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Fish Habitat Area (FHA) Selection and Assessment

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Queensland Department of National Parks, Recreation, Sport and Racing

Latest documentation


Designed for use in

Queensland, Australia



Assessment purpose

Management effectiveness, Prioritisation, Processes and components, Values/Services

Assessment criteria

Significance, Physical and chemical, Management and planning, Fauna

Method type

Desktop, field truthing, expert panel, consultation


Medium-long term – Investigation, consultation and declaration of a FHA can take over two years. The investigation phase takes 12 months.


Landscape/Catchment, Site/habitat

Wetland system

Estuarine, Marine

Description and method logic

Method purpose

The FHA system is designed to investigate the most valuable, pristine and productive habitats for FHAs through a strategic planning process. The declared Fish Habitat Area (FHA) program aims to ensure that Queensland's extensive fish (including crustacean and mollusc) habitats remain healthy and productive and support Queensland’s commercial, recreational and indigenous fisheries.


The declared FHA selection approach is based on the use of fish habitat and fisheries indicators, in combination with the strategic planning objectives to ensure that all habitat types are adequately represented within the regional declared FHA network. This approach combines traditional aquatic protected area assessment criteria such as comprehensiveness, adequacy and representativeness with fisheries specific assessment criteria such as the value of an area to the productivity and long-term sustainability of fish stocks, fishing values and fishing opportunities.

For a candidate inshore/estuarine area to be considered as a potential declared FHA for consultation, it should satisfy the following assessment criteria:
  • 3 or more of the 4 fisheries criteria; and
  • 6 or more of the 8 fish habitat criteria; or
  • 1 or more regionally unique features.

Method logic

The assessment framework requires the collection of detailed information to assess the site against the FHA selection criteria. The criteria are based on fish habitat, fisheries indicators and strategic planning. The selection criteria have only been developed for inshore and estuarine habitats.

Each criterion has suitability for FHA standards. For example, the size criteria standard for FHA 'A' is greater than 500ha, for FHA 'B' it is greater than 100 ha. The framework also sets out how many/which criteria should be met for the area to be considered for nomination.

A stakeholder consultation process is required for any proposed FHA declaration.

Criteria groupings of the method

The FHA system uses traditional Aquatic Protected Area selection criteria - comprehensive, adequate and representative (CAR), fisheries specific criteria such as value of an area to the productivity of fish stocks, and future management implications.

Data required

Fish species richness, benchmark fish species inventories, targeted species presence, existing and historical fishing activities (e.g. using fish catch data), information on adjacent fisheries, life cycles and habitat requirements of species in adjacent fisheries, habitat type and extent, condition of riparian buffer zone, location of in stream structures, water quality data, location of water impoundment structures, existing and proposed major developments, local government planning schemes, Regional coastal management plans, other strategic planning strategies, unique features.

Resources required

Expertise required

Fisheries experts, water quality experts, GIS capability, access to existing data, field assessments as required.

Materials required

A database platform for data storage, manipulation and values assessment, a Geographic Information System (GIS) platform for result presentation and interpretation.

Method outputs


Published Fisheries Resource Assessment Report that defines the fisheries and habitat values of the area, the existing and potential impacts to the habitats and how the area meets the selection criteria.


  • Documentation of fisheries and habitat values for nomination as a FHA.
  • Baseline data for future monitoring.

Criteria by category

    Physical and chemical

    • Habitat
      • Diversity
      • In-stream disturbance from structures
      • Presence of functional riparian buffer
      • Size
      • Water impoundment structures
      • Water quality

    Management and planning

    • Habitat
      • Compatible adjacent land and aquatic planning
      • Interaction with developments of major state significance


    • Unique features
      • Regionally unique natural fish habitat features


    • Fisheries
      • Diversity and abundance of regionally targeted fish species
      • Fish species richness
      • Supports existing fisheries
      • Supports external/regional fisheries


Recommended user

Government agencies, natural resource managers.


  • Sits within a strategic framework for nomination of FHAs
  • Clear, quantitative statements of criteria
  • Useful for consultation phase.


  • Is time consuming
  • High level of expertise

Case studies



  1. Department of National Parks, Recreation, Sport and Racing (2012), Fish Habitat Area selection, assessment, declaration and review, Operational Policy.. [online], Department of National Parks, Recreation, Sport and Racing, Brisbane. Available at:

Last updated: 7 February 2019

This page should be cited as:

Department of Environment and Science, Queensland (2019) Fish Habitat Area (FHA) Selection and Assessment, WetlandInfo website, accessed 1 February 2023. Available at:

Queensland Government
WetlandInfo   —   Department of Environment and Science