Part 3 – Summary

part 3 summary

Introduction

The principal legal framework for the management of fisheries is specified in the Fisheries Management Act 1991 and the Fisheries Management Regulations 1992.

For its Fishery Status Reports 2016, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences assessed sustainability performance of 93 fish stocks across 22 fisheries. Sixty-five stocks were assessed across nine fisheries that are managed solely by AFMA on behalf of the Australian Government, and 28 stocks were assessed across 13 fisheries that are managed jointly with other Australian jurisdictions or other countries. AFMA also manages many more species through fishery management plans, bycatch action plans and ecological risk assessments.

For fisheries not solely managed by AFMA, evaluation of the sustainability performance of fisheries management needs to consider relevant legislation, international agreements and policies.

Gross value of production

The gross value of production is an indication of the economic value of fisheries. The estimated gross value of production for all Commonwealth fisheries is approximately $400 million for 2015–16. This is an increase of approximately $50 million on the total for 2014–15.

Performance results discussed in fishery reports

Estimated catch totals for 2015–16

Estimated catch totals are taken from data compiled by AFMA from catch and effort logs and Catch Disposal Records sourced from fishers in Commonwealth managed or jointly managed fisheries. These catch totals represent ‘trunked’ (processed) weight for the financial year July 2015 to June 2016.

Performance results

The sources of the information presented in the fishery performance results shown are:

  • Maximum economic yield data presented in the reports on the Northern Prawn Fishery, the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery and the Eastern Tuna and Billfish fishery are based on Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences’ gross value of production data for Commonwealth fisheries 2012–13 to 2014–15 and AFMA stock assessments.
  • Data on fishing mortality and biomass are taken from Fishery Status Reports 2016 prepared by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences.

List of fishery reports

AFMA managed fisheries:

Bass Strait Central Zone Scallop Fishery

Coral Sea Fishery

Northern Prawn Fishery

North West Slope Trawl and Western Deepwater Trawl fisheries

Small Pelagic Fishery

Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery

Southern Squid Jig Fishery

Jointly managed fisheries:

Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery

Southern Bluefin Tuna Fishery

Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery

Heard Island and McDonald Islands Fishery

Macquarie Island Toothfish Fishery

High seas permits

Non-operational fisheries:

Norfolk Island Fishery

Skipjack Tuna Fishery

South Tasman Rise Fishery

Bass-Strait-Central-Zone-Scallop-Fishery-Map

Performance results

Performance criteria
(AFMA Corporate Plan 2015–18)

2015–16 Target

2015–16 Actual

Number of fish stocks subject to overfishing

(The number of stocks where the level of catches by fishery operators is likely to result in stock becoming overfished)

0

0

The number of stocks that are assessed as overfished and, unless effectively managed, may lead to the stock not being sustainable

n/a

0

Stock status of target species

Common name (scientific name)

Latest available status assessment

2014

2015

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Commercial Scallop (Pecten fumatus)

legend 1

Source: Patterson, H, Noriega, R, Georgeson, L, Stobutzki, I & Curtotti, R, 2016, Fishery status reports 2016, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra. CC BY 3.0.

Management plans/arrangements

The Bass Strait Central Zone Scallop Fishery continues to be managed in accordance with the Bass Strait Central Zone Scallop Fishery Management Plan 2002. The fishery is managed through open and closed seasons, area closures and catch limits. Fishers must hold statutory fishing rights to fish in the fishery.

The performance criteria detailed in the fishery management plan were all met in 2015–16. AFMA amended the management plan for the Bass Strait Central Zone Scallop Fishery removing the requirement for operators to carry copies of their fishing concession on board the boat. The amendment follows the introduction of remote access technologies for fisheries compliance officers allowing them to confirm if a boat is authorised to fish, including the conditions they must comply with, from the field.

Analysis of performance

Performance – status of fish stocks

A 2015 pre-season survey was able to identify scallop biomass and density in several scallop beds. This allowed for closure of areas containing sufficient spawning stock to ensure ongoing sustainability as well as enabling the Commission to set the highest catch limit in the fishery since 2010. The season lived up to expectations with operators enjoying excellent catches and good quality scallops.

The pre-season survey undertaken in June 2016 indicated that good catches will continue for the 2016 season with biomass estimates exceeding those of the 2015 survey.

Performance – economic returns

The 2014 revisions to the Bass Strait Central Zone Scallop Fishery Harvest Strategy appear to have been successful in providing industry with increased flexibility to catch scallops, thereby improving economic returns while at the same time ensuring continued ecological sustainability.

Coral-Sea-Fishery

Performance results

Performance criteria
(AFMA Corporate Plan 2015–18)

2015–16 Target

2015–16 Actual

Number of fish stocks subject to overfishing

(The number of stocks where the level of catches by fishery operators is likely to result in stock becoming overfished)

0

0

The number of stocks that are assessed as overfished and, unless effectively managed, may lead to the stock not being sustainable

n/a

0

Stock status of target species

Common name (scientific name)

Latest available status assessment

2014

2015

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Fishing mortality

Biomass

  • Black teatfish (Holothuria whitmaei)
  • Prickly redfish (Thelenota ananas)
  • Surf redfish (Actinopyga mauritiana)
  • Multiple species in the aquarium sector
  • Tropical rock lobster (Panulirus ornatus, possibly other species)
  • White teatfish
  • Other sea cucumber species (11 spp.)
  • Mixed reef fish and sharks
  • Numerous fish, shark and crustacean species in the trawl and trap sector

legend 2

Source: Patterson, H, Noriega, R, Georgeson, L, Stobutzki, I & Curtotti, R, 2016, Fishery status reports 2016, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra. CC BY 3.0.

Management plans/arrangements

There is no statutory management plan for the Coral Sea Fishery. The fishery has five sectors that are managed through input and output controls including limited entry, catch limits, spatial closures, move-on provisions, size limits and catch and effort triggers that are used to initiate further analysis and assessment. Fishers must hold permits to fish in this fishery.

There were no changes to management arrangements in 2015–16.

Analysis of performance

There has been little activity in the Coral Sea Fishery in 2015–16. To ensure the ecological sustainability of the fishery, AFMA continues to monitor trigger limits in the Coral Sea Fishery. These limits, described in the Coral Sea Fishery Harvest Strategy, will be reviewed by an expert panel meeting scheduled for September 2016.

External reviews

The Department of the Environment is undertaking a review of the Commonwealth Marine Reserves proclaimed in November 2012. Some of these reserves may impact on the Coral Sea Fishery. Outcomes of the review are anticipated in 2016–17.

Photo of Ornate lobster

Figure 15: Ornate lobster – Photo courtesy of Robert Kerton.

Northern-prawn-fishery

Performance results

Performance criteria
(AFMA Corporate Plan 2015–18)

2015–16 Target

2015–16 Actual

For economically significant stocks managed solely by AFMA:

a) number of key commercial stocks with harvest strategy targets based on maximum economic yield or the best available proxy.

n/a

3

b) number of stocks in (a) assessed as being on target.

n/a

1

c) for those stocks in (a) that are assessed as not on target, the number that are heading towards their target reference point.

n/a

1

Stock not included in (b) and (c)

The remaining stock (banana prawn) pursues maximum economic yield through dynamic fishery economics and a catch rate trigger rather than using the general biomass targets applied to other key Commonwealth stocks. This approach reflects the difficulty in estimating maximum economic yield for such highly variable and short lived species.

n/a

1

Number of fish stocks subject to overfishing (the number of stocks where the level of catches by fishery operators is likely to result in stock becoming overfished).

0

0

The number of stocks that are assessed as overfished and, unless effectively managed, may lead to the stock not being sustainable.

n/a

0

Stock status of target species

Common name (scientific name)

Latest available status assessment

2014

2015

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Fishing mortality

Biomass

  • Red-legged banana prawn (Fenneropenaeus indicus)
  • White banana prawn (Fenneropenaeus merguiensis)
  • Brown tiger prawn (Penaeus esculentus)
  • Grooved tiger prawn (Penaeus semisulcatus)
  • Blue endeavour prawn (Metapenaeus endeavouri)
  • Red endeavour prawn (Metapenaeus ensis)

legend 3

Source: Patterson, H, Noriega, R, Georgeson, L, Stobutzki, I & Curtotti, R, 2016, Fishery status reports 2016, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra. CC BY 3.0.

Management plans/arrangements

The principal legal framework for the management of the fishery is specified in the Northern Prawn Fishery Management Plan 1995. The Northern Prawn Fishery is a multi-species fishery managed through input controls including limited entry, season length and individual transferable effort units – based on fishing gear size. Seasonal closures are used to protect spawning prawns and to help pursue maximum economic yield. Spatial closures provide protection for juvenile prawns and other fish in seagrass meadows. There is also mandatory use of fishing gear technologies to protect marine turtles, other larger animals and generally reduce the incidental catch of other animals when fishing for prawns. Fishers must hold boat and fishing gear statutory fishing rights to fish in this fishery.

The fishery relies on a size-based stock assessment model for brown and grooved tiger prawns; a biomass dynamic assessment model for blue endeavour prawns; and a quarterly age-based biological stock assessment model for red-legged banana prawns. There is currently no formal stock assessment for the white banana prawn fishery as the species is short lived and its abundance is driven by environmental factors, principally rainfall. This level of variability means no clear stock-recruitment relationship can be developed and reliance on catch rate as an index of abundance is questionable.

Analysis of performance

Performance – status of fish stocks

In 2015 the stock abundance levels for grooved and brown tiger prawn remained high ranging from 151 per cent to 185 per cent of the spawning stock capable of generating maximum sustainable yield. All 52 boat statutory fishing rights were utilised during the 2015 tiger prawn season (1 August to 30 November 2015).

During 2015, fishing catch and effort in the red-legged banana prawn fishery was well below that of previous years, with catches being the lowest on record since the early 1980s. The most plausible reason for this was that alternative fishing options were more attractive – in particular, the consistent, unusually high catch rates of tiger prawns elsewhere in the Northern Prawn Fishery. The low effort level (79 boat days) was less than the trigger amount used in the harvest strategy and provided insufficient data for an indication of abundance. This will be reviewed, pending effort levels, in 2016.

As with the tiger prawn fishery, all 52 boat statutory fishing rights were utilised during the 2016 banana prawn season which started on 1 April 2016. Decision rules were applied during the season with average catch rates not meeting the required trigger points for the fishery to remain open for the maximum 12 week season and the fishery was closed on 9 June 2016. Total catch in the 2016 banana fishery was down on 2015 dropping to 2 835 tonnes which is consistent with average catch levels in the fishery.

Performance – status of bycatch

The reduction of bycatch in the Northern Prawn Fishery has remained the focus for industry and AFMA during 2015–16 and resulted in the release of the Northern Prawn Fishery Bycatch Strategy 2015–18. Consistent with the objectives of this strategy, industry has trialled a number of experimental bycatch reduction devices with the aim of a 30 per cent reduction by 2018.

The Northern Prawn Fishery remains accredited under Part 13 and is approved as a wildlife trade operation under Part 13A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The fishery is also certified as a sustainable fishery by the Marine Stewardship Council, which is an independent global certifier of sustainable fisheries. The first review of its accreditation is currently being conducted.

Tiger prawns from the Northern Prawn Fishery

Figure 16: Tiger prawns from the Northern Prawn Fishery.

Performance – economic returns

In the 2015 calendar year the Northern Prawn Fishery was the highest valued Commonwealth managed fishery with a total value of $98 million. This was around 10 per cent lower than the previous year, which is attributed to the drop in the first season banana prawn catch for 2016.

The management plan was reviewed by the Northern Prawn Fishery Management Advisory Committee during the period, primarily in relation to the Commission’s decision that the management plan must contain a mechanism to ensure that the fishing fleet can autonomously adjust its size to maintain economic viability. Recommendations for improvements to the management plan were developed by the Northern Prawn Fishery Management Advisory Committee and accepted by the Commission. AFMA is working through legal aspects and legislative drafting of the proposed autonomous adjustment mechanism.

The fishery broadly (across the two key species groups – banana and tiger prawns) is managed to pursue maximum economic yield. Effort limits in the fishery have been set on the result of outputs from the bio-economic model for tiger and endeavour prawns and season length is controlled bycatch-rate triggers in the banana prawn fishery to keep the fleet profitable. A recent assessment of economic performance by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences indicated the fishery is below maximum economic yield targets but is producing positive net economic returns – $5.5 million in 2012–13. However, economic conditions have been favourable over the years since this assessment. For example, in 2015–16 the tiger prawn fishery successfully pursued maximum economic yield targets that saw a 91 per cent increase in catch (to a total of 3 258 tonnes) from only a 20 per cent increase in effort (boat days). This should lead to increased profitability for the fishery along with a drop in diesel costs and an increase in prawn prices.

Innovations

The Northern Prawn Fishery industry works closely with AFMA and cooperates through co-management arrangements to assist AFMA with a range of key management functions. For example, the industry manages the collection and provision of catch and effort information, the quality control of the information and its dissemination to all users.

As part of these co-management arrangements, the industry undertakes additional crew-based observations of interactions with protected species and provides these records directly to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation for assessment. The industry also assists in facilitating annual, independent scientific monitoring of the fishery by Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation scientists.

These co-management measures add value to the management of the fishery and are cost effective for industry and AFMA. They increase stewardship outcomes in the fishery and provide valuable information which will enhance future management decisions.

Other improvements to the management plan to pick up current government policies and strengthen links between management strategies and those policies have also been recommended. They will be included among the amendments made to the plan relating to autonomous adjustment. AFMA has focused on reducing red tape in the Northern Prawn Fishery by combining some fishery closure directions. We are also reviewing specifications for turtle exclusion devices to achieve consistency with adjoining fisheries while maintaining the accreditation standards.

Royal Australian Navy Officers

Figure 17: Royal Australian Navy Officers working under the command of Maritime Border Command within the Australian Border Force retrieving the ghost net.

Removal of 'ghost nets'

Ghost nets are a global issue and AFMA continued to work with other Australian Government agencies to ensure that these abandoned nets do not fish indiscriminately inside the Australian Fishing Zone. AFMA is committed to protecting Australia’s natural wildlife and resources and during the year AFMA assisted in the recovery and disposal of five abandoned nets.

One such case involved an incident in May 2016 where AFMA was alerted to the presence of an abandoned gillnet approximately 135 nautical miles north-east of Darwin. It was believed to have drifted into the Australian Fishing Zone from waters immediately to our north in south east Asia. HMAS Glenelg, assigned to Maritime Border Command, responded and spent more than 24 hours retrieving the net from the water. One turtle was released unharmed and four sharks were found dead within the net. AFMA also arranged for the subsequent disposal of the two kilometre-long net after it had been brought to port.

More information on how Australia is working to combat illegal fishing can be found at  afma.gov.au.

North-West-Slope-Trawl-and-Western-Deepwater-Trawl-Fisheries

Performance results

Performance criteria
(AFMA Corporate Plan 2015–18)

2015–16 Target

2015–16 Actual

Number of fish stocks subject to overfishing

(The number of stocks where the level of catches by fishery operators is likely to result in stock becoming overfished)

0

0

The number of stocks that are assessed as overfished and, unless effectively managed, may lead to the stock not being sustainable

n/a

0

Stock status of target species

Common name (scientific name)

Latest available status assessment

2014

2015

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Fishing mortality

Biomass

North West Slope Trawl Fishery

  • Scampi (Metanephrops australiensis, M. boschmai, M. velutinus)

Western Deepwater Trawl Fishery

  • Bugs (Ibacus spp.)
  • Ruby snapper (Etelis carbunculus)

legend 4

Source: Patterson, H, Noriega, R, Georgeson, L, Stobutzki, I & Curtotti, R, 2016, Fishery status reports 2016, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra. CC BY 3.0.

Management plans/arrangements

There are no statutory management plans for the North West Slope Trawl and the Western Deepwater Trawl Fisheries. Both fisheries are managed via fishing permits consistent with the provisions of the Fisheries Management Act 1991 and the Fisheries Management Regulations 1992.

Entry is limited with 11 permits in the Western Deepwater Trawl Fishery and seven in the North West Slope Trawl Fishery all having a maximum duration of five years. Fishers are required to adhere to a number of permit conditions including move on provisions for interactions with coral and sponges in water shallower that 200 metres and specific gear limitations to reduce bycatch.

Permit holders generally access the fisheries on a part time or opportunistic basis as an adjunct to other fisheries.

Analysis of performance

Overall, the North West Slope Trawl and the Western Deepwater Trawl fisheries have experienced very little effort during the 2015–16 season. This continues the trend of recent years for both fisheries and is due in part to the recent high effort levels in adjacent fisheries (eg. Northern Prawn Fishery) where the majority of permit holders also fish.

In November 2015 the North West Slope Trawl and the Western Deepwater Trawl fisheries were due for reassessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. A twelve month extension was granted for both fisheries to allow time to consider recent catch and effort data and evaluate the effectiveness of catch trigger limits for each fishery zone noting the potential overlap of some shared stocks with Western Australia.

The Commonwealth and Western Australia have agreed to amend the North West Slope Trawl and the Western Deepwater Trawl fisheries’ boundaries to reflect the most recent 200 metre isobath data. This change is planned to be implemented through Offshore Constitutional Settlement arrangements shortly.

Under the harvest strategy, analysis of catch and effort data is conducted annually to assist in the management of the fisheries. A review of the current harvest strategy is expected to be undertaken in 2016–17 focusing on updating target and limit reference point triggers.

Small-Pelagic-Fishery

Performance results

Performance criteria
(AFMA Corporate Plan 2015–18)

2015–16 Target

2015–16 Actual

Number of fish stocks subject to overfishing

(The number of stocks where the level of catches by fishery operators is likely to result in stock becoming overfished)

0

0

The number of stocks that are assessed as overfished and, unless effectively managed, may lead to the stock not being sustainable

n/a

0

Stock status of target species

Common name (scientific name)

Latest available status assessment

2014

2015

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Fishing mortality

Biomass

  • Australian sardine (Sardinops sagax)
  • Blue mackerel, east/west (Scomber australasicus)
  • Jack mackerel, east/west (Trachurus declivis)
  • Redbait, east (Emmelichthys nitidus)
  • Redbait, west (Emmelichthys nitidus)

legend 5

Source: Patterson, H, Noriega, R, Georgeson, L, Stobutzki, I & Curtotti, R, 2016, Fishery status reports 2016, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra. CC BY 3.0.

Management plans/arrangements

Management Plan

The fishery continues to be managed in accordance with the Small Pelagic Fishery Management Plan 2009. The management arrangements include the allocation of statutory fishing rights, rules governing gear that may be used and catch limits. There were no changes to the Small Pelagic Fishery Management Plan 2009 in 2015–16.

The performance criteria detailed in the fishery management plan were all met in 2015–16.

Analysis of performance

Harvest strategy

Under the harvest strategy, analysis of catch and effort data is conducted annually to assist in the management of the fisheries. The Small Pelagic Fishery Scientific Panel, the South East Management Advisory Committee and the AFMA Commission started a review of the harvest strategy in
2015–16 which is expected to be completed in 2016–17. This review aims to ensure ongoing ecological sustainability and improved net economic returns from the fishery through setting appropriate reference points and harvest control rules for target species.

Scientific panel and stakeholder forum

In October 2015 the AFMA Commission agreed to trial, for two years, the use of an independent Scientific Panel and ongoing stakeholder forums to obtain scientific advice to support management decisions for the Small Pelagic Fishery. The Small Pelagic Fishery Scientific Panel provides scientific and economic advice to the AFMA Commission on the status of fish stocks, target and non-target species, the impact of fishing on the marine environment and application of the harvest strategy and harvest control rules adopted by the Commission for this fishery. The Scientific Panel is expected to improve the efficiency of the preparation of scientific and economic advice to the AFMA Commission and improve the information used to determine appropriate management actions for the fishery.

AFMA’s Small Pelagic Fishery Stakeholder Forum improves the transparency of the management of the fishery by providing interested stakeholders with the opportunity to consider and discuss outcomes of the Scientific Panel. The South East Management Advisory Committee continues to provide advice on fishery management issues.

Performance – sustainability and economic returns

AFMA applied to the Department of the Environment for continued environmental approvals for the Small Pelagic Fishery under wildlife trade and protected species provisions of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The approvals ensure ecological sustainability and, by allowing for exports, improve net economic returns from the fishery. The Small Pelagic Fishery was declared an approved Wildlife Trade Operation until October 2018.

Performance – reducing regulatory burden

In May 2016 AFMA took the opportunity to reduce the unnecessary regulatory burden on fishers by opening more than one million square kilometres of additional offshore waters near southern and eastern Australia to mid-water trawling in the Small Pelagic Fishery. Mid-water trawlers pose a low risk to deep water species and AFMA decided that many of the current closures were not required to protect these species during Small Pelagic Fishery trawler operations. This allows for potential improvements in environmental outcomes and economic returns through greater flexibility for operators to catch target species and avoid protected species bycatch.

Performance – status of bycatch

All mid-water trawl vessels fishing in the Small Pelagic Fishery must have a Vessel Management Plan approved by AFMA before they start fishing. The Vessel Management Plan for the FV Geelong Star primarily outlines mitigation measures to minimise the risk of interactions with protected species and reporting requirements. The Vessel Management Plan for the FV Geelong Star was revised in 2015–16 to promote the ecological sustainability of the fishery through measures such as improved marine mammal mitigation options (such as top opening excluder devices that allow animals to escape the net or a barrier net) and additional seabird mitigation measures (such as tori lines or bird bafflers).

bird scaring tori line

Figure 18: Bird scaring tori lines.

Technical workshop to explore options for mitigating marine mammal interactions in the Small Pelagic Fishery

In June 2016, AFMA participated in a workshop to discuss options for mitigating marine mammal interactions in the Small Pelagic Fishery. The workshop developed several recommendations with relevant stakeholders aimed at mitigating marine mammal interactions with mid-water trawl gear in the Small Pelagic Fishery.

External reviews

Senate Inquiry

On 7 September 2015, the Senate referred the following matter for inquiry: ‘Environmental, social and economic impacts of large-capacity fishing vessels commonly known as ‘supertrawlers’ operating in Australia’s marine jurisdiction’. On the dissolution of the Senate on 9 May 2016 all proceedings of the Senate and its committees ceased. As such the Senate inquiry lapsed and will require a Senate decision if it is to be reinstated.

Sourthern-and-Eastern-Scalefish-and-Shark-Fishery

Performance results

Performance criteria
(AFMA Corporate Plan 2015–18)

2015–16 Target

2015–16 Actual

For economically significant stocks managed solely by AFMA:

a) number of key commercial stocks with harvest strategy targets based on maximum economic yield or the best available proxy

n/a

13

b) number of stocks in (a) assessed as being on target

n/a

3

c) for those stocks in (a) that are assessed as not on target, the number that are heading towards their target reference point

n/a

5

Stocks not included in (b) and (c)

For the remaining five stocks:

  • three stocks are above the target and the limit reference point
  • one stock is between the target and the limit reference point
  • one stock (school shark) is estimated to be below the limit reference point and is subject to a recovery program

0

5

Number of fish stocks subject to overfishing

(The number of stocks where the level of catches by fishery operators is likely to result in stock becoming overfished)

0

0

The number of stocks that are assessed as overfished and, unless effectively managed, may lead to the stock not being sustainable

n/a

7

Stock status of target species

Common name (scientific name)

Latest available status assessment

2014

2015

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Fishing mortality

Biomass

  • Alfonsino (Beryx splendens)
  • Bight redfish (Centroberyx gerrardi)
  • Blue grenadier
    (Macruronus novaezelandiae)
  • Deepwater flathead (Neoplatycephalus conatus)
  • Eastern school whiting
    (Sillago flindersi)
  • Elephantfish (Callorhinchus milii)
  • Flathead (Neoplatycephalus richardsoni and 4 other spp.)
  • Gemfish, western zone
    (Rexea solandri)
  • Jackass morwong
    (Nemadactylus macropterus)
  • Gummy shark (Mustelus antarcticus)
  • John dory (Zeus faber)
  • Mirror dory (Zenopsis nebulosa)
  • Ocean jacket, eastern zone
    (Nelusetta ayraud)
  • Ocean jacket, west (Nelusetta ayraud)
  • Ocean perch (Helicolenus barathri, H. percoides)
  • Orange roughy, Cascade Plateau, eastern zone (Hoplostethus atlanticus)
  • Oreodory: 4 spp.
  • Ribaldo (Mora moro)
  • Royal red prawn
    (Haliporoides sibogae)
  • Sawshark (Pristiophorus cirratus,
    P. nudipinnis)
  • Silver trevally (Pseudocaranx georgianus)
  • Silver warehou (Seriolella punctata)
  • Blue-eye trevalla
    (Hyperoglyphe antarctica)
  • Pink ling (Genypterus blacodes)
  • Deepwater sharks,
    eastern and western zones (18spp.)
  • Orange roughy
    (Hoplostethus atlanticus)
  • Orange roughy, southern zone and western zone (Hoplostethus atlanticus)
  • Blue warehou (Seriolella brama)
  • Gemfish, eastern zone (Rexea solandri)
  • Gulper sharks (Centrophorus harrissoni, C. moluccensis, C. zeehaani)
  • Redfish, eastern (Centroberyx affinis)
  • School shark (Galeorhinus galeus)

legend 6

Source: Patterson, H, Noriega, R, Georgeson, L, Stobutzki, I & Curtotti, R, 2016, Fishery status reports 2016, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra. CC BY 3.0.

Management plans/arrangements

The fishery continues to be managed in accordance with the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery Management Plan 2003. The management arrangements include the allocation of statutory fishing rights, catch limits and rules governing gear that may be used.

The Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery Management Plan 2003 performance criteria were met, noting that no specific action was taken in 2015–16 in relation to addressing the performance criterion: ‘that stakeholders are satisfied with the level of accountability and communication regarding management of the fishery’.

In 2015–16 AFMA amended the management plans in several fisheries, removing redundant provisions and simplifying management arrangements. The management plan for the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery was amended primarily to provide for the granting of statutory fishing rights to the holders of individually transferable quota units. Once enacted the granting of rights will see a single means by which catch quota is administered across all Commonwealth managed fisheries.

The amendments to the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Management Plan 2003 also:

  • simplified undercatch provisions by removing the requirement to hold one quota unit on the relevant date in order to be eligible for undercatch
  • updated the scientific names of several species
  • removed redundant provisions relating to historic season dates and spent granting provisions.

Analysis of performance

Performance – status of fish stocks

In 2014 pink ling was assessed as uncertain as to whether overfishing was occurring. In 2015, following a new pink ling stock assessment, it was assessed as not subject to overfishing. The assessment estimated the pink ling:

  • western stock as being above the target reference point, so not overfished or subject to overfishing
  • eastern stock as ‘not overfished’ or subject to overfishing but requiring rebuilding to the target reference point.

Catches of eastern pink ling stock in 2015 were low enough to allow rebuilding to the target levels within a biologically reasonable timeframe. In 2016 the South East Trawl Fishing Industry Association coordinated voluntary industry arrangements to continue to restrict catches of the eastern stock.

During 2015–16 AFMA continued to implement the stock rebuilding strategies for blue warehou, eastern gemfish, orange roughy and school shark as well as the two upper slope dogfish species. The rebuilding timeframes for these stocks remained unchanged – blue warehou by 2024, eastern gemfish by 2027, orange roughy (except the eastern zone and Cascade Plateau) by 2072, Southern deepwater sharks (dogfish) 2074, Harrison’s dogfish 2098 and school shark by 2074. Performance against the rebuilding strategies was reported to the relevant resource assessment groups, the Department of the Environment and the AFMA Commission.

During 2015–16 AFMA undertook stakeholder consultation on the draft Redfish Stock Rebuilding Strategy. The primary objective of the draft Strategy 2016 is to rebuild redfish stocks to ecologically sustainable levels and to manage them in a manner consistent with the Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy Policy and Guidelines 2007. To achieve this, the draft Strategy 2016 outlines measures including preventing targeted fishing for redfish. AFMA anticipates implementing the Strategy early in 2016–17.

Targeted fishing for orange roughy off eastern and southern Tasmania was allowed in 2015–16 for the first time in over a decade following the stock’s recovery. Key orange roughy fishing grounds were reopened under strict monitoring and management arrangements including a sustainable total allowable catch based on an updated stock assessment model using the latest acoustic survey techniques. To minimise the risk of discarding, AFMA and the trawl industry developed and implemented comprehensive management arrangements including:

  • real time monitoring of fishing on aggregations using 100 per cent observer coverage from 1 June to 31 August each year
  • a requirement to cover all catch and discards with the amount they are eligible to catch (quota)
  • a minimum amount of remaining eligible catch to enter and remain in the orange roughy management areas
  • a requirement to stop fishing when approximately 80 per cent of the total allowable catch has been taken.
Figure 19: Orange roughy

Figure 19: Orange roughy – Photo courtesy of Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.

Performance – economic returns

In December 2015, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resources Economics and Sciences published its fishery survey looking at the financial and economic performance of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery. In this survey financial and economic data were collected and analysed for the 2011–12 and 2012–13 financial years.

This analysis found that after being negative for much of the early 2000s, net economic return in the Commonwealth Trawl sector peaked at $7.3 million in 2010–11 and then fell from $4.5 million in 2011–12 to $4.2 million in 2012–13. The net economic return in the Gillnet, Hook and Trap Sector increased from -$5.6 million to -$2.9 million in 2012–13 but remained negative and well below the $7.2 million net economic return in 2008–09.

Profit at full equity (a profit indicator that assumes that all assets are fully owned by operators) increased for the average boat in the Commonwealth Trawl sector between 2011–12 and 2012–13, from $197 850 to $205 283, but was lower than the peak of $267 288 in 2008–09. In the Gillnet, Hook and Trap Sector, it improved from a loss of $16 121 to a profit of $15 134, but is also lower than its 2008–09 level of $199 506.

In 2015 the AFMA Commission supported the removal of restrictions on net lengths in the shark gillnet sector. This will provide fishers with more flexibility to more efficiently catch the sustainable total allowable catch limits in the fishery.

Improving the reliability of information – discard reporting

New logbook reporting arrangements were introduced in the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery in May 2016 to improve reporting of discards by operators in the trawl sectors. The new arrangements simplify reporting by allowing for grouping of non-quota species that are discarded, rather than having to record each species. This should reduce operator workload and improve data quality to better understand the impact of fishing.

Declaration of an approved wildlife trade operation

In December 2015, AFMA applied to the Department of the Environment for continued environmental approvals for the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery under wildlife trade and protected species provisions of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The approvals ensure ecological sustainability and, by allowing for exports, improve net economic returns from the fishery. The fishery was successful in obtaining the approvals until 21 February 2019. The approvals are subject to a number of conditions including continuing to:

  • ensure that management measures are in place to meet the objectives of stock rebuilding strategies
  • refine management measures to minimise the bycatch of dolphins in gillnets
  • work with industry and experts to develop and implement management measures to minimise mortality of seals.

Performance – status of bycatch

Work to reduce interactions with seabirds in the South East Trawl and Great Australian Bight Trawl sectors of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery continued during 2015–16. Since 2011, each trawl operator has been required to operate under a Seabird Management Plan. These plans are tailored to individual fishing boats to identify the main threats to seabirds by that boat as well as the mitigation measures the concession holder has agreed to implement to reduce the risk of seabird interactions. Ongoing industry trials of seabird mitigation measures saw two new devices approved in 2015–16: ‘bafflers’ (series of weighted lines providing a curtain around the warp) and sprayers (jets providing a curtain of water around warp). AFMA is working with industry to incorporate these devices into an overarching seabird strategy which is expected to be released for public consultation in 2016–17.

Southern-Squid-Jig-Fishery

Performance results

Performance criteria
(AFMA Corporate Plan 2015–18)

2015–16 Target

2015–16 Actual

Number of fish stocks subject to overfishing

(The number of stocks where the level of catches by fishery operators is likely to result in stock becoming overfished)

0

0

The number of stocks that are assessed as overfished and, unless effectively managed, may lead to the stock not being sustainable

n/a

0

Stock status of target species

Common name (scientific name)

Latest available status assessment

2014

2015

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Gould’s squid (Nototodarus gouldi)

legend 7

Source: Patterson, H, Noriega, R, Georgeson, L, Stobutzki, I & Curtotti, R, 2016, Fishery status reports 2016, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra. CC BY 3.0.

Management plans/arrangements

The Southern Squid Jig Fishery continues to be managed in accordance with the Southern Squid Jig Fishery Management Plan 2005 and the Arrow Squid Fishery Harvest Strategy. The management arrangements include restricting how many boats can fish in the area of the fishery and regulating the type and amount of fishing gear they can use. There were no changes to the Southern Squid Jig Fishery Management Plan 2005 in 2015–16.

The performance criteria detailed in the fishery management plan were all met in 2015–16 noting that a bycatch action plan is not in place for the Southern Squid Jig Fishery reflecting the low incidence of bycatch in the fishery. AFMA anticipates undertaking an ecological risk assessment for the Southern Squid Jig Fishery in 2016–17 which will ensure any bycatch issues are identified and addressed.

Analysis of performance

Status of stocks

Gould’s squid (also known as arrow squid) is a highly productive and relatively short lived species, which allows it to be managed through limits on the total allowable fishing effort. Actual fishing effort within the fishery varies between seasons and has been relatively low in recent years. The stock status is not expected to change.

Economic returns

In 2015–16 the AFMA Research Committee supported, for AFMA funding in 2016–17, the research proposal ‘Improving the location and targeting of economically viable aggregations of squid available to the squid jigging method and the fleet’s ability to catch squid’.

Eastern-Tuna-and-Billfish-Fishery

Performance results

Performance criteria
(AFMA Corporate Plan 2015–18)

2015–16 Target

2015–16 Actual

For economically significant stocks managed solely by AFMA:

a) number of key commercial stocks with harvest strategy targets based on maximum economic yield or the best available proxy

n/a

1

b) number of stocks in (a) assessed as being on target

n/a

1

c) for those stocks in (a) that are assessed as not on target, the number that are heading towards their target reference point

n/a

0

Number of fish stocks subject to overfishing

(The number of stocks where the level of catches by fishery operators is likely to result in stock becoming overfished)

0

0

The number of stocks that are assessed as overfished and, unless effectively managed, may lead to the stock not being sustainable

n/a

1

Stock status of target species

Common name (scientific name)

Latest available status assessment

2014

2015

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Albacore (Thunnus alalunga)

Yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares)

Striped marlin (Tetrapturus audax)

Swordfish (Xiphias gladius)

Bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus)

legend 8

Source: Patterson, H, Noriega, R, Georgeson, L, Stobutzki, I & Curtotti, R, 2016, Fishery status reports 2016, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra. CC BY 3.0.

Management plans/arrangements

The fishery is managed in accordance with the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery Management Plan 2010 and conservation and management measures mandated by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission of which Australia is a member.

AFMA amended the Management Plan for the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery removing the requirement for operators to carry copies of their fishing concession on board the boat. The amendment follows the introduction of remote access technologies for fisheries compliance officers allowing them to confirm if a boat is authorised to fish, including the conditions they must comply with, from the field.

All operations conducted in the fishery were compliant with the performance criteria outlined in the management plan.

Figure 20: Albacore tuna

Figure 20: Albacore tuna.

Analysis of performance

Status of stocks

Overall, the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery had a successful fishing season in 2015, particularly for yellowfin tuna. At the end of the 2015–16 season, the total allowable commercial catch limits for broadbill swordfish, striped marlin and yellowfin tuna were between 80 and 100 per cent caught and feedback from industry indicated that they received relatively high prices for their catch.

Domestically, the total allowable commercial catches of all the key commercial species are currently considered to be appropriate and of no concern to the stock status. However, as the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery target species are managed internationally there are concerns regarding the stock status of bigeye tuna in particular, as it is currently assessed to be overfished and subject to overfishing within the western and central Pacific Ocean. Updated stock assessments for both bigeye and yellowfin tuna in the western and central Pacific Ocean are due in 2017.

Fishery management arrangements

A major management change in the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery in July 2015 was the implementation of electronic monitoring (e-monitoring). All boats that fish for more than 30 days per season in the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery now have a system of cameras and sensors installed to monitor all fishing operations and this has replaced human observer coverage. Footage is recorded when fishing operations are occurring and this footage is used to verify the logbook records for the corresponding trips. All fishing operations in the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery are now monitored. Ten per cent of all longline shots (minimum of one shot per boat per month) are reviewed and compared to the logbook reports. Regular feedback reports are provided to Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery operators to inform them of their reporting performance. Since the implementation of e-monitoring, preliminary analysis has indicated an improvement in logbook reporting by Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery operators.

During May to November 2015, AFMA also implemented the southern bluefin tuna annual core and buffer zones in the fishery to ensure that any southern bluefin tuna caught were covered by quota. To enter the core and buffer zones, Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery operators were required to hold a minimum amount of southern bluefin tuna quota and meet a certain level of observer coverage. The southern bluefin tuna zone locations were updated weekly using a model produced by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, sea surface temperature maps and industry catch information.

In 2015, silky sharks were listed as a migratory species under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, meaning that they are now listed as a protected species and not allowed to be retained in Commonwealth fisheries. AFMA has banned the retention of silky sharks in the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery.

Photo shows a Shy Albatross

Figure 21: Shy Albatross – Photo courtesy of Will Hansen, AFMA.

Bycatch and discards e-learning program

Collaboration between AFMA’s Bycatch and Discards team and the South East Trawl Fishing Industry Association has seen the development of an e-learning course focused on reducing the impact of fishing operations on the environment. The course is made up of a number of modules on mitigation strategies for protected species such as seabirds and various marine mammals. The course also provides information on rebuilding strategies for at-risk stocks.

AFMA’s on-site industry liaison officer assisted in administering enrolments and developing course content.

One of the great difficulties of providing education to fishers is the actual impact on their fishing time by requiring them to attend formal classroom type training. The e-learning program was developed so that fishers are able to access the modules online, thus giving them flexibility in where they conduct the training. They can even do the training modules while sitting in the wheelhouse of their boat!

Another fantastic outcome of conducting this training is that the modules count towards a Nationally Accredited Certificate III in Fishing Operations. This ensures there are formal learning pathways for fishers to become better educated, ensuring longevity for a career in the fishing industry.

As at 30 June 2016, 50 people have completed the training with another 14 currently enrolled. This is a multi-year project with the long term goal of having all South East Trawl boat skippers and crew accredited through this program.

This e-learning initiative is another example of how the Bycatch and Discards Program is proactively working with fishers and industry groups to ensure that fishing in Commonwealth waters is conducted in the most environmentally friendly way possible.

Southern-Bluefin-Tuna-Fishery

Performance results

Performance criteria
(AFMA Corporate Plan 2015–18)

2015–16 Target

2015–16 Actual

Number of fish stocks subject to overfishing

(The number of stocks where the level of catches by fishery operators is likely to result in stock becoming overfished)

0

0

The number of stocks that are assessed as overfished and, unless effectively managed, may lead to the stock not being sustainable

n/a

1

Stock status of target species

Common name (scientific name)

Latest available status assessment

2014

2015

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Southern Bluefin tuna (Thunnus maccoyii)

legend 9

Source: Patterson, H, Noriega, R, Georgeson, L, Stobutzki, I & Curtotti, R, 2016, Fishery status reports 2016, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra. CC BY 3.0.8

Management plans/arrangements

The principal legal framework for the management of the fishery is the Southern Bluefin Tuna Fishery Management Plan 1995. The fishery is managed through a system of output controls in the form of individually transferrable quotas which are allocated as statutory fishing rights under the Plan.

AFMA also amended the formal management plan for the Southern Bluefin Tuna Fishery removing the requirement for operators to carry copies of their fishing concession on board the boat. The amendment follows the introduction of remote access technologies for fisheries compliance officers allowing them to confirm if a boat is authorised to fish, including the conditions they must comply with, from the field.

Prior to the commencement of each season (1 December to 30 November), AFMA determines a total allowable catch of southern bluefin tuna for the domestic fishery based on Australia’s national allocation from the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna. Each statutory fishing right entitles the holder to receive an equal portion of the total allowable catch set by AFMA for this period.

Analysis of performance

Performance – status of fish stocks

The 2014 stock assessment conducted by the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna Scientific Committee suggested that the southern bluefin tuna stock remains at a very low state, estimated to be nine per cent of the initial spawning stock biomass, and below the level to produce maximum sustainable yield. However, there had been some improvement since the 2011 stock assessment estimate of five per cent of the initial stock. The next full stock assessment will be conducted in 2017.

The domestic total allowable catch for the 2014–15 southern bluefin tuna fishing season was 5 665 tonnes. Concession holders caught approximately ninety nine per cent of the total allowable catch for the season. In accordance with the undercatch provisions of the Southern Bluefin Tuna Fishery Management Plan 1995 the remaining 35 tonnes of uncaught quota is available to operators to take in the following season.

Performance – economic returns

In Australia, commercial fishers mainly use the purse seine fishing method to catch southern bluefin tuna. After being caught, these fish are towed closer inshore and transferred to permanent floating farms called pontoons. They stay in these pontoons for several months, where they grow bigger before being harvested and sold. This is referred to as ‘ranching’. This accounts for the majority of the southern bluefin tuna total allowable catch. However, in recent years an increasing amount has been taken by pelagic longline vessels operating in the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery. The following diagram describes the pelagic longline method of fishing.

Pelagic_longline

The longline catch of southern bluefin tuna in 2014–15 was approximately 580 tonnes, up from 380 tonnes the previous season. The amount taken by longliners on the east coast depends primarily on access to available quota from the ranching sector and the seasonal availability of fish.

The Southern Bluefin Tuna Fishery Management Plan 1995 is accredited under part 13 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 as an approved Wildlife Trade Operation until 22 July 2016.

Western-Tuna-and-Billfish-Fishery

Performance results

Performance criteria
(AFMA Corporate Plan 2015–18)

2015–16 Target

2015–16 Actual

Number of fish stocks subject to overfishing

(The number of stocks where the level of catches by fishery operators is likely to result in stock becoming overfished)

n/a

2

The number of stocks that are assessed as overfished and, unless effectively managed, may lead to the stock not being sustainable

n/a

0

Stock status of target species

Common name (scientific name)

Latest available status assessment

2014

2015

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Albacore (Thunnus alalunga)

Bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus)

Swordfish (Xiphias gladius)

Yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares)

Striped marlin (Tetrapturus audax)

legend 10

Source: Patterson, H, Noriega, R, Georgeson, L, Stobutzki, I & Curtotti, R, 2016, Fishery status reports 2016, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra. CC BY 3.0.

Management plans/arrangements

The fishery continued to be managed in accordance with the Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery Management Plan 2005 and resolutions of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission of which Australia is a member.

AFMA also amended the Management Plan for the Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery removing the requirement for fishers to carry copies of their fishing concession on board the boat. The amendment follows the introduction of remote access technologies for fisheries compliance officers allowing them to confirm if a boat is authorised to fish, including the conditions they must comply with, from the field.

All operations conducted in the fishery were compliant with the performance criteria outlined in the management plan.

Analysis of performance

Fishery management arrangements

AFMA implemented e-monitoring in the Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery in July 2015. All boats that fish for more than 30 days per season in the Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery now have a system of cameras and sensors installed to monitor all fishing operations. This will provide a more efficient means of oversight than using human observers. Footage is recorded when fishing operations are occurring and this footage is used to verify the logbook records for the associated trips. Regular feedback reports are provided to Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery operators to inform them of their reporting performance. Since the implementation of e-monitoring, preliminary analysis has indicated an improvement in logbook reporting by Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery operators.

A further, more recent, management change in the Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery has been the implementation of a 200 fish trip catch limit for mahi mahi (commonly referred to as dolphinfish). Previously this species was under a combined trip limit of 10 fish. The new trip limit enables Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery operators to retain and land the valuable and marketable mahi mahi they catch, increasing economic returns and significantly reducing the risk of this species being discarded.

Figure 22: Striped marlin

Figure 22: Striped marlin.

Performance – status of fish stocks

The Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery has continued to operate at low levels of effort, largely due to economic conditions. Catch levels have remained relatively stable. For the Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery, the total allowable commercial catch limits have been set for a three year period and for the 2015–16 season, these remained as follows:

  • bigeye tuna: 2 000 tonnes
  • yellowfin tuna: 5 000 tonnes
  • broadbill swordfish: 3 000 tonnes
  • striped marlin: 125 tonnes.

Domestically, the total allowable commercial catches for all the key commercial species are currently considered to be appropriate and of no concern to the stock status. However, as the Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery target species are managed internationally there are concerns regarding the stock status of striped marlin and yellowfin tuna. Yellowfin tuna in particular has recently been assessed to be overfished and subject to overfishing within the wider Indian Ocean. Updated stock assessments for both striped marlin and yellowfin tuna are scheduled in 2018.

Heard-Island-and-McDonalds-Islands-Fishery

Performance results

Performance criteria
(AFMA Corporate Plan 2015–18)

2015–16 Target

2015–16 Actual

Number of fish stocks subject to overfishing

(The number of stocks where the level of catches by fishery operators is likely to result in stock becoming overfished)

0

0

The number of stocks that are assessed as overfished and, unless effectively managed, may lead to the stock not being sustainable

n/a

0

Stock status of target species

Common name (scientific name)

Latest available status assessment

2014

2015

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Mackerel icefish
(Champsocephalus gunnari)

Patagonian toothfish
(Dissostichus eleginoides)

legend 11

Source: Patterson, H, Noriega, R, Georgeson, L, Stobutzki, I & Curtotti, R, 2016, Fishery status reports 2016, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra. CC BY 3.0.

Management plans/arrangements

The Heard Island and McDonald Islands Fishery is managed in accordance with the Heard Island and McDonald Islands Fishery Management Plan 2002 and the conservation measures mandated by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources of which Australia is a member country. As at June 2016, four vessels had operated in the fishery during the 2015–16 fishing season. Three vessels were longliners and one vessel was both a trawler and longliner.

AFMA also amended the Management Plan for the Heard Island and McDonald Islands Fishery removing the requirement for operators to carry copies of their fishing concession on board the boat. The amendment follows the introduction of remote access technologies for fisheries compliance officers allowing them to confirm if a boat is authorised to fish, including the conditions they must comply with, from the field.

All operations conducted in the fishery were compliant with the performance criteria outlined in the management plan.

Analysis of performance

Performance – status of fish stocks

As the Heard Island and McDonald Islands Fishery lies within the area of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, management of this fishery is reviewed on an international scale. The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources meets each year and, among other things, considers catch limits and bycatch management for the Heard Island and McDonald Islands Fishery.

The Heard Island and McDonald Islands Fishery stock assessment for patagonian toothfish is considered and endorsed by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.

In November 2015, the AFMA Commission set the Heard Island and McDonald Islands Fishery total allowable catches at 3 405 tonnes for patagonian toothfish and 482 tonnes for mackerel icefish for the 2015–16 fishing year. The AFMA Commission set increased catch limits for bycatch species from the genus Macrourus, commonly known as grenadiers, following updated scientific assessments conducted by the Australian Antarctic Division and accepted by Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. The Sub-Antarctic Resource Assessment Group and Sub-Antarctic Management Advisory Committee supported the updated assessments for the grenadier bycatch species.

The Heard Island and McDonald Islands Fishery follows decision rules that are set by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, of which Australia is a member country. The agreed total allowable catches for 2015–16 are consistent with the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources decision rules.

Performance – status of bycatch

To allow vessels access to more fishing time, the 2015–16 Heard Island and McDonald Islands Fishery longline fishing season was extended under a trial arrangement. The core longline fishing season extends from 1 May to 14 September. Under the trial, longlining can occur from 1 April 2016 to 30 November 2016 for approved vessels. Strict rules are in place around interactions with seabirds during the autumn and spring extension periods, when seabird activity increases in the Heard Island and McDonald Islands Fishery. If three or more seabirds are caught and killed by a vessel’s fishing gear during the trial extension periods, the vessel can no longer fish in the extension periods. To date, no vessels have been required to cease fishing.

Figure 23: Patagonian toothfish

Figure 23: Patagonian toothfish.

Macquarie-Island-Toothfish-Fishery

Performance results

Performance criteria
(AFMA Corporate Plan 2015–18)

2015–16 Target

2015–16 Actual

Number of fish stocks subject to overfishing

(The number of stocks where the level of catches by fishery operators is likely to result in stock becoming overfished)

0

0

The number of stocks that are assessed as overfished and, unless effectively managed, may lead to the stock not being sustainable

n/a

0

Stock status of target species

Common name (scientific name)

Latest available status assessment

2014

2015

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides)

legend 12

Source: Patterson, H, Noriega, R, Georgeson, L, Stobutzki, I & Curtotti, R, 2016, Fishery status reports 2016, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra. CC BY 3.0.

Management plans/arrangements

The Macquarie Island Toothfish Fishery is managed in accordance with the Macquarie Island Toothfish Fishery Management Plan 2006. As at June 2016, one vessel had operated in the fishery during the 2016–17 fishing season. All operations conducted in the fishery were compliant with the performance criteria outlined in the Management Plan.

AFMA amended the Management Plan for the fishery removing the requirement for fishers to carry copies of their fishing concession on board the boat. The amendment follows the introduction of remote access technologies for fisheries compliance officers allowing them to confirm if a boat is authorised to fish, including the conditions they must comply with, from the field.

Analysis of performance

Performance – status of fish stocks

In March 2016, the AFMA Commission set the Macquarie Island Toothfish Fishery total allowable catch for patagonian toothfish at 450 tonnes. Catch limits for bycatch species were set at 50 tonnes for each other species, consistent with previous years.

Given the stability of the Macquarie Island Toothfish Fishery, in March 2016 the AFMA Commission also agreed the fishery should move to a two-yearly stock assessment. This is consistent with the management of other toothfish fisheries both in Australia and elsewhere in the world.

The Macquarie Island Toothfish Fishery has been divided into three regions, noting that toothfish within these three regions are considered to be a single stock. Industry has agreed to, as far as possible, adopt a fishing strategy, endorsed by the Sub-Antarctic Fisheries Resource Assessment Group, which spreads fishing effort across the three regions. The voluntary strategy allows more tags to be deployed in the Northern Macquarie Region where the Sub-Antarctic Fisheries Resource Assessment Group agreed tagging would be most useful in improving scientific knowledge.

High-Seas-Permits

Performance results

Performance criteria
(AFMA Corporate Plan 2015–18)

2015–16 Target

2015–16 Actual

Number of fish stocks subject to overfishing

(The number of stocks where the level of catches by fishery operators is likely to result in stock becoming overfished)

0

0

The number of stocks that are assessed as overfished and, unless effectively managed, may lead to the stock not being sustainable

n/a

0

Stock status of target species

Common name (scientific name)

Latest available status assessment

2014

2015

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Fishing mortality

Biomass

  • Orange roughy (Hoplostethus atlanticus)
  • Alfonsino (Beryx splendens)
  • Blue-eye trevalla (Hyperoglyphe antarctica)
  • Jackass morwong (Nemadactylus macropterus)
  • Yellowtail kingfish (Seriola lalandi)
  • Smooth oreodory (Pseudocyttus maculates)
  • Spikey oreodory (Neocyttus rhomboidalis)
  • Redthroat emperor (Lethrinus miniatus)
  • Boarfish (Pentacerotidae spp.)
  • Cardinal fish (Apogonidae, Dinolestidae)

legend 13

Source: Fishery Status Reports 2015, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences

Management plans/arrangements

High seas permits continue to be managed consistent with conservation and management measures applying under the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation and measures applied by AFMA for Australian flagged boats operating in the area of the Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement. Operational requirements are implemented through conditions on high seas permits.

High seas permits allow Australian flagged vessels to fish for non-highly migratory species outside the Australian Fishing Zone in the Southern Indian and South Pacific Oceans. The fishing areas are designated through the Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement and the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation, to which the Australian Government is a party.

Analysis of performance

The first Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement Scientific Committee meeting was held in March 2016. At this meeting the Scientific Committee adopted a Work Plan, a Research Priorities Plan and an Operational Work Plan. New conservation and management measures relating to the prohibition of deepwater gillnets and large-scale pelagic driftnets, the management of bottom fishing and data standards were also discussed and will be considered by the meeting of the parties in July 2016. These measures are important to ensure the ecological sustainability of fisheries in this area of the high seas.

A meeting of the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation Commission was held in Valdivia, Chile from 25 to 29 January 2016. Two Australian proposals were adopted at this meeting with a view to ensuring ongoing sustainability and promoting efficient and transparent management – a conservation and management measure for the management of new and exploratory fisheries and a conservation and management measure declaring vessels without nationality that are fishing in the convention area to be fishing illegally and encouraging members, cooperating non-contracting parties, and non-parties to take action against such vessels.

The South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation Commission has called for proposals, a tender evaluation process and a work plan for a vessel monitoring system in 2016.

Australia agreed to host the 2017 Commission meeting in Adelaide, South Australia from 18 to 22 January 2017, preceded by a meeting of the Compliance and Technical Committee from 14 to 16 January 2017.

Southern Bluefin Tuna

Figure 24: Southern Bluefin Tuna.

NON-OPERATIONAL FISHERIES

Commercial operators were not working in the following Commonwealth fisheries during 2015–16.

Norfolk Island Fishery

The Norfolk Island Fishery has no statutory management plan and there are currently no commercial fishing concessions in the fishery. In 2015–16 the fishery was overseen by the Norfolk Island Fishing Association in accordance with the Norfolk Island Inshore Fishery Policy 2009. AFMA is working with the Norfolk Island Fishing Association and other government agencies on future management arrangements following the announcement of reforms to the governance of Norfolk Island in 2015.

No stock assessments or biomass estimates for species taken within the Norfolk Island Fishery have been made. No stock status classifications have been given to this fishery as there are no defined stocks for management purposes.

Skipjack Tuna Fishery

Stock status of target species

Common name (scientific name)

Latest available status assessment

2014

2015

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Indian Ocean skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis)

Western and central Pacific Ocean skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis)

legend 14

Source: Patterson, H, Noriega, R, Georgeson, L, Stobutzki, I & Curtotti, R, 2016, Fishery status reports 2016, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra. CC BY 3.0.

The fishery is managed in accordance with the Skipjack Tuna Harvest Strategy, the statement of fishery management arrangements, fishing concession conditions and any conservation measures or resolutions mandated by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission or the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission.

In the 2015–16 fishing season, effort within the fishery remained at very low levels. While there are 19 Eastern Skipjack Tuna Fishery permits and 14 Western Skipjack Tuna Fishery permits, no Australian vessels are currently targeting skipjack tuna.

Stock assessments for skipjack tuna are conducted internationally and are assessed as not subject to overfishing in the western and central Pacific Ocean or the Indian Ocean.

South Tasman Rise Fishery

Stock status of target species

Common name (scientific name)

Latest available status assessment

2014

2015

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Orange roughy (Hoplostethus atlanticus)

legend 16

Source: Patterson, H, Noriega, R, Georgeson, L, Stobutzki, I & Curtotti, R, 2016, Fishery status reports 2016, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra. CC BY 3.0.

The South Tasman Rise Fishery forms part of Australia’s fishing footprint under the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation but has been closed to fishing since 2007. The area is also subject to a memorandum of understanding for cooperative management between Australia and New Zealand established in 1998. New Zealand has not fished the South Tasman Rise since the end of the 2000–01 fishing season.

Resumption of fishing will require prior agreement between Australia and New Zealand on issues such as an appropriate total allowable catch setting and a new harvest strategy.