers, quota owners and processors.

Following the formation of the new organisation, premises in Hunter Street were leased and the TACL established its first “proper” office facility in conjunction with Fruit Growers Tasmania (FGT). Sally Tennant was hired as the first TACL Office Manager.

In the short space of a few months in 1994, the Tasmanian abalone industry had taken its first major steps on the road to becoming a truly professional peak industry body.

In the 27 years since then, the TACL has either initiated or been very closely involved with every single major industry reform. It has done so in its capacity as a representative body looking after the interest first and foremost of its members.

Below is a list of the key industry and fishery management reforms implemented since 1994.

This list is by no means exhaustive but serves to demonstrate the absolute importance of having an effective and properly resourced peak industry body advocating on behalf of abalone stakeholders!

Key industry reforms negotiated by the Tasmanian Abalone Council Ltd (TACL) on behalf of its members since 1994.

1994 to 2004

Intense negotiations between the TACL, the Tasmanian Government and the Legislative Council resulted in the creation in 1994 of the Abalone Deed of Agreement that was adopted by 90% of quota owners in place of annual abalone licenses. The Deed is internationally regarded as the most perpetually secure form of fishery access right in the world. The New Deed was introduced with an initial 10 year term but the TACL successfully negotiated (over the next decade) to extend the term to 30 years with a perpetual right of renewal.

1994 to 1998

Following the introduction of the groundbreaking Abalone Deed of Agreement, the TACL worked very closely with the Government and the banking sector to develop a formal Register of Interest for abalone quota units. This enabled banks (for the first time ever) to register a formal security interest over Tasmanian abalone quota units. The ability to securitise quota units revolutionised bank lending criteria and substantially reduced the amount of security required to finance abalone quota units from 100% of market value down to about 50% of market value..

1995 and 1998

The TACL sought (and was provided with) the opportunity to have significant input into the drafting of the new Fisheries Act – the Living Marine Resources Management Act 1995 and the first Abalone Fishery Management Plan (1999).

1996 to 2016

The Abalone Fishery Advisory Committee (AbFAC) was formally created in 1996 – this is the Ministerial Advisory Committee which still exists today and which provides crucial fisheries management advice direct to the Primary Industries Minister. The Committee includes representatives from TACL, DPIPWE, Marine Police, TSIC and the Tasmanian Conservation Trust. TACL representatives form the majority of members on this important Ministerial Advisory body. All major fishery management issues are canvassed at this forum before recommendations are made to the Minister.

1996 to 1997

The TACL worked closely with Worksafe Tasmania staff to develop the Tasmanian Abalone Diver Code of Practice: 1997 – this was the first Abalone Dive Safety Code used in Australia for commercial abalone diving. The Code was developed in response to a national push for the abalone industry to adopt onerous dive standards used in the offshore Oil & Gas sector. Had the national system been forced upon the Tasmanian abalone industry, the cost of harvesting abalone would have been many multiples higher. With the support of WorkSafe Tasmania, the TACL managed to “sidestep” the national standards by developing a Code of Practice that properly addressed the risks inherent in commercial abalone diving. An updated version of this Code was formally adopted into Tasmanian Workplace Safety Legislation in 2002.


The TACL successfully lobbied the Government for a 20% increase in the total allowable catch for the 1997 quota year following eight years of successful stock rebuilding which commenced in 1989. This was the first quota increase since the quota system was introduced in 1985.

1996, 1998 and 2005

The TACL participated in several Tasmanian Government Trade Missions to Asian abalone markets in 1996, 1998 and 2005. These trade missions laid the foundation for further Asian market based research commissioned by the TACL in China during 2006 and 2007. This market research in turn laid the foundation for the subsequent development of the Australian Wild Abalone (AWA®) Program.

1996 to 2009

The TACL collaborated very closely with DPIPWE to design and implement a zoning system as a spatial management tool to ensure sustainability in all parts of the Tasmanian abalone fishery. This was necessary initially to prevent overfishing in the Eastern part of the fishery during the late nineties – the East coast was being targeted by processors for abalone for the burgeoning live export trade which had resulted in a dramatic (and ultimately unsustainable) increase in catch from this section of the fishery. Initially the fishery was zoned into two zones – an east and west zone. This spatial management system has subsequently evolved into the system we know today – i.e. with 5 blacklip zones and 1 greenlip zone.

2003 to 2006

The TACL negotiated over several years and was ultimately successful in convincing the Government to replace the original and highly punitive sliding scale of royalties under the Deed of Agreement with a flat 8.125% royalty which applied at all beach prices and which was discounted to allow for increasing harvest costs over time.

2000 to 2004

The TACL collaborated with the peak abalone industry bodies in NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia to form a new national peak abalone body. Since then, Abalone Council Australia Ltd (ACA) has spearheaded over $4 million of strategic abalone related R&D investment focusing on market research, improved quality assurance practices and bio-toxin and disease management. ACA has also hosted six highly successful national Abalone Conventions – five in Australia (2001, 2003, 2005, 2008 and 2011) and one in New Zealand in 2014 (co-hosted with the Paua Industry Council).

2005 and 2009

The TACL commissioned a review into abalone diver economics – first in 2005 and again in 2009. These reports have informed the setting of diver pay rates over the last decade.

2006 to 2009

The TACL worked with DPIPWE and the Chief Veterinary Officer to develop the Abalone Disease Risk Management Plan following an outbreak of Abalone Viral Ganglioneuritus in Western Victoria in late 2005. This plan was drafted following a comprehensive disease risk assessment conducted in 2007 and resulted in the implementation of much improved bio-security protocols within the wild harvest and abalone aquaculture sectors within Tasmania. The plan established a bio-security benchmark that has subsequently been adopted in other states across Australia.

2008 to 2011

Following the untimely death of an abalone deckhand in 2007, the TACL worked very closely with Marine and Safety Tasmania, WorkSafe Tasmania and the Tasmanian Coroner to improve safe working procedures/conditions for all abalone fishers. A new range of safety protocols including revised load limits for dinghies were progressively implemented from 2009 to 2011.

2008 to 2016

The TACL established the Fishery Resource Assessment Group (FRAG) as an industry forum to discuss and make recommendations regarding fishery management matters such as quota setting, minimum size limits and zonal boundaries. The FRAG meets four times per year and makes final recommendations to the TACL AGM and to the Abalone Fishery Advisory Committee (AbFAC). The FRAG is regarded nationally as best practice abalone fishery management and the FRAG regularly hosts interstate abalone stakeholders who wish to observe first hand the collaborative way in which the Tasmanian abalone industry manages the world’s largest and most complex wild abalone fishery.

2009 to 2013

The TACL negotiated with the Government to establish a profit sharing arrangement based on the annual income from the 40 “Furneaux” abalone units that were progressively returned to Government control between 2003 and 2009. This arrangement has culminated in a grant of $1 million to the TACL – $200,000 per year for 5 years from 2013 to 2018. This money has been placed in the TACL Abalone Industry Development Fund (AIDF) for industry development purposes as specified in the Grant Deed and the TACL Strategic Plan (please note: these funds are NOT available for TACL operational purposes).

2010 to 2013

The TACL consulted with supply chain participants (divers, deckhands, processors, truck drivers and mother-boat skippers) and developed a Quality Assurance Code of Practice from point of harvest to point of export: This Code was subsequently modified to include QA practices relevant to all abalone producing states in Australia and is now a national QA CoP. An associated training program was developed and training workshops commenced in 2015 for divers, deckhands and processing factory staff.

2011 to 2016

The TACL worked closely with DPIPWE, DHHS and the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture to develop the Tasmanian Abalone Bio-toxin Management Plan following discovery of paralytic shellfish toxins in abalone tissue in 2011. The abalone tissue was sampled from abalone harvested in the D’Entrecasteaux Channel that had been subjected to a toxic algal bloom event. Subsequent bloom events in the Channel and other parts of the East Coast in recent years have initiated a review of the plan to further mitigate the risk of harvesting abalone from toxin affected areas. Management of this risk is critically important to ensure ongoing international market access for all Tasmanian abalone products and the TACL is heavily integrated in this risk management process.

2010 to 2015

The TACL reviewed and updated the TACL Abalone Dive Code of Practice and associated TACL Abalone Diver Training Course to reflect new safety regulations introduced via national OHS laws and formally adopted by the Tasmania Parliament in 2011. The CoP and Training manuals were further updated in 2015. The CoP and Training manuals will need to be updated on an ongoing basis to reflect likely future upgraded safety laws and regulations.

2012 to 2015

The TACL commissioned a review into processor economics that resulted in a temporary moratorium on the issuing of abalone processing licenses. This review recommended some structural changes within the sector. Whilst these recommendations have yet to be implemented, they lay the foundation for future consideration of efficiencies within the post harvest sector.

2010 to 2014

The TACL successfully negotiated with the Government to further reduce the abalone royalty paid by New Deed holders from 8.125% to 7%. The TACL also obtained a written commitment from the Liberal Party to further reduce royalty commensurate with that paid by rock lobster license owners – i.e. to about 5% of fishery GVP. During 2013, the TACL also successfully negotiated a new scale of fees for holders of the original abalone licenses (i.e. those who had not elected to move over to the Abalone Deed of Agreement).

2014 to 2016

The TACL worked with the Commercial Divers Association of Tasmania and DPIPWE and IMAS to develop a Centrostephanus (Long Spined Sea Urchin) mitigation plan including a harvesting trial that commenced in early 2016. This trial was successful and will be conducted again in 2017 and in later years if financial resources are available. Centrostephanus barrens have been forming in reefs on the east coast for over two decades and there has been a loss of productive abalone reef as a result. The best risk mitigation strategy is to encourage the formation of a commercially successful Centro harvesting sector that will target Centrostephanus in productive abalone reef systems thus reducing the risk of further barren formation.

2014 to 2016

The TACL submitted a very comprehensive report to the Tasmanian Government which raised concerns regarding the salmon industry’s in-water farming practices in October 2014. The TACL also made a formal submission to the 2015 Senate Inquiry into salmonid farming practices. The TACL has intensively lobbied the Primary Industries Minister since 2014 regarding improving the environmental practices of Tasmanian salmon growers. This consistent lobbying (along with lobbying from other interest groups) has influenced Minister Rockliff to recently announce improved management of the environmental practices of the salmon industry. These include stronger penalties for non-compliance of marine farm lease conditions, a new levy on salmon growers and the moving of environmental management of finfish farms from DPIPWE to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

2008 to 2016

The TACL has been a founding member and strong supporter of the Australian Wild Abalone® Program since its inception. Australian Wild Abalone® is an industry co-branding initiative promoting Australian Wild Abalone as a premium food targeting consumers both internationally and in Australia. The project has initially based its research in China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan. Marketing strategies are to target high end consumers, key opinion leaders and supply chain partners by providing informative and engaging promotional content, conducting high profile educational and promotional activities and creating and sustaining mutually beneficial relationships and partnerships. These strategies and associated marketing tactics are targeted at creating increased knowledge and thus desirability for Australian wild abalone products in the minds of the consumer, which ultimately will result in increased demand, and value, in all markets. This increase in demand and value will provide future direct financial benefits to Tasmanian abalone stakeholders.

2013 to 2016

The TACL, as a member of Abalone Council Australia Ltd (ACA), partnered with Southern Rock Lobster Limited (SRL) and the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) to form the Seafood Trade Advisory Group (STAG). The STAG was established in 2013 to provide a unified voice when advocating for trade and market issues in key Asian export markets. The group acts as a conduit between industry and government. Since its formation, the STAG has worked very closely with the relevant Australian and Chinese Government Agencies to deal with trade related issues such as deemed values, customs clearance times and a push to have sulphur dioxide approved as an additive to canned abalone for the China market. The STAG is a resource for Australian seafood exporters, co-funded by ACA, SRL, FRDC and the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR), through the Package Assisting Small Exporters (PASE program). Part of the funding made available through the STAG also pays for SafeFish. SafeFish provides technical advice to support Australia’s seafood trade and market access negotiations and helps to resolve barriers to trade. It does this by bringing together experts in food safety and hygiene to work with the industry and regulators to agree and prioritise technical issues impacting on free and fair market access for Tasmanian and Australian seafood. For more information please visit the SafeFish website.

2010 to 2016

The TACL has collaborated very closely with the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) to implement a GPS based diver catch data system. This system was introduced across the entire harvest sector on a compulsory basis in 2013 (all divers must use a GPS logger and a depth logger when harvesting abalone) and the quality and quantity of fishery dependent data has improved significantly as a result. IMAS and the TACL are further collaborating to construct a formal harvest strategy around the new data set. The harvest strategy will inform better fishery management practices into the future and it will be utilised for the first time in 2016. Development and application of a formal harvest strategy for fishery management is currently considered to be world’s best practice. A properly tested harvest strategy for the Tasmanian abalone fishery will provide clarity regarding management objectives, agreement on fishery performance measures and clear decision rules on the most appropriate management actions to be taken to ensure ongoing fishery sustainability.


Designing and commissioning the inaugural Abalone Biotoxin Management Plan.


Reduction of the abalone royalty from 8.125% to 7%.


Establishment of the Abalone Industry Reinvestment Fund (AIRF) – The Abalone Industry Reinvestment Fund (AIRF) was introduced in 2019 to support and increase the sustainability and productivity of the abalone fishery both biologically and economically while also addressing the impacts of the long spined sea urchin (Centrostephanus) to the marine environment. The AIRF is an allocation of $5.1 million over 5 years and was established under the Tasmanian Government’s ‘Taking Seafood to the Next Level’ initiative.

2018 to 2018

Establishment of the TACL Centro harvest subsidy – Combining the Centro subsidy from the AIDF (2016 to 2018) and the AIRF (2019 to 2021), a total of $870,000 has been invested to date and has directly assisted with the harvest of 1648 tonnes of Centro since 2016 – this amounts to 5 million Centro urchins removed as a direct result of AIDF/AIRF Centro subsidy between 2016 and 2021. This is an outstanding achievement by any yardstick. Urchin and abalone divers are reporting significant recovery of reefs along the central east coast region with a steadily increasing abundance of abalone.

The above list is by no means exhaustive but serves to demonstrate the value to industry stakeholders in having a strong and effective peak body – the Tasmanian Abalone Council – 27 years strong!