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Declared Fish Habitat Areas: frequently asked questions

What is a declared Fish Habitat Area (FHA)?

Declared FHAs are areas of high value fish habitat that are protected from physical disturbance associated with coastal development and declared under Queensland's Fisheries Act 1994. They are a key element of the State government's strategy for sustaining fish stocks and fisheries. More broadly, they are recognised as part of Australia's Nationally Representative System of Marine Protected Areas, and fit within the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Protected Area Management Category VI—'Managed Resource Protected Area'.

How do declared FHAs enhance fisheries sustainability?

Considerable research has been undertaken to investigate the relationships between fish stocks and coastal and freshwater habitats. This research has documented that many fish and crustacean species utilise a range of habitat types over daily, seasonal and lifecycle timeframes, and have highly specific habitat requirements at certain stages of their lifecycles (e.g. spawning locations).

While the exact habitat requirements for every fish or crustacean species inhabiting Queensland waters may not be completely understood, studies estimate that approximately 75% (by weight) of all seafood caught commercially in Queensland is from species dependent upon estuarine and inshore habitats during at least part of their life cycle. Similarly, a high proportion of species targeted by the recreational fishing sector and indigenous fishers is also dependent on estuarine, inshore and freshwater habitats during part or all of their life cycles.

Declaration of FHAs ensures that a comprehensive network of key fish habitats is retained in a natural and productive condition to support Queensland’s fish stocks and fisheries.

Will FHA declaration prevent me from fishing in the area?

No, the declaration of an FHA does not restrict existing legal recreational, traditional or commercial fishing. Declared FHAs are a form of 'multiple-use' marine protected area where community uses such as legal fishing and boating activities are allowed and encouraged. Note that while the use of a yabby pump for bait collection is allowed within a declared FHA, the use of digging implements for worm collection is prohibited.

Does FHA declaration restrict boating or any other use of the area?

No, declaration of an FHA does not affect legal existing vessel activities or day-to-day community use and enjoyment of the area.

Will declaration of an FHA cause further restriction on fishing in the future?

No, declaration is not a precursor to future fishing restrictions. Management of fishing effort is independent of the declared FHA process.

What is the difference between a management A and a management B declared FHA?

Declared FHAs are assigned a management level, either ‘A’ for very strict management or ‘B’ where existing or planned use requires a more flexible management approach. The assessment criteria that should be met to declare a management A area (e.g. minimum size, diversity of fish habitats and degree of artificial structures and disturbance already present) are more rigorous than for declaration as a management B area.

If an FHA is declared, what activities will I need authorisation for?

No authorisation is needed to access a declared FHA for community uses such as legal recreational, traditional or commercial fishing and boating activities are allowed and encouraged.

Some development activities are prohibited within a declared FHA, however certain activities may be authorised subject to assessment. These are listed below. Specified activities in a declared FHA may be allowed under accepted development requirements (PDF, 319K). By complying with the code's requirements, the activities do not require further authorisation.


May be authorised in Management A area (subject to assessment)

May be authorised in Management B area (subject to assessment)

Restoring fish habitat or natural processes

(e.g. works to restore river bank profiles)



Managing fishing resources or fish habitat

(e.g. constructing a boardwalk to prevent disturbance to fish habitat)



Research, monitoring and education activities



Works for public health and safety reasons

(e.g. runnelling for mosquito control)



Construction of public infrastructure to facilitate fishing

(e.g. a public boat ramp)



Construction of subterranean (underground) public infrastructure that require only minimal, temporary disturbance to the FHA that can be totally restored

(e.g. buried pipeline)



Constructing a temporary structure



Maintaining a lawful structure



Permanent public and private structures that are assessed as having an overriding requirement to be on tidal land or within the FHA

(e.g. private jetty, public bridge)



Beach replenishment (nourishment)



What if I have plans to build a boat ramp, pontoon or other structure into the declared FHA adjoining my property?

Depending on the management level, a declared FHA will result in limitations on the scale of structures that can be approved (within management B areas) or will prohibit the construction of some structures (within management A areas). A summary of this management is provided in the table above. Prior to declaration, a range of potential options can be considered to accommodate planned structures (e.g. the use of exclusion zones or strategic inclusion of strips of management B area) within the FHA proposal and these would be negotiated with individual stakeholders during the FHA consultation process.

Other permits and approvals may be required for construction, particularly in tidal areas or if damage or removal of marine plants is required.

How do I know where the boundary of a declared FHA is?

Declared FHA boundaries are shown on an official plan. Boundaries are generally aligned along the waterfront (cadastral) boundary of the adjacent properties, but may deviate away from this alignment to exclude particular areas. In these situations, that part of the boundary will be clearly defined using other methods (e.g. coordinates, bearings and distances from a fixed point). All declared FHAs exclude any area of a navigational channel marked by navigational aids. All declared FHA plans are available online.

Can my land be included into an FHA?

No, unless you specifically agree to it being included. FHAs are generally declared over Unallocated State Land (USL). They do not include other land tenures (e.g. freehold or leasehold) unless a specific agreement, in writing, is reached with the landholder. Schedule 3 of the Fisheries (General) Regulation 2019 describes the area included within each declared FHA.

Last updated
23 September 2019