New catch limits for the Small Pelagic Fishery

Media release

Following careful review of the latest science and other expert advice, the Commission of the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) today agreed to revise the Harvest Strategy for the Small Pelagic Fishery (SPF). In line with the revised strategy, the Commission has also agreed to decrease the catch limits for five of the stocks in the SPF and increase the catch limits of the other two stocks for the 2015-16 season.

In announcing the catch limits for the coming season, the Commission’s Chair, the Hon Norman Moore said that, consistent with how AFMA manages all Commonwealth fisheries, AFMA had set the catch limits using the best available science.

“As a result of two new pieces of key scientific research for SPF species on stock sizes, biological characteristics and their role in the ecosystem, the Commission has agreed to apply different harvest rates across the four species (blue mackerel, redbait, jack mackerel, and Australian sardine),” Mr Moore said.

“As new science becomes available, it is often the case that catch limits for individual species can vary across fishing years.

“This is exactly what we have seen in the SPF, with the latest science like new egg surveys released earlier this year, some TACs have gone up, others gone down.

“The success of using science and a precautionary approach to base our fisheries management decisions is evident with the latest ABARES Fishery Status Reports showing that no solely managed Commonwealth fishery is subject to overfishing.”

A table outlining the new harvest rates for each of the species is attached.

The combined catch limits of all SPF stocks increased by just over 4,000 tonnes, while the percentage harvest level is slightly lower in 2015-16 than it was in 2014-15 with, 92.4 per cent of the combined estimated fish stocks left in the water.

AFMA consulted with various stakeholders including conservation and recreational fishing stakeholders, the fishing industry and scientists as well as AFMA’s Small Pelagic Fishery Resource Assessment Group and South East Management Advisory Committee. This is consistent with the process for managing other Commonwealth fisheries.

At the meeting, Commissioners also heard about negotiations between the Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation and the Small Pelagic Fishery Industry Association on possible commercial fishing no-go zones at certain times.

“I welcome this dialogue and encourage recreational and commercial fishers to continue their talks on mutually agreed access arrangement in the Small Pelagic Fishery,” Mr Moore said.

More information on the management of the SPF, including the revised Harvest Strategy can be found at

Media contact  or 0437 869 860

Harvest rates and total allowable catch for SPF commercial species

Previous harvest strategy – harvest rates (%) New harvest strategy – harvest rate (%) Approved TAC(tonnes) Approved TAC (tonnes)
2014-15 2015-16* 2015-16 2014-15 2015-16
Jack mackerel East 7.5 17.5 12 10,230 18,670
West 7.5 7.5 6 5,000 3,600
Red bait East 7.5 7.5 5 5,000 3,310
West 7.5 7.5 5 5,000 2,880
Blue mackerel East 7.5 7.5 7.5 2,660 2,630
West 7.5 7.5 7.5 6,500 6,200
Sardine East 7.5 7.5 10 560 1,880
West NA
Total TAC   34,950 39,170

*This would have been the harvest rate for the 2015-16 season under the previously approved harvest strategy if no changes had been made