The Torres Strait is located between the tip of Cape York and Papua New Guinea. It is a shallow tropical marine environment, with significant seagrass meadows in the central and western parts, and extensive coral reefs forming the northern limit of the Great Barrier Reef in the east. Scattered through the Strait are over a hundred islands, of which only 17 are currently inhabited. Geographically, the islands are divided into eastern, central, western, top-western and southern groups.
Commercial fishing is one of the most economically important activities in the Torres Strait Protected Zone.
The Protected Zone Joint Authority (PZJA) is responsible for management of commercial and traditional fishing in the Australian area of the Torres Strait Protected Zone (TSPZ) and designated adjacent Torres Strait waters.
The Torres Strait Protected Zone Joint Authority (PZJA) established by the Torres Strait Fisheries Act 1984 comprises the Commonwealth Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, the Queensland Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries and Minister for Rural Communities and the Chair of the Torres Strait Regional Authority.
The PZJA members are supported by several government agencies.
The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) is responsible for the efficient management and sustainable use of Commonwealth fish resources on behalf of the Australian community. AFMA manages fisheries on the high seas, within the 200 nautical mile Australian Fishing Zone (AFZ) and, in some cases, by agreement with the States to the low water mark. In doing so, AFMA provides management and advisory services and implements appropriate fisheries management arrangements in the Torres Strait fisheries.
The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) develops policies and programs to address the effects of fishing on non-target species and the marine environment. This includes bycatch policy, international and national plans of action for seabirds, sharks and other marine species impacted by fisheries, use of marine protected areas and ecosystem-based regional marine planning under Oceans Policy.
The Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries acts as an agent for the PZJA in day-to-day management of fisheries and licensing of commercial fishers operating in the Torres Strait.
The Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) aims to improve the lifestyle and well-being of Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal people living in the region through the implementation of programs which:
- gain recognition of the rights, customs and identity as indigenous peoples
- achieve a better quality of life for all people living in the Torres Strait region
- develop a sustainable economic base
- achieve better health and community services
- ensure protection of the environment, and
- assert native title over the lands and waters of the Torres Strait region.