Changes in the Gillnet, Hook and Trap Sector of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery

Updated 28 April 2011

Changes are being made to fisheries management for the Gillnet, Hook and Trap (GHAT) Sector of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery to afford better protection to Australian Sea Lions and increase data available on interactions in the fishery with other threatened, endangered and protected species. Click on the links below for further information or see the Q & A’s on this page.

Q. Why are changes being made in the fishery?

Recent data collection and additional research has prompted AFMA to strengthen management arrangements and data collection in relation to interactions between the gillnet fishery and threatened, endangered and protected species including Australian Sea Lions, dolphins, seabirds and some shark species.

AFMA has:

  • increased the existing area closed to gillnet fishing to protect sea lions from 6,300km2 to 18,500km2;
  • put in place more precautionary sea lion bycatch trigger limits
  • required 100 per cent independent monitoring for gillnet fishing off South Australia
  • required 10 per cent observer coverage for gillnet fishing elsewhere in the fishery
  • allowed some fishers currently able to use gillnets to use hooks off South Australia including in the areas closed to gillnets
  • required 10 per cent observer coverage for shark hook fishing in the fishery
  • prohibited the discharge of offal from vessels while setting gillnets and require the removal of biological material from nets before they are set.

Q. Why are additional areas being closed to gillnet fishing?

Gillnet fishers operating off South Australia have been under-reporting the level of interactions with threatened, endangered and protected species including sea lions and the additional closures are a necessary precaution to protect those sea lion colonies most at-risk from fishing.

Q. How much additional area is being closed?

The original closures total around 6,300 square kilometers of closure. The total area with the new closures will total around 18,500 square kilometers. No new colonies have been included in the additional closed areas; however a greater distance (approximately 20 kms) is now closed to gillnet fishing around 31* of the colonies. An indicative map of the additional closed area is available on the AFMA website.

*this is achieved through 23 increased closures

Q. What is the Australian Sea Lion Management Zone?

The Australian Sea Lion Management Zone is the area of waters off South Australia in the GHAT fishery between 129”0’E and 139”0’E to the outer edge of the Australian Fishing Zone.

Q. How will AFMA respond to ongoing Australian Sea Lion deaths?

AFMA is revising management triggers so that if unsustainable numbers of sea lion mortalities occur, that part of the fishery will be closed for the remainder of the season.

Q. Why is additional observer coverage required?

Interactions with threatened species can be both rare and random, however even small numbers of fishing related deaths can significantly impact on threatened species populations. Independent observer data collected since mid-2010 has shown that many fishers are under-reporting the level of interactions with threatened, endangered and protected species however the existing data is not sufficient to indicate the exact scale of interactions and additional data is required.

From 1 May 2011, all gillnet fishing vessels operating off South Australia will be required to have either an AFMA observer and/or camera system onboard the vessel before commencing fishing.

Q. Why is observer coverage increasing for gillnet fishing outside the ASL Management Zone and in all shark hook fishing in the GHAT?

Under the Australian Sea Lion Management Strategy, AFMA has become aware of significant discrepancies between independent observer data and data from fishing logbooks provided by gillnet vessels of South Australia. At this stage the level of compliance with reporting requirements elsewhere in the fishery is less well understood and additional observer coverage will provide increased confidence in data used to manage the fishery.

For shark hook fishing in the GHAT, and for gillnet fishing in the GHAT outside the ASL Management Zone, 10 per cent independent observer coverage will be required. This is to improve the availability and quality of data on species interactions which will underpin future management arrangements.

Q. What is AFMA doing to ensure accurate logbook reporting by fishers?

AFMA will continue to pursue misreporting of fishing activity, including failing to report species interactions, as part of its usual compliance approach.

Q. Will AFMA allow the use of electronic monitoring by cameras instead of observers?

AFMA is confident in the ability of cameras to adequately record interactions with species of conservation concern and will allow the use of cameras as an alternative to at-sea observers.

To assist fishers in meeting the cost of installing the camera systems, the government has provided funding to purchase and install up to 10 systems.

Q. Why is AFMA requiring the removal of biological material from gillnets before nets can be returned to the water for fishing?

Biological material can attract seabirds and lead to collisions between seabirds and fishing gear. Removal of this material will prevent this occurring.

Q. Why is AFMA prohibiting the discharge of fishing waste (offal) during net setting?

Fishing waste can attract seabirds and lead to them colliding with fishing gear. Discharge of waste when nets are out of the water, or have been fully set, will avoid this problem.
Most responsible fishers current avoid offal discharge during net setting, so this measure should not be an issue for most vessels.

Q. Who will be able to convert to using hook methods for shark fishing in the ASL Management Zone?

Gillnet fishers who can demonstrate a significant level of effort off South Australian during the period 1 July 2009 to 30 December 2010 (based on kilometres of nets used in and out of the zone) will be able to use hook methods for the period of the Temporary Order.

Q. How many hooks can be used under these new arrangements?

Within South Australian coastal waters hook numbers will be limited to 400. In Commonwealth waters inside the Australian Sea Lion Management Zone there is no limit on hook numbers.

Q.  Why can’t these changes be made using regular fisheries management approaches?

AFMA has recently become aware of serious concerns with fisheries interactions and ASL populations and with reporting in some parts of the fishery. A Temporary Order is required to immediately put in places measures to address these concerns.

Pursuing measures through AFMA’s usual consultation arrangements may have resulted in accelerated activity in the fishery designed to preempt these measures.

Q. How long will the Temporary Order stay in place?

A Temporary Order under the Fisheries Management Act can remain in place for a maximum of six months from the time it is made.

Q. How will AFMA deal with these issues in the longer term?

AFMA will work with the fishing industry and the South East Management Advisory Committee to put in necessary management arrangements under the normal procedures of the Act and the relevant fishery management plan prior to the expiry of the Temporary Order.

Q. How will AFMA ensure compliance with these measures?

AFMA will require a fisher to provide a minimum of 72 hours notice of an intended fishing trip to enable AFMA to organise an observer, or to test the electronic camera system. A fishing vessel carrying gillnet fishing gear will be prohibited from fishing unless an observer is on board or the vessel has a functioning electronic camera system. All fishing vessels are prohibited from fishing unless the vessel has a functioning Vessel Monitoring System.

AFMA will monitor vessel-fishing activity through the Vessel Monitoring System that provides real-time information on the location of all Commonwealth fishing vessels.  If a vessel carrying gillnet gear commences fishing without an AFMA observer or a functioning camera system the vessel will be ordered to port.  If the camera system ceases to function whilst at sea, AFMA will require the operator to return to port.

AFMA will also enhance its port inspections to ensure that fishing vessels have the correct fishing equipment nominated to their boat and logbooks are accurately completed for each fishing trip.

Q. How will the Temporary Order provisions be applied to vessels which are at sea on 1 May?

AFMA does not intend pursuing compliance action with the Temporary Order for vessels which are at sea at the time the order comes into effect (1 May 2011).  However, those vessels will need to comply with the Temporary Order as soon as they return to port.

Q. What can I do if I become aware of illegal fishing activity?

Contact the free AFMA 1800 CRIMFISH number  (1800 274 634) or report any such suspected activity on line at www.afma.gov.au