Small Pelagic Fishery Harvest Strategy

The Small Pelagic Fishery (SPF) Scientific Panel met on 15/16 December 2016 in Hobart. The Panel reviewed the outcomes of multiple research projects to test proposed changes to the SPF Harvest Strategy. The work considered by the Panel at this meeting and the Panel’s draft recommendations / advice is provided in italics below each item:

  • Stock assessments for eastern jack mackerel and eastern blue mackerel. These were developed primarily to provide an estimate of depletion which could then be used to update the Management Strategy Evaluation (MSE) for these stocks.

The Panel supported the use of the eastern jack mackerel and eastern blue mackerel stock assessments to inform an update of the MSE. The Panel noted the development of the assessment is good progress towards the development of an integrated stock assessment in the future but that until more data is available, there is limited benefit in progressing them at this stage.

  • An updated MSE to test the changes proposed to the Tier 3 harvest control rule by the Panel in December 2015 (i.e. exploitation rates should be half or quarter those of Tier 2).

 The Panel recommended:

  • that Tier 3 as recommended by the Panel in December 2015 be adopted
  • that there be no change to the existing Tier 1 and Tier 2 exploitation rates in the harvest strategy
  • if the MSE is updated in the future, a dynamic B0 should be investigated for the SPF stocks, noting that there is currently no urgent need for additional MSE testing but that this may change if activity in the fishery accelerates significantly beyond current levels.
  • A bioeconomic analysis to assess whether alternative reference points may be appropriate for these stocks from an economic perspective.

The Panel recommended that there is no basis to change the reference points in the SPF Harvest Strategy as the current target reference point of B50 and limit reference point of B20 meet the biological, ecological and economic requirements of the fishery.

Download the:
Eastern Jack and Blue Mackerel Management Strategy Evaluation 
Eastern Jack Mackerel Stock Assessment
Blue Mackerel Stock Assessment
Bioeconomic target reference points for the Commonwealth Small Pelagics fishery

Annual Research Plan

The Panel considered the identified research priorities for the SPF and advised that the data standards and performance indicators project is now a lower priority given the reduced effort due to the reduction in active vessels in the fishery.

Download the SPF 2017-18 Annual Research Plan.

Pair Trawling

The Panel provided the following draft advice with a focus on commercial species management. Advice on protected species management is being sought from marine mammal and seabird experts.

Commercial species

The Panel considered there to be no sustainability issues given the fishery is managed using output controls with TACs and transferrable quota.

The Panel recommended that the following data collection be undertaken:

  • 50 random samples of each species from each shot to monitor age composition of the catch and also monitor changes in growth patterns. One of the reasons recruitment varies so much is due to changes in growth rates and changes in growth aren’t reviewed often enough.
  • Samples of the catch could be collected by an observer or operator but if the latter, clear protocols would need to be developed.
  • The current level of ongoing observer monitoring required for midwater trawl operations, 20 per cent, would be sufficient for sample collection. 
Regional catch limits
  • In terms of spreading effort to support the collection of representative data on target species, the benefit of regional catch limits is minimal. This type of data collection is best achieved through research surveys given that stocks occur across a significant spatial area and there is limited potential for multiple boats to fish at any one time.
  • The Panel reiterated that the risk of localised depletion in this fishery remains low due to the highly migratory/mobile nature of the target species and that any risk to the stocks is best managed via depletion overall through setting appropriate catch limits (i.e. through TACs as is currently done).

The Panel recommended reviewing the requirement for the 2000 tonne grid regional catch limits once the research project previously identified by the Panel ‘Analysis of spatial impacts of fishing in the SPF’ is completed.

Protected species
  • Given interactions with protected species are statistically rare events, the Panel agreed a high level of monitoring is required to detect interactions.

The Panel recommended that an electronic monitoring (EM) system be placed on each boat and that for the first ten trips an onboard observer be present (this is consistent with the current requirement for new midwater trawl boats), alternating between vessels each trip if hauling is switched between vessels. This is to ensure that the EM systems can adequately monitor protected species interactions. After the first 10 trips, the level and mix of coverage required should be reviewed.

Download the pair trawling application.