Opportunity to comment on the transhipment of fish at sea in the Small Pelagic Fishery

The public comment period is now closed.

AFMA is considering an application to allow fish to be transferred from one boat to another at sea in the Commonwealth Small Pelagic Fishery (SPF), otherwise known as “transhipment”.

Prior to making a decision on whether or not to allow transhipment at sea in the SPF, AFMA is seeking comment from interested stakeholders.

All comments are due by Monday 28 January 2013

Transhipment FAQs

What is transhipment at sea?

Transhipping at sea means transferring fish caught by one boat to a different boat while at sea (as opposed to the catching boat returning to port to unload its catch). Generally a single boat will receive fish caught by several different boats before returning to port. Statutory Fishery Management Plans allow transhipment in most Commonwealth fisheries subject to case-by-case approval by AFMA.

Why do fishing boats tranship?

There are different reasons that transhipping might be beneficial for fishing operators. As Commonwealth fisheries are offshore and often remote from ports, at-sea transhipment allows another boat to process the fish quickly – the quality of catch can deteriorate if it stays in the hold waiting for the boat to finish fishing and then travel back to port. Transhipment can also enable more efficient operation of fishing boats as it allows them to spend more time fishing and less time travelling back to port. In this way transhipment can also reduce fuel usage and reduce the total time that boats and fishing crews spend at sea.

What is the nature of the current arrangement that AFMA is considering?

In the SPF, transhipment would involve purse seine and midwater trawl boats transferring catch to a carrier boat that can process, freeze and store the catch on-board. The carrier boat would not be using fishing nets at all.

Has AFMA previously approved transhipment in Commonwealth fisheries?

AFMA already allows transhipment in a number of Commonwealth fisheries including the Northern Prawn Fishery where carrier boats receive prawns from catcher boats. These carrier boats sometimes then tranship to larger, secondary carrier boats.

A similar process is also approved in the Southern Bluefin Tuna Fishery where live fish are transferred from catcher boats to tow boats and then transferred into cages where the tuna are grown to a marketable size.

Has transhipment previously been considered in the SPF?

AFMA granted permission to a company to tranship in the SPF in 2005 after consulting with the relevant Management Advisory Committee. The ability to tranship in the SPF was included in the Small Pelagic Fishery Management Plan 2009.

What effect would transhipment have on SPF catches?

AFMA sets catch limits for the SPF each year based on scientific advice and consultation with stakeholders. These catch limits would not be affected by any decision to allow transhipment at sea.

Are there any compliance risks?

With AFMA’s controls in place to identify which boat originally caught the fish, at-sea transhipment is considered to be a low compliance risk.

How will AFMA monitor compliance and collect information on the fishing activity?

AFMA uses a range of monitoring activities to ensure that operators are following the rules in all fisheries. These include Fisheries Compliance Officer inspections of boats in port and at sea, auditing of logbooks and fish receiver records, compulsory GPS tracking, the use of airplane surveillance to monitor boats and AFMA observers on board.