Feature story

More local fish on Aussie tables next season

Since February 2012, AFMA has closed three areas off South Australia to gillnet fishing following the death of Australian Sea Lions in the gillnet shark fishery.
The closures were put in place in accordance with the Australian Sea Lion Management Strategy, which has been in place since 1 July 2010 and aims to reduce sea lion deaths in the gillnet shark fishery. The strategy includes area closures around sea lion colonies in South Australia, increased monitoring through observers and electronic monitoring and quarterly stakeholder reviews to assess effectiveness.
Under the strategy, seven zones in key sea lion habitat off South Australia each has a pre-determined mortality limit which triggers AFMA to close the zone to gillnet fishing if reached. If a total of 15 sea lion deaths are confirmed in a 12 month fishing season the fishery adjacent to South Australia will close. Any closures are for 18 months; this is approximately the breeding cycle for Australian Sea Lions.
Since the start of the strategy there have been eight confirmed sea lion deaths in the fishery, confirmed by a combination of fisheries observers and electronic-monitoring video footage from vessels as well as logbooks and threatened species incident reports.
AFMA consults the South East Management Advisory Committee before implementing any closures and has more broadly consulted with industry and conservation groups and fisheries and marine mammal scientists on the management strategy. AFMA also encourages fishers, through their industry associations, to develop and implement strategies to reduce the risk of sea lion interactions while gillnet fishing.
AFMA works hard to balance competing priorities; to limit the impact of fishing operations on the environment, including sea lions; but also allow fisheries to stay open as much as possible so that the industry can continue operating. Advice from marine mammal experts is that the death of just one sea lion from some colonies can risk the survival of that sub-population.
Some fishers have the option of changing from gillnet fishing to hook fishing (which poses less risk to sea lions) or fishing in areas off Southern Australia that remain open to gillnet fishing.

AFMA implemented closures to reduce the risk of sea lion interactions with fishing activities in the Gillnet, Hook and Trap sector