The Commission met for its 57th meeting in Canberra on 31 August – 1 September 2017.
Key decisions taken by the Commission at its meeting included:
- Economic Working Group (EWG)
The Commission agreed in principle to the roles, membership and terms of reference for AFMA’s Economic Working Group (EWG). The EWG is intended to provide coordinated economics expertise from Resource Assessment Group economists as well as commercial fisheries economists. Its focus will be on fisheries level issues, not those at the enterprise level. This was in keeping with AFMA’s objective on maximising net economic returns from fisheries. Commissioners also felt that an initial focus on economic issues could be expanded in the future to include, for example, socio-economic issues.
- Indicators for Autonomous Adjustment in the Northern Prawn Fishery (NPF)
The Commission has been encouraging industry in the NPF to develop indicators that would provide a practical basis for business decision making to ensure future profitability. While the industry working group’s first report and draft indicators were provided on time and were considered a good start, the Commission requested further work with a final report by April 2018. This work should expand the report to include brief explanations of the purpose of each indicator, and where relevant, their relationship to the problem of managing excess fishing capacity.
- The One Fishery approach
The Commission discussed AFMA’s proposed One Fishery approach with a focus on efficiency and economic issues. Potential changes could involve removing many of AFMA’s previous management mechanisms such as equipment and area restrictions. While the Commission agreed to a set of principles that will guide AFMA in its implementation of the approach, there remains a strong commitment to effective communication by AFMA with industry to detail impacts and benefits. Whilst supportive of the approach in principle, industry has also raised concerns over the removal of Management Plans and the implications for Statutory Fishing Rights.
- Fisheries Legislation amendments
With passage of the Fisheries Legislation Amendment (Representation) Bill 2017 expected shortly, Commissioners discussed the implications for AFMA, focusing on the handling of recreational and indigenous fishers’ expectations and the need for strategic actions to be clearly identified. Commissioners noted the importance of early and ongoing engagement with groups like the Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation and the Indigenous Reference Group (established by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation).
As part of the meeting, the Commission also considered written submissions provided by industry associations representing the Bass Strait Central Zone Scallop fishery, the Great Australian Bight trawl industry, tropical tuna fisheries, the northern prawn fishery and the southern bluefin tuna fishery. These reports provided an update on the current industry operating environment and are of great interest to Commissioners. The Commission was also briefed by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources on Australia’s proposed approach at the forthcoming meeting of the Commission for the Convention of Southern Bluefin Tuna in October 2017.