Feature Story

Improving Bycatch Handling


AFMA collects visual information from fishing vessels via observers and e-monitoring (cameras). As a result of this monitoring, we became aware of instances of inappropriate handling of fish bycatch. Instances of inappropriate handling include failure to promptly remove and discard bycatch species. For example, leaving bycatch on the deck for extended periods or failure to return bycatch to its natural environment promptly is considered mistreatment. Where bycatch is not discarded immediately due to operational or safety reasons, this is not considered as mistreatment.

As part of our role in ensuring sustainable fisheries AFMA and industry are now increasing measures to reduce the amount of fish bycatch in Commonwealth fisheries. Handling of remaining fish bycatch can significantly affect the chances of the fish’s survival and the sustainability of bycatch species.

As a result of AFMA identifying the risk posed by the inappropriate handling of bycatch, the National Compliance Strategy Section formed a dedicated Compliance Risk Management Team to look at ways of addressing the issue to reduce or eliminate instances of bycatch mishandling. The Compliance Risk Management Team identified a range of approaches to address the issue including:

  • Consultation with industry and stakeholders.
  • Education and communication including news items and infield education through fisheries officers and AFMA Bycatch staff.
  • Development and publication of a Bycatch Handling and Treatment Guide 2016–17.
  • Introduction of conditions to all fishing concessions relating to the handling and treatment of bycatch.

Whilst the program is in its relative infancy it appears that, as a result of the introduction of the Bycatch Handling Condition in October 2016, the rate of alleged incidents of bycatch mishandling has dropped by 23 per cent (see Figure 3 below). The Bycatch Mishandling treatment program, including education programs, will continue in 2017–18 and it is hoped that the reduction in incident rates will continue.

Figure 3: Impact of Bycatch Mishandling treatment program

Figure 3 Impact of Bycatch Mishandling treatment program