Feature story

Moving focus from target species to bycatch

AFMA maintains its focus on bycatch and the impact of fishing on threatened, endangered and protected species -photo J.Brook

AFMA maintains its focus on bycatch and the impact of fishing on threatened, endangered and protected species -photo J.Brook

Over the next five years AFMA will have an even greater focus on bycatch and the impact of fishing on protected species.

Bycatch is defined as that part of the fisher’s catch which is returned to the sea either because it has no commercial value or because regulations preclude it from being retained. It also includes catch that does not reach the deck of the fishing vessel but is affected by interaction with the fishing gear.

AFMA has bycatch and discard work plans to minimise the take of high risk bycatch species and any protected species for each fishery. Innovative technological solutions are developed to protect bycatch species, including improved designs for seal excluder devices, bird deterrents and a range of fishing net designs that catch less small, unwanted animals (both bycatch and target species).

To address particular bycatch situations AFMA has introduced broader management strategies like the Australian Sea Lion Management Strategy. This strategy includes large area closures around Australian Sea Lion colonies and also sets limits (triggers) of Australian Sea Lions that can be taken in particular areas and prescribes actions that will occur if those limits are exceeded.

AFMA’s approach to sustainability is based on the concept of ecologically sustainable development and when making management decisions AFMA considers economic, social and environmental implications and acts on the ‘precautionary principle’ to protect the environment.

The Ecological Risk Management Framework is a key initiative driving ecologically sustainable development in Commonwealth fisheries. The framework details a process for assessing and addressing impacts that fisheries’ activities have on the following five aspects of the marine ecosystem:

  • target species
  • byproduct and discard species
  • protected species
  • habitats, and
  • communities

AFMA will be extending its ecological risk assessments to incorporate habitats and communities. Currently they address target species, byproduct and bycatch species and protected species.