Feature story

Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery quota implementation

Yellowfin tuna on their way to Japan for the export market

Yellowfin tuna on their way to Japan for the export market

The Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery Management Plan 2010 was introduced in 2010-11 changing catch management for the fishery.

The Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery extends from the tip of Cape York in the north right along the east coast of Australia to the South Australia/Victoria border and out from 3 to 200 nautical miles from the coast. It also includes a region of waters around Norfolk Island and adjacent high seas.

The fishery is also a small part of the much larger Western and Central Pacific Fishery which is governed by an international body, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission.

Australia catches around one percent of the total average catch from this fishery and ensure the conservation of the five included migratory stocks, which are caught by many countries in the Pacific.

The new management plan changed the fishery from one managed by the number of hooks set (input controls) to one managed by the weight of fish allowed to be taken (catch quota management). This change to a quota system was consistent with the Ministerial Direction in 2005 and the long standing Australian Government policy to manage Commonwealth fisheries through output controls.

The catch quota management system is a much more effective way to sustainably manage the fishery’s major fish stocks; Albacore Tuna, Bigeye Tuna, Broadbill Swordfish, Striped Marlin and Yellowfin Tuna. The catch of these key commercial species is capped at a total allowable commercial catch keep for each species set based on sound scientific advice on sustainable catch levels.

The new management plan also allows for an individual transferable quota system by granting tradeable statutory fishing rights.

After the Management Plan was accepted by the Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry on 10 January 2011, AFMA granted statutory fishing rights to operators, which came into effect on 1 March 2011. Each statutory fishing right gives an operator an equal share of the total allowable commercial catch. Individual transferable quotas allow operators to trade quota to suit the needs of their individual fishing businesses.

The changes have brought a more sustainable means of management for the five main fish stocks in the fishery and greater certainty for fishers in their business planning.