Ecologically sustainable development and environmental performance

ecologically sustainable development principles

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

  • target and byproduct species
  • bycatch
  • threatened, endangered and protected species
  • habitats and ecological communities.

To support and implement an ecologically sustainable development approach in our fisheries, AFMA draws 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, focusing 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 2007
  • 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.

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

Outcome contributing to ecologically sustainable development

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

This approach reflects AFMA’s 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 actions 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, and also 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 impact on 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 AFMA focuses its ecological risk management activity. Risk management strategies addressing species identified as at medium or low risk will be implemented at a later date.

Research has been commissioned to extend the ecological risk assessment methodology to habitats and communities. Extension to managing the impact of fishing on marine wildlife with a focus on sea birds and mammals has been identified as a priority for future research.

Mechanisms for reviewing

A number of mechanisms exist for reviewing the effect of fishing on the environment.

AFMA is currently reviewing its ecological risk management framework and intends to carry out a full reassessment of each fishery over the next five years (that is 2016–17 to 2020–21). We also regularly review individual 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 Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Fisheries granted exemptions are usually reassessed every five years. However, the Department of the Environment has announced that fisheries that are considered low risk will be reassessed every ten years. Fisheries granted wildlife trade operations are reassessed prior to the wildlife trade operations’ expiry.

Our environmental footprint

Consistent with our legislative objectives, we also promote a clean and green operating environment when conducting our operations to minimise our impact on the environment. To achieve this we are constantly reviewing our operational activities to look for opportunities to minimise waste and limit the impact of our environmental footprint.

AFMA currently purchases approximately 25 per cent of green electricity for our Canberra office as part of the Commonwealth energy contract, and our Thursday Island office uses 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.

Our Canberra office has an overall 4.5 star energy rating; our Darwin office has a 5.5 star National Australian Built Environment Rating System energy rating and a five star Green Star rating. AFMA buildings include 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 currently use 100 per cent recycled paper in our printers, copiers and fax machines at all AFMA sites. In 2015–16 we undertook a refresh of our printer and copiers resulting in a 55 per cent drop in paper consumption and our recent introduction of portable technology for staff to access documents via portable devices such as iPads has further reduced the reliance on paper documents.

Nationwide we have five motor vehicles. We have recently changed internal policy allowing staff to use our energy efficient vehicles on more extended trips.

AFMA continued to make other changes around its offices that have important impacts in reducing AFMA’s environmental footprint. For example a composting system is in place for the Canberra office which reduces general office waste and is proving successful.


Figure 35: Secondary search – Photo courtesy of John Jones, AFMA.