Appendix 6

Ecologically sustainable development and environmental performance

Legislation according with ecologically sustainable development principles

AFMA’s implementation of the ecological component of ecologically sustainable development is based on ecosystem elements relating to:

  • target and by—product species
  • bycatch
  • threatened, endangered and protected species
  • community and habitat interactions.

To support and implement an ecologically sustainable development approach in its fisheries, we draw upon ecological risk assessments for each Commonwealth fishery. Ecological risk assessments involve a number of methods, including comprehensive qualitative and quantitative analyses. This approach screens out low risk activities and focuses on higher potential risks within Commonwealth fisheries.

The results of these risk assessments for each fishery are consolidated into a priority list upon which an ecological risk management strategy is focused. A detailed ecological risk management strategy for each AFMA—managed fishery has been prepared, clearly identifying how each species or group of species will be managed.

Key management policy initiatives include:

  • the Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy Policy and Guidelines
  • the Australian Sea Lion Management Strategy
  • the Upper—Slope Dogfish Management Strategy
  • Bycatch and Discard Program
  • the Chondrichthyan Guide for Fisheries Managers
  • Dolphin Management Strategy based on individual responsibility
  • Seabird Management Plan based on individual responsibility.

All Commonwealth fisheries have completed and published their ecological risk management reports. The number of species remaining at high potential risk across all Commonwealth fisheries is 72, which is approximately 3.6 per cent of all species assessed. It is expected that this will reduce as the mitigation measures are implemented as outlined in ecological risk management reports.

Outcome contributing to ecologically sustainable development

AFMA’s outcomes are directed at Commonwealth fisheries being both ecologically sustainable and economically efficient.

This approach reflects our commitment to pursuing management of Commonwealth fisheries in accordance with our legislative objectives and in partnership with others who also have an interest in sustainable management.

Effect of fishing on the environment

All of AFMA’s managed fisheries are currently accredited under three parts of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

Part 10 of the Act requires that all Commonwealth and Torres Strait Fisheries must be strategically assessed before a management plan is determined (Section 148) or, where a determination is made that a management plan is not required for a Commonwealth fishery (Section 149). If a management plan is amended or replaced, or management arrangements change significantly in a fishery without a management plan, then a further assessment is required (Section 152). If a management plan remains unchanged, no further strategic assessment is required. This process involves assessment of the impact of the fishery on matters of national environmental significance with particular emphasis on the impact on the Commonwealth marine environment. Without this approval a management plan cannot take effect.

Part 13 of the Act defines a number of offences in relation to listed threatened species and ecological communities, but provides for accreditation of management plans or regimes (Sections 208A, 222A, 245, 265). The effect of accreditation is that certain actions are not offences if they are carried out in accordance with those management plans or regimes. There is no requirement to remake the accreditation decisions unless the management plans or regimes change. These accreditations impose a requirement on fishers to report any interactions with protected species. As fishers are also required to report interactions to AFMA through logbooks, we regularly report these interactions to the Department of the Environment on fishers’ behalf thus reducing unnecessary duplication of reporting.

Part 13A of the Act covers the international movement of wildlife specimens. It provides for controls over the movement of regulated native specimens that are not on the list of exempt native specimens. Currently products from all assessed Commonwealth and Torres Strait fisheries are on the list of exempt native specimens, although some are subject to the condition that the listing applies only while a wildlife trade operation is in force. This allows exports of marine species to be carried out while ensuring that they have been taken sustainably.

Actions to minimise fishing effects on the environment


The development of the various elements of ecological risk management is designed to minimise the impact of fisheries on the environment.

Species identified as high risk after the application of the various ecological risk assessment methods are combined with any identified protected species to form the priority list on which we focus our ecological risk management activity.

Risk management strategies addressing species identified as at medium or low risk will be implemented after high risk species have been addressed.

Research has been commissioned to extend the ecological risk assessment methodology to habitats and communities. Extension to cumulative impacts has been identified as a priority for future research.

Our offices

AFMA purchases a proportion (25 per cent) of green electricity for the Canberra office as part of the Commonwealth energy contract.

Energy for our Thursday Island office is a mixture of wind and diesel power.

We continue to review and implement regular energy improvements across our Canberra, Darwin and Thursday Island sites. This has included automatic shutdown of staff computers daily and purchasing more energy efficient equipment when required.

Nationwide we have five vehicles which are part of the Greenfleet program. We have recently changed internal policy allowing staff to use our energy efficient vehicles on more extended trips.

We currently use 100 per cent recycled paper in printers, copiers and fax machines at all our sites.

Our Canberra office has an overall four and a half (4.5) star energy rating and includes zoned air—conditioning and lighting and automatic light dimming in response to daylight sensors. Additionally, intermittently used rooms and spaces are motion sensor activated. We also participate in Earth Hour annually.

We continue to make small changes around the office that can have important impacts in reducing our environmental footprint. A composting and recycling system is in place for the Canberra office which reduces general office waste and is proving successful.

Mechanisms for reviewing

A number of mechanisms exist for reviewing the effect of fishing on the environment. AFMA will conduct regular reassessments of each ecological risk assessment for Commonwealth fisheries as part of AFMA’s Ecological Risk Management Framework. AFMA also regularly reviews the other elements of the Ecological Risk Management Framework. For example the Bycatch and Discard Workplans for each Commonwealth fishery are formally reviewed every two years.

AFMA is also subject to reassessment of all its fisheries under Part 13A of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Fisheries granted exemptions are reassessed every five years. Fisheries granted wildlife trade operations are reassessed prior to expiry.