AFMA Update

Volume 5, Issue 17, 8 August 2008 [see previous editions]

Special environment edition...

Turtle

Last year AFMA discontinued publication of Environment Update with plans to publish all significant environmental news in Fishing Future.

To quote Issac Asimov, ‘the only constant is change’, and given that the AFMA Board agreed to stop publication of Fishing Future the change that we’re instituting is the inclusion of Environment Update in the fortnightly e-newsletter AFMA Update.

Soon you will see a change to the format of AFMA Update which will encompass up to date environment news as well keeping you informed about what is happening in our fisheries.

In the meantime, enjoy this special ‘environment’ edition of AFMA Update. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact AFMA’s Communications Team – news@afma.gov.au

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AFMA is a Commission - what about the Environment Committee?

On 1 July 2008, the governance arrangements for AFMA changed following changes to the Fisheries Administration Act 1991.

The Australian Fisheries Management Authority continues, with a Commission and a Chief Executive Officer in place of the board of directors.

At the final AFMA Board meeting (26-27 June 2008) the outgoing Board recommended that the Environment Committee will continue to meet with the Commission reviewing the on-going need for the committee annually.

The Environment Committee's goals remain the same, i.e. to provide advice to the AFMA Commission and AFMA Management on strategies to address environmental or conservation issues which best pursue AFMA's legislative objectives, focusing on ecologically sustainable development, the precautionary principle and on minimising the impact of fishing on non-target species.

Further information about the Environment Committee can be obtained from Dave Johnson at AFMA Environment and Research Section on (02) 6225 5432.

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Strategic and Export Approval Assessment reports

AFMA is revising the way it reports on the performance of its fisheries in line with the new Guidelines for the Ecologically Sustainable Management of Fisheries - Edition 2  which includes a revised streamlined process for reporting and submission requirements for fishery assessments under the EPBC Act.

The Guidelines outline specific principles and objectives designed to ensure a strategic and transparent way of evaluating the ecological sustainability of fishery management arrangements. Information, and a copy of the Guidelines is available on the DEWHA Website.

AFMA will no longer report on progress against recommendations in its annual report.  Instead a more comprehensive summary of the state of each fishery progress against conditions and recommendations will appear on the AFMA website.

All AFMA managed fisheries continue to be assessed for their ecological sustainability by the Minister for the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. These assessments are required under Part 10 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

This process is also used to assess fisheries for accreditation for the purposes of interaction with protected species and for approval to allow the export of native species.

The Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) is responsible for the reassessment and public consultation process for AFMA fisheries. Please see the DEWHA website for announcements about strategic assessments including public comment periods.

Copies of AFMA's assessment reports are available from AFMA's website or by contacting AFMA's Environment and Research Section.

Visit Quotaboard - www.quotaboard.afma.gov.au

AFMA Environment & Research Section Contacts

Senior Manager

Dave Johnson
(02) 6225 5432

Managers

Paul Ryan
Environmental Assessments
(02) 6225 5366

Mandy Goodspeed
Ecological Risk
(02) 6225 5406

Dave Alden
Research
(02) 6225 5317

Michael Tudman
Bycatch and Discard
(02) 6225 5409

Senior Environment Officers

Carolyn Stewardson
(02) 6225 5351

Justine Johnston
(02) 6225 5415

Ben Munstermann
(02) 6225 5425

Environment Officers

Cate Coddington
(02) 6225 5378

Bronwen Jones
(02) 6225 5475

Research Administrators

Kerrie Bennetts
(02) 6225 5356

Anne Cornford
(02) 6225 5318

ComFRAB Secretary

Sally McCarthy
(02) 6225 5403

Assessments - Torres Strait Turtle and Dugong fisheries

As reported in the last Update the assessment report for the Torres Strait Turtle and Dugong Fishery was submitted to the Minister for the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts for consideration. DEWHA Officers have committed to working with stakeholders in the Torres Strait in developing appropriate conditions and recommendations relevant to the assessment. Progress with the development of community management plans for turtle and dugong will allow DEWHA to move forward with this assessment. A decision by the Minister for the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts in response to the Turtle and Dugong strategic assessment report is yet to be made.

Reassessments

Reassessments of the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery and the Torres Strait Sea Cucumber Fishery have recently been completed by DEWHA. The conditions and recommendations provided by DEWHA are still awaiting formal acceptance by AFMA (and by the PZJA for the TSSCF).

The Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery was declared a Wildlife Trade Operation (WTO) through to 20 January 2011. The relevant documents relating to the process can be found on the DEWHA Website.

The Torres Strait Tropical Rock Lobster Fishery was declared a WTO through to 20 June 2011. The relevant documents relating to the process can be found on the DEWHA Website.

The following table sets out the current status of the accreditation of Commonwealth fisheries under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act:

Fishery

Expiry date of Accreditation

Heard and McDonald Islands Fisheries

9 May 2012 (Exempt)

Bass Strait Central Zone Scallop Fishery

17 Nov 2009 (WTO) *

Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery

22 Dec 2009 (WTO)

Southern Bluefin Tuna Fishery

25 Jun 2010 (WTO)

Northern Prawn Fishery

9 Jan 2009 (Exempt)

Coral Sea Fishery

19 Mar 2009 (WTO)

Small Pelagics Fishery

27 Feb 2009 (WTO)

Southern and Western Tuna Fishery

1 Dec 2009 (Exempt)

Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery

20 January 2011 (WTO)

Western Deepwater Trawl and Northwest Slope Fisheries

19 Mar 2009 ( WTO)

Southern Squid Jig Fishery

1 Dec 2009 (Exempt)

Macquarie Island Toothfish Fishery

28 Nov 2010 (Exempt)

Skipjack Tuna Fishery

30 Nov 2008 (WTO)

South Tasman Rise Fishery

NOT REQUIRED

New and Exploratory CCAMLR Fisheries

25 Nov 2008 ( WTO)

Torres Strait Tropical Rock Lobster Fishery

23 Nov 2010 (WTO)

Torres Strait Prawn Fishery

29 Nov 2008 (WTO)

Torres Strait Sea Cucumber Fishery

20 Jun 2011 (WTO)

Torres Strait Finfish Fishery

25 Nov 2008 (WTO)

Torres Strait Trochus Fishery

25 Nov 2008 (WTO)

Torres Strait Turtle and Dugong Fishery

Submission with DEWHA

* WTO in place for product of research cruises only.

DEWHA assessment reports and recommendations relating to Commonwealth Fisheries are available on DEWHA's website.

For further information on assessment reports please contact Paul Ryan, AFMA Environment and Research Section on (02) 6225 5366.

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Establishing Ecosystem Based Fisheries Management and Ecological Risk Management

Since 2003, AFMA has implemented numerous initiatives through the project Establishing Ecosystem Based Fisheries Management which was funded by the Natural Heritage Trust.

Through this project, AFMA has gained a better understanding of the impacts fisheries have on marine ecosystems. Implementing these current initiatives will better position AFMA to manage Commonwealth fisheries to minimise these impacts. With funding for this project finishing on 30 June 2008 and the project nearing completion the focus has switched to drafting and implementing Ecological Risk Management (ERM) strategies and reports for each Commonwealth managed fishery.

Species identified as high risk from the effects of commercial fishing under ERAs form a 'priority list' for each fishery. The ERM strategy for each fishery will direct management of these species through one or more policy streams:

  • Commonwealth Harvest Strategy Policy

  • Bycatch and Discards Policy and work plans

  • Non Key Commercial Species Policy (byproduct)

  • Shark Policy and the Chondrichthyan Working Group; and

  • TEP species under various international plans of action, recovery plans etc.

The ERM reports will be drafted in consultation and collaboration with their specific MACs and RAGs and authors are encouraged to address the impacts of cross-fishery species and fishing method cumulative effects, where possible.

For more information on the residual risk assessments or the ERM framework contact Mandy Goodspeed, Manager Ecological Risk on (02) 6225 5406.

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Climate change and fisheries

There is widespread acceptance that human activities are contributing to climate change. The effects of climate change in the marine environment have the capacity to strongly impact Australian fisheries. Changes are expected in temperature, acidity, oxygen saturation levels and the productivity and distribution of certain species.

Already, there is evidence that some marine species are expanding into new areas because of increasing temperatures – examples are outlined in part C of the report to the Australian Greenhouse Office, Impacts of Climate Change on Australian Marine Life, available on the Department of Climate Change's website. Additionally, as yet unpublished research at the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre by Dr Donna Roberts is showing evidence that some organisms may be having difficulty in forming shells in the Southern Ocean. This is ascribed to the increasing acidity of the ocean due to higher concentrations of dissolved carbon dioxide.

But climate change isn't the only thing affecting the marine environment. The impacts of climate change are mixed in with other pressures on the marine environment, including pollution, pests, mineral and petroleum extraction, coastal development and the exploitation of marine resources.

In acknowledging that our climate is changing, and will continue to change, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) endorsed a National Climate Change Adaptation Framework in April 2007. The framework identifies the need for a National Climate Change and Fisheries Action Plan, which includes:

  • Identifying the risks associated with climate change for the sustainable use of Australia's commercial and recreational fish stocks

  • Determining ways of distinguishing climate change impacts from the impacts of other environmental and management factors

  • Developing strategies in collaboration with industry and community stakeholders, and

  • Assessing the impacts of the risks of climate change on aquaculture.

During the first half of 2008, AFMA contributed to an Interim Response Plan for Climate Change in Fisheries, which was developed by the Australian Fisheries Managers Forum (AFMF). The Interim Response Plan provided a guide for investment and management responses, while a nationally Agreed Action Plan is being developed.

The National Climate Change and Fisheries Action Plan is being developed by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), in consultation with state and Australian government departments (including AFMA), and representatives of the commercial and recreational fishing and aquaculture sectors. It is expected that a final draft will be considered by the Natural Resource Management and Primary Industries Ministerial Councils in November this year. The Action Plan will consider responses to climate change with respect to adaptation and mitigation and help industry and government develop ways to manage the risks from, and take advantage of the potential opportunities of, climate change.

Across broader government and the community, there are many initiatives being established to deal with a whole range of different sectors and aspects of Climate Change. AFMA will continue to keep informed about the broad range of these initiatives and target our priority on those of most relevance to the management of Australian Fisheries.

Two other key climate change initiatives which AFMA is currently engaged in are the National Adaptation Research Plan (NARP) for Marine Biodiversity and Fisheries, and the Commonwealth Environment Research Fund (CERF) Research Hub on Predicting and Managing Australia's Marine Biodiversity.

The National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, established by the Australian Government and hosted at Griffith University, is assisting governments in understanding how we adapt to the impacts of climate change. The facility is coordinating the development and implementation of NARPs which will assist in identifying national information gaps and research priorities. The NARP for Marine Biodiversity and Resources is of specific interest to the fishing industry. Further information about the facility is available at www.griffith.edu.au.

AFMA is a steering committee member on the Commonwealth Environment Research Facilities (CERF) - Marine Biodiversity Hub. There are a number of CERF hubs which are centrally administered by the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts; information about the program can be found on the DEWHA website.

The key aim of the CERF programme is to provide sound advice to inform environmental public policy objectives and to improve management of Australia's unique environment. CERFs are responsible for the distribution of funding to required research. The Marine Biodiversity Hub is for the Prediction and Management of Australia's Marine Biodiversity. More information about the Marine Biodiversity Hub can be found at: www.marinehub.org.

Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Green Paper

Part of the Government's climate change strategy is a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. The scheme is designed to reduce carbon pollution, and its contribution to climate change, while minimising the impact on business and households. The Government's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme will, place a limit, or cap, on the amount of carbon pollution industry can emit.

The Department of Climate Change has released the consultation paper, the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, Green Paper. It canvasses options and preferred approaches on issues, such as which industry sectors will be covered and how emission caps will be set. It also includes ways to address the impacts on Australian households, emissions-intensive trade-exposed industries, such as fisheries, and other strongly affected sectors.

For more information about the Green Paper please go to the Department of Climate Change's website.

Submissions and comments are being sought on the design of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. The closing date for submissions is 10 September 2008.

Submissions can be forwarded to:

Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Green Paper Submission
Department of Climate Change
GPO Box 854
Canberra ACT 2601
Australia
emissionstrading@climatechange.gov.au

For further information on AFMA's engagement in Climate Change issues, please contact Dave Johnson, Senior Manager Environment and Research on (02) 6225 5432

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Bycatch and discard program

AFMA is committed to ensuring that fisheries are ecologically sustainable through bycatch reduction, minimising discarding, improved protection for vulnerable/threatened species and minimising adverse impacts of fishing on the marine environment.

The objective of the Bycatch and Discard program at AFMA is to assist fisheries determine and implement a course of action that addresses high risk bycatch, avoid interactions with threatened, endangered and protected species and minimise discarding of target/quota species to the lowest practical level. AFMA coordinates the efforts of various interest groups to develop the plans by establishing bycatch and discard working groups consisting of scientific, industry, government and conservation members. More information about bycatch management at AFMA can be found at on AFMA's website.

In response to the outcomes from the Ecological Risk Assessments (ERA), and in line with Ecological Risk Management (ERM), AFMA's Bycatch and Discard Team has released and published to our website, AFMA's Program for Addressing Bycatch and Discarding in Commonwealth Fisheries: An Implementation Strategy. This document provides background to the legislative and policy requirements for Commonwealth fisheries with respect to bycatch and discarding and outlines how AFMA will implement the program.

Existing Bycatch Action Plans (BAPs) are being refined into a more focused approach in the form of Bycatch and Discard Workplans. Until the workplans are completed the current BAPs will continue to apply. In comparison to the old BAPs the new workplans are succinct documents and focus on practical and cost-effective actions that address the priority aspects of bycatch and discarding. The key difference between the workplan approach and BAPs is their risk-based focus and the level of involvement that wider industry are encouraged to play in contributing to solutions.

The focus of the program is on defining and implementing necessary actions that respond to priority ecological risks in fisheries. The following workplans have been drafted and are awaiting final agreement and sign off:

  • Australia's Tuna and Billfish Longline Fisheries,

  • Great Australian Bight sector of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery (SESSF),

  • Northern Prawn Fishery,

  • Western Deepwater Trawl Fishery, and

  • North West Slope Trawl.

Workplans to follow shortly are the Commonwealth Trawl and Gillnet, Hook and Trap sectors of the SESSF, which will complete the set of primary focus fisheries. The target is to have all remaining fisheries workplans in place by the end of 2008. The workplans will be published to the AFMA website at the address above.

Other key areas that the Bycatch and Discard Program are focusing on include Chondrichthyans (sharks and rays), Pinnipeds (seals and sea lions), Seabirds, and Cetaceans (whales and dolphins). Outcomes from these focussed studies will flow into the workplans of the relevant fisheries. As a number of Chondrichthyans feature at 'high risk' in the results of the ERA process, a Chondrichthyan Technical Working Group is being formed to develop mitigation strategies. These mitigation strategies will be incorporated into a Chondrichthyan Guide for Fisheries Managers.

The Bycatch and Discard Team will continue to work closely with management and industry to meet the legislative objectives of reducing bycatch and minimising discarding.

For further information on AFMA's Bycatch and Discard Program please contact Michael Tudman, AFMA on (02) 6225 5409.

Towards an integrated approach to wildlife bycatch management

The Bureau of Rural Sciences (BRS), with the cooperation of the Australian Fisheries Management Authority and the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), is continuing to investigate new ways to manage fisheries bycatch.

A bycatch mitigation workshop was held by BRS on 16 April 2008 in Sydney to discuss key stakeholder perspectives and priorities and ways to improve consultation and collaboration on common issues of concern. It was attended by 42 representatives from a wide variety of stakeholders including scientific research, government, industry and environmental non-government organisations (NGO).

The discussion commenced with an overview of the Australian Government's approach to bycatch mitigation and AFMA's Bycatch and Discard Program (see the section above). A range of issues were raised, including:

  • general lack of clear priorities and targets for bycatch mitigation including the need for a more concerted and consistent approach across both fisheries and jurisdictions

  • difficulties for NGO stakeholders getting access to up-to-date information on the types and scale of bycatch

  • usefulness of the data collected and concerns over the negative effects of increasing demands on data collection programs

  • different opinions about what 'sustainable' fishing means

  • the need to place a greater focus on the development of incentives to address bycatch concerns.

Overall it was apparent that all participants were keen to develop solutions to bycatch issues. It was discussed that in order to improve support for bycatch work more effort needs to be put into informing stakeholders of why the work is important, particularly with respect to competing priorities.

The workshop identified that there are many opportunities to improve the way key stakeholders are informed about the status of bycatch and how they are engaged in solutions to addressing bycatch issues.

The findings of this workshop are intended to be used to help key stakeholders develop their bycatch mitigation priorities in the short- to medium-term and help translate them into real action. The findings should also provide support for any existing or future initiatives aimed at improving consultation and collaboration on key bycatch issues.

The workshop report will be made publicly available on the BRS website (www.brs.gov.au/shop) by September 2008. Further information on the project can be obtained from the project manager, Neil Bensley at BRS on 02 6272 4243.

The BRS is the scientific bureau within the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF). BRS provides nationally focused scientific advice to support evidence-based policy development and decision making by government.

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Marine Bioregional Planning

The Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) is preparing marine bioregional plans under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Through the same process, the Department will also be developing in each marine region a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in fulfillment of the Government's commitment to a National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas. DEWHA will continue to actively engage stakeholders, including the commercial fishing industry, in the process and provide support to coordinate input from representatives of Commonwealth and state managed fisheries.

AFMA has developed a strategy to engage with stakeholders in the DEWHA Marine Bioregional Planning (MBP) process. As part of this engagement an AFMA liaison officer has been appointed to:

  • Attend stakeholder meetings

  • Compile AFMA Management Briefs - publicly available on AFMA's website (note: these briefs are circulated to AFMA fisheries managers, MAC executive officers, fishing industry association representatives, and the Commonwealth Fisheries Association):

  • Compile MAC papers for industry and other AFMA stakeholders

  • Liaise directly with MAC executive officers and commercial fishing industry representatives to ensure that MACs and industry remain informed, especially in relation to public consultation periods

  • Answer questions from government agencies relating to AFMA's engagement in MPA and MBP

  • Coordinate data requests from DEWHA for development of MBP profiles/plans

A summary of the process in each region is presented in the table below. To further assist AFMA stakeholders, the map below has been compiled to help stakeholders see where the Marine Bioregional Planning Regions are located in relation to Commonwealth managed fisheries. It also shows the locations of all 'Commonwealth Marine Reserves/Parks' proclaimed under the EPBC Act 1999.

For further information on AFMA's involvement in Marine Bioregional Planning, please contact Carolyn Stewardson on (02) 6225 5351 or visit AFMA's web page for MBP.

To further assist AFMA stakeholders, maps detailing Marine Bioregional Planning Regions alongside Commonwealth managed fisheries are now available on AFMA's website. The maps also show the location of all 'Commonwealth Marine Reserves/Parks'proclaimed under the EPBC Act 1999.

Bioregional Map


South East

  1. Commonwealth managed fisheries that operate in this Marine Bioregional Planning Region: Macquarie Island Toothfish Fishery, Bass Strait Central Zone Scallop Fishery, Commonwealth Gillnet, Hook and Trap Sectors (part of the SESSF), Commonwealth Trawl Sector (part of the SESSF), Eastern Skipjack Fishery, Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery, Small Pelagic Fishery, Southern Bluefin Tuna Fishery, Southern Squid Jig Fishery, Western Skipjack Fishery, and Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery.

  2. Release of final plan: The South East Regional Marine Plan was released in May 2004. A Marine Bioregional Plan revised to reflect EPBC Act 1999 provisions will be completed by 2010.

  3. Progress: In this region, Marine Bioregional Planning will be limited to a realignment of the South East Regional Marine Plan, completed in 2004, to the provisions of Section 176 of the EPBC Act 1999.

  4. Website: www.environment.gov.au/coasts/mbp/south-east/index

  5. Contact in DEWHA: Barbara Musso (03) 6208 2940


North

  1. Commonwealth managed fisheries that operate in this Marine Bioregional Planning Region: Northern Prawn Fishery, Southern Bluefin Tuna Fishery, Torres Strait, Western Skipjack Fishery, and Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery.

  2. Release of final plan: The North Regional Marine Plan will be released in 2009.

  3. Planning progress: Marine Bioregional Profile (information/database) is complete and awaiting approval for public release, which should happen in July-August. Work on the draft Marine Bioregional Plan has commenced i.e. regional assessment of threats, engagement of experts for scientific input, and internal Marine Protected Area work.

  4. Website: www.environment.gov.au/coasts/mbp/north/index

  5. Contact in DEWHA: Annemarie Watt (02) 6274 2656


South West

  1. Commonwealth managed fisheries that operate in this Marine Bioregional Planning Region: Commonwealth Great Australian Bight Trawl Sector (part of the SESSF), Commonwealth Gillnet, Hook and Trap Sectors (part of the SESSF), Southern Bluefin Tuna Fishery, Small Pelagic Fishery, Southern Squid Jig Fishery, Western Deepwater Trawl, Western Skipjack Fishery, and Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery.

  2. Release of final plan: The South West Marine Bioregional Plan will be released in 2009.

  3. Planning progress: The Marine Bioregional Profile (information/database) was released in October 2007. Work on the draft Marine Bioregional Plan has commenced i.e. stakeholder forums held in Perth and Adelaide in April 2008, regional assessment of threats, engagement of experts for scientific input and internal Marine Protected Area work.

  4. Website: www.environment.gov.au/coasts/mbp/south-west/index

  5. Contact in DEWHA: Barbara Musso (03) 6208 2940


North West

  1. Commonwealth managed fisheries that operate in this Marine Bioregional Planning Region: Northern Prawn Fishery, North West Slope Trawl Fishery, Southern Bluefin Tuna Fishery, Western Deepwater Trawl, Western Skipjack Fishery and Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery.

  2. Release of final plan: The North West Marine Bioregional Plan will be released in 2010.

  3. Planning progress: The draft Marine Bioregional Profile (information/data base) is complete and undergoing departmental clearance. It should be released before the end of 2008. Work on the draft Marine Bioregional Plan has commenced i.e. regional assessment of threats, and internal Marine Protected Area work.

  4. Website: www.environment.gov.au/coasts/mbp/north-west/index

  5. Contact in DEWHA: Rowan Wylie (03) 6208 2930


East

  1. Commonwealth managed fisheries that operate in this Marine Bioregional Planning Region: Coral Sea Fishery, Commonwealth Trawl Sector (part of the SESSF), Commonwealth Gillnet, Hook and Trap Sectors (part of the SESSF), Norfolk Island Fishery, Small Pelagic Fishery, Southern Bluefin Tuna Fishery, Southern Squid Jig Fishery, East Coast Deepwater Trawl Sector (part of the SESSF), Eastern Skipjack Fishery, Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery, and Torres Strait.

  2. Release of final plan: The East Marine Bioregional Plan will be released in 2010.

  3. Planning progress: The draft Marine Bioregional Profile (information/data base) is complete and undergoing departmental clearance. It should be released before the end of 2008. Work on the draft Marine Bioregional Plan has commenced i.e. regional assessment of threats, and internal Marine Protected Area work.

  4. Website: www.environment.gov.au/coasts/mbp/east/index

  5. Contact in DEWHA: Sean Lane (02) 6274 1925

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Spatial Management

AFMA is working toward developing a policy and guidelines on the use of spatial management in Commonwealth managed fisheries to better explain the purpose and facilitate the use of spatial management measures.

The first stage of this work comprises an AFMA funded project 'Assessing needs, options and costs for spatial management approaches for Commonwealth fisheries' which is being undertaken by CSIRO. This project aims to: (i) assess management needs and objectives for spatially-explicit fisheries management, (ii) review and synthesize spatial management literature and tools, and (iii) assess likely spatial management practices in three key Commonwealth fisheries - Northern Prawn Fishery, Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery, and Gillnet, Hook and Trap Sectors of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery.

CSIRO is currently completing the final draft report. To date, CSIRO has completed a literature and support tools review on spatial management for fisheries. It has also conducted information and data gathering in relation to the management objectives and needs assessments for the three case fisheries.

With largely qualitative and semi-quantitative information gathered from AFMA managers and the fisheries RAGs, this project has developed a framework to evaluate spatial management options in relation to their different management objectives. The information for each fishery has been incorporated into a decision analysis framework to explore pros and cons of likely management options to support the development of policies for the spatial management of Commonwealth fisheries. The framework combines expert opinion and the analytical hierarchy process to determine which options perform best, taking into account the multiple objectives inherent in fisheries as well as conservation management.

AFMA intends to draw on the project's findings in formulating its spatial management policy and guidelines. AFMA will be consulting with the fishing industry and other organisations including DAFF, BRS, DEWHA and the Commonwealth Fisheries Association while drafting the policy.

For further information on the use of spatial management in AFMA's fisheries, please contact Carolyn Stewardson on (02) 6225 5351.

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Harvest Strategies in Commonwealth Fisheries

AFMA has developed a number of harvest strategies for key commercial species in Commonwealth fisheries, and is currently implementing them as required under the Ministerial Direction and Commonwealth Harvest Strategy Policy (HSP).

Harvest Strategy Policy

The requirement to develop harvest strategies originates from the Ministerial Direction to the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) issued in December 2005 by the Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation under section 91 of the Fisheries Administration Act 1991.

The Ministerial Direction required a Harvest Strategy Policy for Commonwealth fisheries to be developed to take a more strategic and science-based approach to managing fish stocks. The Harvest Strategy Policy was released in September 2007. The objective of this policy is the sustainable and profitable utilisation of Australia’s Commonwealth fisheries in perpetuity through the implementation of harvest strategies that maintain key commercial stocks at ecologically sustainable levels and within this context, maximise the economic returns to the Australian community. A copy of the Policy is available from the DAFF website.

The Harvest Strategy Policy provides a consistent framework for taking the available information about particular fish stocks and applying an evidence and risk based approach to setting harvest levels on a fishery by fishery basis. The policy also provides the fishing industry and other stakeholders with a more certain operating environment where management decisions for key species are more consistent, predictable and transparent.

Commonwealth fisheries are now implementing their harvest strategies and AFMA has established a Harvest Strategy Policy Advisory Committee to provide policy advice and guidance on the interpretation of the Policy to ensure that all harvest strategies are implemented in a way that is consistent with the Policy.

Harvest Strategies

AFMA, its MACs and RAGs, fisheries scientists and other stakeholders have been developing fishery-specific harvest strategies in all relevant Commonwealth fisheries. Generally these harvest strategies use existing management arrangements and refine and/or supplement them to meet the requirements of the policy. Recognising that it is not possible to be prescriptive across the diversity of Commonwealth fisheries, the Harvest Strategy Policy is flexible enough to cater for unique fishery circumstances. This balance between direction and flexibility encourages the development of innovative and cost effective strategies to meet the objectives of the policy.

AFMA has developed thirteen harvest strategies, which cover key commercial species in ten Commonwealth fisheries. These strategies are:

  • Arrow Squid Harvest Strategy

  • Bass Strait Central Zone Scallop Harvest Strategy

  • Coral Sea Hand Collection Aquarium Sector Harvest Strategy

  • Coral Sea Hand Collection Lobster and Trochus Sector Harvest Strategy

  • Coral Sea Hand Collection Sea Cucumber Harvest Strategy

  • Coral Sea Line, Trawl and Trap Sectors Harvest Strategy

  • Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery Harvest Strategy

  • Northern Prawn Fishery Harvest Strategy under input controls

  • Skipjack Tuna Harvest Strategy

  • Small Pelagic Fishery Harvest Strategy

  • Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery Harvest Strategy Framework

  • Western Trawl Harvest Strategy

  • Western Tuna and Billfish Harvest Strategy

AFMA is also currently developing a harvest strategy for the Torres Strait Prawn Trawl fishery.
Harvest strategies use existing information about the fishery, both biological and economic, to identify and pursue sustainable fishing levels while maintaining a high level of confidence that the stock will not be depleted beyond a level it can sustain. The less information that’s available, the more precautionary these levels will need to be. This is to account for the increased risk that existing information will not detect any impacts to sustainability of stocks. Decision rules are used within harvest strategies to provide clear management actions in response to any identified risks to the fishery.

Harvest strategies will be subject to periodic review, and have provision for change if there is a significant unforeseen change in the fishery. Generally though, harvest strategies provide everyone with certainty about the way that the fishery will be managed in the future.

Together with other tools such as the Bycatch and Discard Workplans, harvest strategies form part of AFMA’s Ecological Risk Management framework approach to Ecosystem Based Fisheries Management, and will consider all ecosystem interactions, including the relationship the species has with others in the food web or community, particularly if the harvested species is a keystone species.

AFMA reports on the implementation of the Policy and fishery specific harvest strategies in its annual reports and as otherwise requested by the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry.

For further information about the Harvest Strategy Policy or AFMA’s harvest strategies, please contact Amanda Parr on (02) 6225 5323.

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Marine debris

Marine debris can be deadly to marine life. The debris that presents the most significant danger is plastics. Marine animals, including fish, can mistake it for food, creating physical blockages and increasing the levels of polychlorinated bi-phenols, which can suppress the immune and reproductive systems.

Animals can also be trapped in debris which can cause death by strangulation, drowning, starvation or smothering. It can also cause extensive wounding, amputation of limbs and restricted mobility.
The estimated time it takes for plastic to dissolve is 450 years. Throughout this period it can continue to cause harm.

‘Injury and fatality to vertebrate marine life caused by ingestion of, or entanglement in, harmful marine debris’ was listed as a key threatening process in August 2003 under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

In response to that listing, the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) prepared a draft Threat Abatement Plan (TAP) for Impacts of marine debris on vertebrate marine life. AFMA provided comments to DEWHA as input during the development of the draft TAP.

DEWHA released the draft TAP for public comment on 14 May 2008. The period for public comment closes at 5pm on Thursday 14 August 2008. There are many proposed actions in the draft TAP relevant to fisheries, and readers are encouraged to read the draft TAP. AFMA will also be providing comments to DEWHA as a part of this process. Any comments or enquiries you have should be emailed, faxed or posted directly to DEWHA at:

Director
Migratory and Marine Biodiversity Section
Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts
GPO Box 787
CANBERRA ACT 2601
marinedebris@environment.gov.au
Fax: (02) 6274 2455

The draft TAP, a background paper, and information about the call for comment are available from DEWHA's website.

Threat abatement plans provide for the research, management, and any other actions necessary to reduce the impact of a listed key threatening process on native species and ecological communities. Implementing the plan should assist the long term survival in the wild of affected native species or ecological communities. For more information about threat abatement plans please visit DEWHA's website.

There is international concern about the issue and a number of international conventions exist aimed to minimise the risk of marine debris. One of these, to which Australia is bound as a signatory party, is the IMO International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, as modified by the Protocol of 1978 or MARPOL 73/78. MARPOL 73/78 can be accessed through the marine environment section of the International Maritime Organization website.

Further information on AFMA’s involvement is marine debris issues contact Paul Ryan at AFMA Environment and Research Section on (02) 6225 5366.

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Nominations under the EPBC Act

The Finalised Priority Assessment List (FPAL) for the assessment period commencing 1 October 2007 was determined and announced by the then Minister for Environment and Water Resources, the Hon. Malcolm Turnbull in August 2007. The FPAL can be found on the DEWHA website. Among the list are the following species and a key threatening process relevant to fisheries:

Species nominations to be completed:

  • Galeorhinus galeus (school shark)

  • Rexea solandri (gemfish - eastern population)

  • Thunnus maccoyii (southern bluefin tuna) – Nominated for listing as Conservation Dependent

Key Threatening Process nomination to be completed:

  • Damage to marine ecosystems by trawling in the area of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery

In each case, the assessment period formally commenced 1 October 2007. The Minister requires the Committee to provide its advice by 30 Sep 2008 for school shark and gemfish, and advice on southern bluefin tuna and trawling by 30 Sep 2009.

For each nomination DEWHA conducts consultation processes, including public comment. When they become available for comment they can be accessed at the following page on the DEWHA website.

Comments on school shark and gemfish have already closed and decisions on the nominations are expected shortly.

Information on EPBC Act nominations is available on the DEWHA website or from Graeme Barden; epbc.nominations@environment.gov.au or (02) 6274 2238

Call for comment - Damage to marine ecosystems by trawling in the SESSF as a Key Threatening Process

Damage to marine ecosystems by trawling in the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery (SESSF) was nominated under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) as a key threatening process in early 2004.

In 2007 there were changes made to the nomination process and this nomination was subsequently placed on the Finalised Priority Assessment list for the assessment period commencing 1 October 2007 with an assessment completion time of 30 September 2009.

The original public comment period was from 7 April 2008 until 30 May 2008 but it has now been extended until 30 September 2008. AFMA will be providing comment on the nomination to the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA).

The proposed key threatening process is overfishing in the SESSF. The nomination states that there are several key factors that contribute to the process of overfishing. These factors are:

  • The loss of and subsequent lack of natural refugia for marine species across the productive fishing grounds of the SESSF;

  • Total Allowable Catches (TACs) being set too high for quota managed species, thus allowing overfishing to occur; and,

  • TACs being used to promote species recovery but being an inappropriate tool to achieve this goal for many species.

Information relating to the full nomination and the public comment period can be found on DEWHA's website.

If you wish to comment about the nomination, please send your comments by 30 September 2008, quoting the title of the nomination, to:

The Director
Species Listing Section
Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts
GPO Box 787
Canberra ACT 2601
Fax: (02) 6274 1565
epbc.nominations@environment.gov.au

If trawling in the SESSF is listed as a key threatening process then the Minister for the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts will decide whether a Threat Abatement Plan is required.

The green sawfish has been listed as vulnerable

Green sawfish

On the 1st of March 2008, Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett announced that the green sawfish (Pristiszijsron) was listed as vulnerable under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). The green sawfish faces ongoing threats from accidental catch in fishing nets, from illegal fishing for fins and rostrums (the distinctive saw-toothed snouts) and from habitat degradation through coastal development.

The listing of the Green Sawfish means it is illegal to kill, harm or take Green Sawfish in Commonwealth waters under the EPBC Act. However, an interaction with a protected species, while a fisher is operating in accordance with an accredited fishery management plan or regime, would not a breach of the EPBC Act, provided it is reported. Fishers can be penalised if they don't. Fishers must record all interactions with green sawfish in the same way they record interactions with other listed marine species.

Catch records indicate that the green sawfish may now be virtually extinct in south-east Asia. It is likely, then, that northern Australia is the last region where significant populations remain. The green sawfish is currently listed as endangered in New South Wales waters, vulnerable in the Northern Territory and totally protected in Western Australia. More information about the sawfish can be found on the DEWHA website.

For further information on AFMA's role in nominations under the EPBC Act, please contact Paul Ryan, AFMA Environment and Research Section on (02) 6225 5366

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Seals

National Seal Strategy Implementation Group

In 2003, the Marine and Coastal Committee (MACC) of the Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council (NRMMC) established an inter-governmental working group, the National Seal Strategy Group (NSSG), to initiate a coordinated national approach to managing human-seal interactions.

In consultation with relevant stakeholders, the NSSIG developed the National Strategy to Address Interactions between Humans and Seals: Fisheries, Aquaculture and Tourism. The National Seal Strategy was launched March 2007. In July 2007, the National Seal Strategy Implementation Group (NSSIG) was formed to implement the Strategy.

The inaugural meeting of the NSSIG took place on 20 July 2007 in Melbourne, with the Terms of Reference being developed at this meeting. The Terms of Reference and Work Program for NSSIG were endorsed at the MACC’s 24th meeting.

The second meeting of the NSSIG occurred on 26 February 2008 in Adelaide. DAFF chaired and provided the secretariat services for the meeting. Key outcomes of the meeting included: (i) development of a work program for 2008–09; (ii) further development of the NSSIG web pages; (iii) distribution of a paper “Managing Interactions between Humans and Seals” to NSSIG stakeholders; (iv) refinement of jurisdictional activity reporting guidelines and timelines; and (v) continued progress on the timely delivery of actions documented in the National Seal Strategy. The next meeting is scheduled for Friday 26 September 2008 in Adelaide.

General information about the National Seal Strategy is available from the DAFF website.

For further information on AFMA’s involvement in the National Seal Strategy please contact Paul Ryan AFMA Environment and Research Section on (02) 6225 5366.

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Seabirds

Threat Abatement Plan: Seabird bycatch during oceanic longline fishing operations

As a result of the listing of the incidental catch (or bycatch) of seabirds during oceanic longline fishing operations as a key threatening process, which took effect under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) 16 July 2000, the Threat Abatement Plan (TAP) for the Incidental Catch (or Bycatch) of Seabirds during Oceanic Longline Fishing Operations was created This original TAP has now been replaced by a second version of the document approved on 18 July 2006.

The revised threat abatement plan (TAP 2006) was prepared to coordinate national action to alleviate the impact of longline fishing activities on seabirds in Australian waters. The revised TAP was endorsed by the Minister for the Environment on 18 July 2006. It involves different mitigation measures and reporting arrangements to the previous TAP and provides for reporting on two seasons (summer - 1 September — 30 April and winter - 1 May—31 August) based on, for the tuna fisheries, areas divided into five degree latitudinal bands within the AFZ.

The Seabird Threat Abatement Plan Consultative Forum held its second meeting in Canberra on 23 July 2008. Major items discussed were performance against the TAP criteria, the research and mitigation trials and the draft National Plan of Action for reducing the incidental catch of seabirds in longline fisheries.
Under TAP 2006 AFMA is required to report annually on performance against the criteria for each fishery. AFMA presented a report covering both the winter 2007 and the summer 2007-8 seasons. The report considered two different but related matters – number of birds caught per 1000 observed hooks and the percentage observer coverage. Both elements were analysed for each fishery by season and latitudinal band (where appropriate).

Overall the results obtained in terms of number of birds caught per 1000 observed hooks were very positive, and in no fishery were the TAP limits (0.05 birds/1000 hooks) exceeded. Some issues were identified in relation to observer coverage and suggestions for better aligning observer coverage with the risk of interactions were discussed.

The meeting received progress reports on the development of an underwater bait setting capsule, trials of the smart hook measure and trials of lead safety weights.
For further information on seabird issues please contact Paul Ryan, AFMA Environment and Research Section on (02) 6225 5366.

Smart hook: a new mitigation measure being tested for tuna long-lines

Despite the significant improvements that have been achieved in Australia to reduce the incidental mortality of seabirds from fishing, this remains a major international environmental challenge.
AFMA and FRDC are providing funding assistance for a research project, A Pilot study; Testing seabird & turtle mitigation efficacy of the smart hook system in tuna long-line fisheries - Phase 1.

hooks2

An Australian company Ahi Enterprises Pty Ltd has developed a mitigation solution, known as the smart hook system, to prevent the capture of seabirds and turtles while a long-line is being set.

The mitigation measure has been developed by a modification to any tuna long-line hook, allowing a shield to be attached after the hook has been baited.

The shield disarms the hook, increases the sink rate and prevents ingestion of the baited hook. Technology used to hold the shield in place releases once it is below the feeding range of the seabirds and turtles providing a normal baited hook.

The environmentally friendly shield naturally dissolves, leaving no toxic residue or pollution. Earlier funding from the Australian Government's AusIndustry Comet program and Austrade assisted the development of the smart hook system. The invention can be seen on the ABC's "New Inventors" program at 8:00 pm on Wednesday 20th of August.

hooks1

The research team of Hans Jusseit, Barry Baker and Kerstin Fritches are addressing three project objectives:

Observe, document and record seabird behavioral responses to the Smart Hook and its effectiveness.

Observe, document and record turtle behavioral responses to the Smart Hook and its effectiveness.

Determine operational performance of the Smart Hook System in a commercial fishing operation.

The project's principle investigator, Hans Jusseit, reports preliminary results from the at sea trials in New Zealand waters have been excellent, confirming the ability of the smart hook to prevent the capture of both sea turtles and seabirds. Seabirds including the endangered Wandering and Royal Albatrosses and Giant Petrels have not been able to ingest or become hooked on the smart hook. Preliminary trials on sea-turtles in Australia have yielded the same results. Further trials will be conducted over the coming months.

Qualitative trials will be conducted on an Australian long-line vessel later this year.
Subject to the success of Phase 1 Ahi Enterprises Pty Ltd would like to undertake trials on large scale long-line operations early next year to further confirm the effectiveness of the smart hook.

For further information on the smart hook system please contact Hans Jusseit, Ahi Enterprises Pty Ltd on (0410) 499 824.

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Sharks

Chondrichthyan Technical Working Group

Under the Bycatch and Discard Program, AFMA is establishing a Chondrichthyan Technical Working Group (CTWG) which will be made up of a collection of Australia's foremost experts on shark biology, ecology, behaviour and management. The group will help to develop appropriate management responses to address the high priority shark species identified in the Ecological Risk Assessment (ERA) process.

Due to the vulnerability of shark species, this cross-fishery group will also provide a coordinated approach to help address the common issues relating to shark bycatch management in all Commonwealth fisheries. This focussed approach to Chondrichthyan management will result in the Chondrichthyan Guide for Fisheries Managers that will be made available by late February 2009. Progress updates will be provided in future publications.

For further information on the Chondrichthyan Technical Working Group please contact Michael Tudman, AFMA Bycatch & Discard Program, on (02) 6225 5409.

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Dolphins

Dolphins and Seals in the Small Pelagic Fishery

Following on from Environment Update 29, the study Dolphin and seal interactions with mid-water trawling in the Commonwealth Small Pelagic Fishery (SPF) has been finalised and is now available on AFMA's website.

The study used underwater camera technology to evaluate the effectiveness of different configurations of bycatch reduction devices. Overall the project was a success and provided excellent levels of information about interactions with megafauna. During the study there were no interactions with dolphins, however interactions with fur seals were observed and studied, as a number of seals actively acquire fish from the net during fishing operations.

For further information on dolphins and seals in the SPF please contact Selina Stoute, Manager Small Pelagic Fishery on (02) 6225 5304.

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Marine applications

AFMA processes requests for comment about applications in the Commonwealth Marine area for permits to conduct certain activities in the marine environment. These activities include petroleum exploration and extraction, mining, sea dumping, and submarine pipelines and cables. Most of these requests are related to applications regarding petroleum exploration and production.

The number of marine applications referred to AFMA for comment increased significantly over the past year. The number of applications referred to AFMA jumped by 33.4%, from 167 in 2006/2007 to 217, in 2007/2008.
All petroleum activities in Commonwealth waters require approval by joint-authorities (between Australian and relevant state or territory). The Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism provides Commonwealth agencies, including AFMA, the opportunity to provide comment on proposed activities. As part of AFMA's response, AFMA requests that the proponents of the activity consult with the relevant fishery industry bodies.

While AFMA provides comments on the applications, decisions on granting permits are made by other government departments.

Further information about marine applications can be obtained from Bronwen Jones at Environment and Research Section on (02) 6225 5475.

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UNEP report - in dead water

The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) this year released the rapid response assessment report: In dead water: Merging of climate change with pollution, over-harvest, and infestations in the world's fishing grounds.

In this report, the locations of the most productive fishing grounds in the World, from shallow, coastal waters to the deep and high seas, are compared to projected scenarios of climate change, ocean acidification, coral bleaching, intensity of fisheries, land-based pollution, increase of invasive species infestations and growth in coastal development.

For the oceans to continue to be productive ecosystems will depend on a number of environmental mechanisms to which marine life has evolved and adapted. There are indications that these fundamental natural process are changing.

To access a copy of the report please visit UNEP's website

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