Chairman’s and CEO’s review


In 2011-12 AFMA continued to work hard to maintain the sustainability of its fisheries and maximise the economic returns from the resource.

Our role requires us to be forward-thinking in relation to the sustainability of fishing practices, but also swiftly reactive to any issues that might arise – be it in relation to illegal foreign fishing or environmental impacts.

We take our responsibilities to the Australian community, the fishing industry and the environment very seriously and we have a dedicated staff with a strong expertise in the area.

AFMA has worked closely with the Commonwealth Fisheries Association in improving the budget process, increasing the frequency of discussions on financial status and expectations. AFMA has developed a faster process for providing feedback to industry on any changes to the budget and how this may affect actual expenditure, which flows through in the levy setting process for the following year.

Work continued on deterring illegal fishing in the Australian Fishing Zone through our cooperative efforts with other Australian Government agencies working through Border Protection Command. We are pleased to report that illegal foreign fishing apprehensions are now at a 19 year low.

The Hon Michael Egan, Chairman of AFMA’s Commission, presented the award for Winner of Best Supplier (Interstate or Overseas) at the 2011 Sydney Fish Market Seafood to Elisha Yahel, General Manager of OPC Fish and Lobster, Excellence Awards- photo Sydney Fish Markets

A voluntary buy-out of fishing licences is being offered to non-Traditional Inhabitants to increase the ownership and participation of Traditional Inhabitants in the Torres Strait Tropical Rock Lobster fishery. Left to right; Torres Strait Regional Authority Member for Erub and Fisheries Portfolio Member Mr Kenny Bedford; the Hon Craig Wallace MP, then Queensland Minister for Main Roads, Fisheries and Marine Infrastructure; Mr John (Toshi) Kris, Chair of Torres Strait Regional Authority; Dr James Findlay, AFMA Chief Executive Officer.

We continued action to protect wildlife species in the Gillnet, Hook and Trap Sector of the Southern Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery. The changes offer better protection to non-target species such as Australian Sea Lions and dolphins and generally improve the data collection on interactions with threatened endangered, and protected species.

The Torres Strait Tropical Rock Lobster Fishery was the most valuable commercial fishery in the Torres Strait in 2011 with 704 tonnes harvested. A structural adjustment program, through an offer to buy back non-Indigenous fishing entitlements, was undertaken in the fishery. This is seen as a vital step towards output management controls. Data also indicates the traditional and non-traditional sectors of the fishery are catch at an equivalent level.

After extensive consultation the Torres Strait Finfish Management Plan 2012 is at the stage of final approval from the Torres Strait Protected Zone Joint Authority prior to determination.

Throughout the 2011-12 reporting period a significant increase in catch and effort was observed in the Beche De Mer Fishery. This welcome increase can largely be attributed to the allowance of hookah operations (through developmental permits) in the fishery.

Following extensive trials electronic monitoring was introduced as an alternative data collection method in June 2012. Electronic monitoring uses cameras and sensors to collect data about fishing operations and offers a cost effective alternative to human observers in some situations.

The ecological risk assessment and risk management framework continued to improve over the reporting period, confirming that more than 96 per cent of marine species potentially affected by fishing are at low or moderate risk under our current management arrangements.

Our report for this period provides quantitative information on our performance over the last year.

Financial Performance

We reported an operating surplus of $0.76 million for the 2011–12 financial year, which was slightly in excess of budget expectations. Our total expenditure of $41.6 million, including $3.2 million in Administered expenditure, was $3.8 million (8.4 per cent) less than the previous year. This decrease was due to the impact of increasing the useful life of some software leading to decreased annual amortisation, the finalisation of improvement projects, and some reductions in research, travel and consultancy.

The operating surplus also reflected the return of funds from the contribution to the to the buy-back of Tropical Rock Lobster fishing licences.

AFMA continues to maintain a strong financial position with sufficient funds available in the AFMA Special Account to meet our liabilities as they fall due.

Budget Outlook

AFMA is budgeting for a small loss in the 2012–13 financial year which represents the change in depreciation funding through appropriations. We expect our Departmental expenditure to remain relatively stable over the next two years, maintaining a balanced budget (excluding depreciation) and consolidating savings required, including the additional efficiency dividend announced in 2011–12.

Administered expenditure will decrease by $1.7 million with the finalisation of arrangements for illegal foreign fishing vessel disposal facilities in Gove and Broome.