Part 3 - Summary

Part 3 Summary

Introduction

Individual Commonwealth fisheries are generally in good shape being both sustainably fished and enabling operators to make a profit.

For the fourth year in a row, no stocks managed solely by AFMA have been classified as subject to overfishing (see Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences Fisheries Status Reports 2017). However some species remain under fishing pressure and AFMA has continued to adjust, as appropriate, total allowable catches and operational controls. For example, two key species in the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery, flathead and gummy shark, had their total allowable catches reduced for 2017, while the total allowable catch for scallops in the Bass Strait Central Zone Scallop Fishery was able to be fished at a maximum level of 4880 tonnes, given biomass levels. For those stocks classified as overfished (generally reflecting past unsustainable fishing practices), AFMA is continuing to pursue recovery to a sustainable biomass that will support fishing operations. A workshop on declining or non-recovering stocks was facilitated by AFMA in 2016 and as a result a research proposal to further mitigate the reason for declining or non-recovering stocks was approved for funding by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation.

The formation of a new industry body, Tuna Australia, which is working with AFMA on issues in the Eastern and Western Tuna and Billfish Fisheries, will help to improve industry advice on the operational appropriateness of our management. Broader AFMA fisheries administration should also be more cost effective following approval of a new Cost Recovery Implementation Statement by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, the Hon Barnaby Joyce MP, in December 2016.

In regard to minimising fisheries’ impacts on the marine environment, AFMA and the fishing industry have made significant progress with implementing measures to reduce unintended interactions with marine protected species. There was a particular focus on seabirds and dolphins during 2016–17. New mitigation measures in the South East Trawl Sector are aimed at reducing interactions of deepwater trawlers with seabirds by more than 90 per cent.

Dolphin mitigation strategies introduced in the midwater trawl sector of the Small Pelagic Fishery and the Gillnet, Hook and Trap sector of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery seek to minimise all dolphin interactions. The strategies require fishers to take action after even a single non-lethal interaction and establish escalating responses by AFMA to any further interactions. This includes a maximum interaction rate for the midwater trawl sector of the Small Pelagic Fishery of one dolphin interaction per 50 trawl gear sets. Our confidence in accurate reporting is very high due to the presence of electronic monitoring equipment (boat based cameras) on all fishing vessels in these fishing sectors.

The Northern Prawn Fishery also completed scientific trials with the Kon’s Covered Fisheye, which indicated reduced fish bycatch of more than one third. The Kon’s Covered Fisheye was approved for use within the Northern Prawn Fishery in April 2017 and will be taken up by some operators in the fishery during 2017–18 with some further experimental trials taking place.

AFMA’s new Ecological Risk Assessment and Ecological Risk Management framework for Commonwealth fisheries was also approved by the AFMA Commission in 2017. The effective identification and management of the risks posed by fishing to the environment are central to AFMA pursuing its ecologically sustainable development and other objectives. Not dealing with these risks effectively would be detrimental to the health of the marine environment and the economic viability of the fishing industry.

For 2017–18, we will be looking to further increase positive fisheries sustainability and economic outcomes. Priority work is expected to include implementation of the Fisheries Legislation Amendment (Representation) Bill 2017 which, if passed by Parliament, requires AFMA to have regard to accounting for the interests of commercial, recreational and indigenous fishing sectors in managing Australian fisheries. The reviews of the Commonwealth’s Harvest Strategy Policy and Bycatch Policy are likely to be finalised by the end of 2017. These may impact on AFMA’s Ecological Risk Assessment and Ecological Risk Management framework. Other strategic work will establish Commonwealth fishery economic performance indicators and continue to implement more cost-effective and efficient management.

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 $385 million for 2016–17.

Performance results discussed in fishery reports

Estimated catch totals for 2016–17

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 2016 to June 2017.

Performance results

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

  • Maximum economic yield data presented in the reports are based on Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences’ gross value of production data for Commonwealth fisheries and AFMA stock assessments.
  • Data on fishing mortality and biomass are taken from Fishery Status Reports 2017 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

Joint 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

Bigeye-Tuna-Bermagui

Bigeye Tuna Bermagui. Photo courtesy: Clayton McCloud, AFMA

Bass Strait Central Zone Scallop Fishery

Performance results

Performance criteria
(AFMA Corporate Plan 2016–19)

2016–17 Target

2016–17 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

2015

2016

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Commercial Scallop (Pecten fumatus)

Biomass Not overfished
Fishing Mortality Not subject to overfishing

Uncertain

Biomass Overfished
Fishing Mortality Subject to overfishing

Source: Patterson, H, Noriega, R, Georgeson, L, Larcombe, J and Curtotti, R 2017. Fishery status reports 2017, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra. CC BY 4.0

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 Bass Strait Central Zone Scallop Fishery is managed through open and closed seasons, area closures, catch limits and size limits. Fishers must hold statutory fishing rights to fish in this fishery. The Bass Strait Central Zone Scallop Fishery is exclusively a commercial fishery with no recreational or indigenous catches recorded.

The performance criteria detailed in the fishery management plan were all met in 2016–17. A requirement for fishers to accurately weigh scallops at the point of unload before transporting them to an authorised fish receiver was introduced for the 2016 season to support the maintenance of an effective quota management system.

Analysis of performance

Status of fish stocks

Due to intermittent recruitment and naturally sporadic and fluctuating availability, commercial scallops are not managed to a specific biomass target.

A 2016 pre-season survey identified a large biomass of scallops of suitable density to support spawning for future seasons as well as the highest total allowable catch (a maximum of 5000 tonnes) in six years. The season lived up to expectations with operators enjoying good catches of high quality scallops.

The pre-season survey undertaken during May and June 2017 indicated that good catches are likely to continue for the 2017 season with biomass estimates and bed densities similar to those identified in the 2016 survey, albeit in different areas. A Total Allowable Catch of a maximum of 4880 tonnes was again set for 2017.

Economic returns

The Bass Strait Central Zone Scallop Fishery Harvest Strategy focuses on ensuring the sustainability of the stock by protecting areas of spawning biomass each season, thereby staying above the limit reference point proxy. This approach allows industry flexibility to catch scallops from various different beds, thereby improving economic returns while ensuring continued ecological sustainability.

The catch for the 2016–17 season was the highest in more than a decade and on par with that from 2010 when a third more boats were operating. The lower boat numbers should result in increased returns from fishing as remaining operators are able to increase catch per unit effort.

Coral Sea Fishery

Performance results

Performance criteria
(AFMA Corporate Plan 2016–19)

2016–17 Target

2016–17 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

2015

2016

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Sea cucumber sector:

Black teatfish (Holothuria whitmael)

Prickly redfish (Thelenota ananas)

Surf redfish (Actinopyga mauritiana)

White teatfish (Holothuria fuscogilva)

Sea cucumber sector:

Other sea cucumber species (11 spp.)

Aquarium sector:

Multiple species

Lobster and Trochus sector:

Tropical rock lobster (Panulirus ornatus) possibly other species

Line and Trap sector:

Mixed reef fish and sharks

Trawl and trap sector:

(Numerous fish, shark and crustacean species)

Biomass Not overfished
Fishing Mortality Not subject to overfishing

Uncertain

Biomass Overfished
Fishing Mortality Subject to overfishing

Source: Patterson, H, Noriega, R, Georgeson, L, Larcombe, J and Curtotti, R 2017. Fishery status reports 2017, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra. CC BY 4.0

Management Plans/Arrangements

There is no statutory management plan for the Coral Sea Fishery. The fishery has five sectors:

  • Sea cucumber
  • Aquarium
  • Lobster and trochus
  • Line and trap
  • Trawl and trap.

These 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 during 2016–17.

Analysis of performance

There has been little activity in the Coral Sea Fishery in 2016–17. To ensure the ecological sustainability of the fishery, AFMA continues to monitor limits in the Coral Sea Fishery. The limits, described in the Coral Sea Fishery Harvest Strategy, were reviewed by an expert panel meeting in September 2016. The Line, Trap and Trawl Sectors Harvest Strategy will be updated during 2017–18 to take into account outcomes from the review.

The successful detection of a number of illegal Vietnamese fishing vessels
during the year should also help to avoid pressures on fish stocks – refer
Feature Story on page 41.

Northern Prawn Fishery

Performance results

Performance criteria
(AFMA Corporate Plan 2016–19)

2016–17 Target 1

2016–17 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 2

3

3

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

1

1

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

0

1

Number of fish stocks subject to overfishing 3

(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

2015

2016

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Fishing mortality

Biomass

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)

Red-legged banana prawn (Fenneropenaeus indicus)

Biomass Not overfished
Fishing Mortality Not subject to overfishing

Uncertain

Biomass Overfished
Fishing Mortality Subject to overfishing

Source: Patterson, H, Noriega, R, Georgeson, L, Larcombe, J and Curtotti, R 2017. Fishery status reports 2017, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra. CC BY 4.0

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. The fishery relies on a size and sex-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. The operational objective of the white banana prawn harvest strategy is to allow sufficient escapement to ensure an adequate spawning biomass of banana prawns (based on historical data), and to achieve the maximum economic yield from the fishery.

Analysis of performance

Performance – status of fish stocks

In 2016 the stock abundance levels for grooved and brown tiger prawns were slightly less than the previous year 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 2016 tiger prawn season. 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 17 week season and the fishery was closed on 20 November 2016.

As with the tiger prawn fishery, all 52 boat statutory fishing rights were utilised during the 2017 banana prawn season (1 April to 15 June 2017). Total catch in the 2017 banana fishery was higher than 2016 increasing to 4 756 tonnes.

During 2016, fishing catch and effort in the red-legged banana prawn fishery was similar to the previous year. The catch and effort levels in 2015 and 2016 were well below that of previous years, with catches in 2016 being the lowest on record since the early 1980s. The most plausible reason for this was that alternative fishing options were again more attractive in 2016 – 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. As this is the second year in a row where there has been insufficient data, the red-legged banana prawn harvest strategy is being reviewed to account for years when there is less than 100 boat days fishing effort.

Performance – status of bycatch

The reduction of bycatch in the Northern Prawn Fishery has remained the focus for industry and AFMA during 2016–17 with significant progress being made toward achieving the objectives of the Northern Prawn Fishery Bycatch Strategy 2015–18. The Kon’s Covered Fisheye was trialled as a bycatch reduction device in 2016 with results showing a reduction in bycatch of over 35 per cent. At the beginning of 2017, the Kon’s Covered Fisheye was added to the list of approved bycatch reduction devices and industry is on track to achieving a 30 per cent reduction in bycatch by July 2018.

Performance – economic returns

In the 2016 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 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 by catch-rate triggers in the banana prawn fishery to keep the fleet profitable. Recent assessments of economic performance by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences indicates that the level of fishing effort in the fishery is close to maximum economic yield targets. Net economic returns have been positive and improving since 2012–13 from around $5m to over $12m in 2014–15. This trend has continued into 2015–16 with higher catches of both tiger and banana prawns and favourable economic conditions. Economic conditions have remained favourable for 2016–17, including lower diesel costs and strong prawn prices. However, overall prawn catches in 2016–17 were lower than in 2015–16. Tiger prawn catch in 2016 was around 34 per cent lower and banana prawn catch in 2017 was around 58 per cent higher than in 2016.

tiger prawns

Tiger prawns. Photo courtesy: AFMA

Innovations

The Northern Prawn Fishery industry works closely with AFMA and
cooperates through co-management arrangements to assist us 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.

There has also been some progress towards the development of indicators to show trends in the fishery that can forewarn the fishing industry and AFMA of an impending need for autonomous adjustment.

We have continued to focus on reducing red tape in the Northern Prawn Fishery by developing specifications for turtle exclusion devices to achieve consistency with adjoining fisheries while maintaining accreditation standards. New turtle excluder device specifications implemented in 2017 now allow the same device to be used across multiple fisheries in Commonwealth and Queensland fishery jurisdictions.

External reviews

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. In January 2017, reassessment began to evaluate the fishery’s compliance with the Marine Stewardship Council’s standard for well-managed and sustainable fisheries. The reassessment is now in its final stages of completion.

In July 2016, officers from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration visited Australia to conduct inspections of Australia’s turtle excluder devices. AFMA and industry collaborated to design a device that adheres to US standards and in early 2017 the Northern Prawn Fishery was again certified as meeting the world class standards in turtle excluder device design.

North West Slope and the Western Deepwater Trawl Fisheries

Performance results

Performance criteria
(AFMA Corporate Plan 2016–19)

2016–17 Target

2016–17 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

Stock status of target species

Common name (scientific name)

Latest available status assessment

2015

2016

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)

Biomass Not overfished
Fishing Mortality Not subject to overfishing

Uncertain

Biomass Overfished
Fishing Mortality Subject to overfishing

Source: Patterson, H, Noriega, R, Georgeson, L, Larcombe, J and Curtotti, R 2017. Fishery status reports 2017, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra. CC BY 4.0

Management Plans/Arrangements

There is no formal management plan for the North West Slope Trawl or the Western Deepwater Trawl Fisheries. The Fisheries are managed by granting a limited number of fishing permits consistent with the provisions provided by the Fisheries Management Act 1991 and the Fisheries Management Regulations 1992.

There are 11 permits allowed in the Western Deepwater Trawl Fishery and
seven in the North West Slope Trawl Fishery, all of which are valid for a maximum of five years. Fishers must adhere to a number of permit conditions aimed at protecting stocks and ecosystems. The permit conditions include specific gear limitations to reduce bycatch and move on provisions if fishing gear interacts with sponges or corals.

Analysis of performance

During the past five years, North West Slope Trawl and Western Deepwater Trawl have experienced little, but stable levels of fishing effort. This trend continued in the 2016–2017 season. The limited levels of effort are due in part to permit holders accessing more lucrative fisheries that are adjacent to the North West Slope Trawl or Western Deepwater Trawl fishery areas (eg. Northern Prawn Fishery to the north or the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery in the south).

In November 2016 the North West Slope Trawl and the Western Deepwater Trawl Fisheries applied for reassessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The assessment is ongoing and is expected to be released in late October 2017.

In early 2017 the boundaries of the North West Slope Trawl and Western Deepwater Trawl Fisheries were amended to better reflect updated bathymetric information. This change was enacted by amending the existing Offshore Constitutional Settlement agreement between the Commonwealth and Western Australia. These amendments are viewed as good progress for the fisheries and collaboration between the Commonwealth and Western Australia.

Under the existing harvest strategy, analysis of catch and effort data is conducted annually to assist in the management of the fisheries. The recent boundary changes and the forthcoming release of the new Commonwealth Harvest Strategy Policy have delayed a planned review of the harvest strategy for the fisheries. Instead, the North West Slope Trawl and Western Deepwater Trawl Fisheries will undergo re-evaluation under AFMA’s new Ecological Risk Assessment and Ecological Risk Management Framework in 2017–2018. The results will be used to inform a review of the harvest strategies for these fisheries.

Small Pelagic Fishery

Performance results

Performance criteria
(AFMA Corporate Plan 2016–19)

2016–17 Target4

2016–17 Actual

Number of fish stocks subject to overfishing5

(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

2015

2016

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Australian sardine (Sardinops sagax)

Blue mackerel, east/west (Scomber australasicus)

Jack mackerel, east/west (Trachurus declivis)

Redbait, east/west (Emmelichthys nitidus)

Biomass Not overfished
Fishing Mortality Not subject to overfishing

Uncertain

Biomass Overfished
Fishing Mortality Subject to overfishing

Source: Patterson, H, Noriega, R, Georgeson, L, Larcombe, J and Curtotti, R 2017. Fishery status reports 2017, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra. CC BY 4.0

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 2016–17.

The performance criteria detailed in the fishery management plan were all met in 2016–17.

Analysis of performance

Harvest Strategy

Under the harvest strategy, analysis of catch and effort data is conducted annually to inform the setting of catch limits for commercially caught species in the fishery.

The Small Pelagic Fishery Harvest Strategy was updated in 2017 following additional testing undertaken during 2016. Consultation on the revised harvest strategy occurred during 2016 and 2017 with the Small Pelagic Fishery Scientific Panel, key stakeholders and the South East Management Advisory Committee. All aspects of the harvest strategy have now been tested and the reference points and harvest rates have been found to meet the biological, ecological and economic requirements of the fishery.

Performance – sustainability and economic returns

The recently completed surveys for blue mackerel east and Australian sardine moved these stocks into the highest tier of the harvest strategy with the updated biomass estimates informing the total allowable catches for the 2017–18 season. A survey was undertaken for western jack mackerel in 2016–17 with the results expected to become available in 2017–18.

The total allowable catches for 2016–17 of some 39,000 tonnes for the seven target species were largely uncaught (only some 21 per cent) due to limited fishing effort.

In December 2016, AFMA received an application to pair trawl in the Small Pelagic Fishery, a method not automatically permitted under the fishery management plan. In early 2017 the independent AFMA Commission approved the determination of mid-water pair trawling as an approved fishing method in the Small Pelagic Fishery until October 2018, subject to conditions and review. The Commission’s decision took into consideration the best available science and advice from the South East Management Advisory Committee, the Small Pelagic Fishery Scientific Panel, seabird and marine mammal experts, key stakeholders and the public.

Like all fishing operations in Commonwealth managed fisheries, any mid-water pair trawling operation will be subject to strict rules and conditions, including protected species mitigation, monitoring and reporting requirements. Within this framework, this decision provides fishers with the ability to determine when and how they fish their quota.

Performance – status of bycatch

In May 2017 AFMA implemented the Small Pelagic Fishery Dolphin Mitigation Strategy which aims to minimise dolphin interactions in the trawl sector of the fishery by creating incentives for fishers to innovate and adopt best practice to minimise interactions. This individual responsibility approach recognises that those who do not catch dolphins should be able to continue to fish, while those who do catch dolphins receive increased management action.

In 2016–17 AFMA and the Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation updated the methodology for conducting ecological risk assessments for Commonwealth fisheries. The ecological risk assessment for the Small Pelagic Fishery was updated under the revised methodology with results expected to be published in 2017–18.

External reviews

On 13 September 2016 the Senate agreed to re-adopt the Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communication’s inquiry ‘Environmental, social and economic impacts of large-capacity fishing vessels commonly known as ‘super trawlers’ operating in Australia’s marine jurisdiction’. In November 2016 AFMA presented updated information to the Committee. The Committee released its findings and final recommendations in November 2016. A Coalition Senators’ dissenting report and Labor Senators’ additional comments were also published.

The government is preparing a response to the inquiry report.

Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery

Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery Sectors:

Performance results

Performance criteria
(AFMA Corporate Plan 2016–19)

2016–17 Target6

2016–17 Actual7

For economically significant stocks managed solely by AFMA:

Number of key commercial stocks with harvest strategy targets based on maximum economic yield or the best available proxy8

14

10

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

4

2

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

5

4

Number of fish stocks subject to overfishing9

(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

2015

2016

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Commonwealth Trawl and Scalefish Hook sectors

Blue grenadier (Macruronus novaezelandiae)

Eastern school whiting (Sillago flindersi)

Gemfish, western zone (Rexea solandri)

Jackass morwong (Nemadactylus macropterus)

Ribaldo (Mora moro)

Commonwealth Trawl Sector

Flathead (Neoplatycephalus richardsoni and 4 other spp.)

John dory (Zeus faber)

Mirror dory (Zenopsis nebulosa)

Ocean jacket, eastern zone(Nelusetta ayraud)

Orange roughy, Cascade Plateau (Hoplostethus atlanticus)

Oreodory: 5 spp.

Royal red prawn (Haliporoides sibogae)

Silver trevally (Pseudocaranx georgianus)

Silver warehou (Seriolella punctata)

East Coast Deepwater Trawl Sector

Alfonsino (Beryx splendens)

Great Australian Bight Trawl Sector

Bight redfish (Centroberyx gerrardi)

Deepwater flathead (Neoplatycephalus conatus)

Ocean jacket, west (Nelusetta ayraud)

Shark Gillnet and Shark Hook sectors

Elephantfish (Callorhinchus milii)

Gummy shark (Mustelus antarcticus)

Sawshark (Pristiophorus cirratus, P. nudipinnis)

Commonwealth Trawl and Scalefish Hook sectors

Blue-eye trevalla (Hyperoglyphe antarctica)

Ocean perch (Helicolenus barathri,H. percoides)

Commonwealth Trawl Sector

Orange roughy, eastern zone (Hoplostethus atlanticus)

Commonwealth Trawl Sector

Orange roughy, southern & western zones (Hoplostethus atlanticus)

Redfish, eastern (Centroberyx affinis)

Commonwealth Trawl and Scalefish Hook sectors

Gemfish, eastern zone (Rexea solandri)

Blue warehou (Seriolella brama)

Gulper sharks (Centrophorus harrissoni,

C. moluccensis, C. zeehaani)

Shark Gillnet and Shark Hook sectors

School shark (Galeorhinus galeus)

Commonwealth Trawl Sector

Deepwater sharks, eastern & western zones (18spp.)

Great Australian Bight Trawl Sector

Orange roughy (Hoplostethus atlanticus)

Commonwealth Trawl and Scalefish Hook sectors

Pink ling (Genypterus blacodes)

Biomass Not overfished
Fishing Mortality Not subject to overfishing

Uncertain

Biomass Overfished
Fishing Mortality Subject to overfishing

Source: Patterson, H, Noriega, R, Georgeson, L, Larcombe, J and Curtotti, R 2017. Fishery status reports 2017, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra. CC BY 4.0

Management Plans/Arrangements

The principal legal framework for the management of the fishery is specified in the Fisheries Management Act 1991 and the Fisheries Management Regulations 1992. The Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery has seven sectors that are managed through input and output controls including limited entry, catch limits, spatial closures, size limits and catch-and-effort triggers that are used to initiate further analysis and assessment. Fishers must hold a valid fishing concession to fish in this fishery.

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 performance criteria in the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery Management Plan 2003 were met noting that, where reference points have been determined for fish stocks relevant to the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery, all stocks are either above the target reference point or have management arrangements in place to return stocks to target levels.

Analysis of performance

Performance – status of fish stocks

All quota species in the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery are managed to a biological target reference point, or a proxy thereof, based on either maximum economic yield or maximum sustainable yield.

During 2016–17 AFMA implemented the Redfish Stock Rebuilding Strategy. Redfish was assessed in 2014 as being at 11 per cent of its unfished biomass. The objective of the strategy is to rebuild the species to above its limit reference point of 20 per cent within 27 years from 2015, or approximately 2042. To support rebuilding of the stock, an incidental bycatch total allowable catch of 100 tonnes has been implemented. Approximately 40 tonnes was caught during the 2016–17 season.

Rebuilding strategies are also in place for blue warehou, eastern gemfish, school shark and orange roughy. Each of these strategies implements incidental catch total allowable catches in addition to management arrangements such as gear requirements, limited entry to the fishery, and independent research to better inform the status and recovery of the stocks.

Performance – economic returns

For the purposes of reporting economic key performance indicators, AFMA considers its key commercial stocks as the top 30 by value. In 2016–17, 10 of the top 30 species were Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery quota species, all of which have maximum economic yield based targets. The economic performance of those species is measured based on the five year average stock biomass relevant to the maximum economic yield target. Three of those species, deepwater flathead, eastern school whiting and tiger flathead are assessed as being ‘on target’ or within 20 per cent of their target biomass on average over the past five years. Three stocks, while above their target biomass, are considered underutilised – bight redfish, blue grenadier and pink ling west. Two stocks – blue-eye trevalla and pink ling east – while between the limit reference point and target reference point, are considered over utilised. However they are both assessed as ‘heading towards the target’ at a rate that is consistent with the Commonwealth Harvest Strategy Policy 2007. School shark is on a recovery program and is assessed as below the limit reference point, noting that a new assessment based on ‘close-kin’ genetics is due to be completed in 2017–18.

Furthermore, several total allowable catches for species in the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery remain significantly undercaught. AFMA and the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation have recently agreed on a research project to better understand the reasons for the undercatch.

Performance – reliability of information

Vessel specific discard reporting performance of Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery vessels continued to be monitored in 2016–17 through comparison of logbook reported discards against electronic monitoring reviews or estimated discards from the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery Integrated Scientific Monitoring Program.

Mirror Dory and Royal Red Prawn

Mirror Dory and Royal Red Prawn. Photo courtesy: AFMA

Performance – status of bycatch

AFMA implemented the Gillnet Dolphin Mitigation Strategy in May 2017 to minimise dolphin interactions with gillnets in the shark gillnet sector. The strategy adopts an individual responsibility approach to create incentives for fishers to innovate and adopt best practices. Under the individual responsibility approach, fishers are responsible for their actions to minimise interactions and stay within defined performance criteria. The performance criteria and management responses ensure that a fisher cannot continue fishing unchecked if they continue to have dolphin interactions. For each dolphin interaction there is an associated management response that escalates to the point where an individual fisher cannot continue fishing with gillnets in the fishery.

Also in May 2017, AFMA implemented new management arrangements for seabirds for trawl fisheries. The arrangements focus on ‘bird bafflers’ which is a curtain like device which has been designed to deter seabirds from foraging in between the stern of the vessel and where the warps enter the water – see feature story overleaf.

External reviews

Monitoring and assessment in the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery required to meet the objectives of fisheries management, including those in the Commonwealth Harvest Strategy Policy 2007 and Policy on Fisheries Bycatch 2000 were reviewed in 2016–17. The main objective of the project, named the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery Strategic Monitoring and Assessment Review Project, was to identify and evaluate the most cost-effective monitoring and assessment options that meet the requisite policy needs. The outcomes of the project are expected to be published in
2017–18 with implementation to begin in 2018–19.

Southern Squid Jig Fishery

Performance results

Performance criteria
(AFMA Corporate Plan 2016–19)

2016–17 Target

2016–17 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

2015

2016

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Gould’s squid (Nototodarus gouldi)

Biomass Not overfished
Fishing Mortality Not subject to overfishing

Uncertain

Biomass Overfished
Fishing Mortality Subject to overfishing

Source: Patterson, H, Noriega, R, Georgeson, L, Larcombe, J and Curtotti, R 2017. Fishery status reports 2017, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra. CC BY 4.0

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 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 2016–17.

The performance criteria detailed in the fishery management plan were all met in 2016–17 noting that a bycatch action plan is not in place for the Southern Squid Jig Fishery. This reflects the low incidence of bycatch in the fishery and the ecological risk assessment finding of no bycatch species at high or moderate risk. We anticipate updating the ecological risk assessment for the Southern Squid Jig Fishery in 2017–18 which will identify any bycatch issues. AFMA will develop and implement an appropriate management response to reduce the risk to an acceptable level.

Analysis of performance

Gould’s squid (also known as arrow squid) is a highly productive and relatively short lived species. This species is not managed to a target reference point but rather the harvest strategy is based on a series of catch and effort triggers which, if reached, will trigger further analyses and management responses.

Effort and catch in the fishery varies between seasons and has been relatively low in recent years resulting in no catch or effort trigger being reached.

The research project ‘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’ started in 2016–17 aimed at improving industry’s ability to locate and target squid aggregations. This project is due to be completed in 2017–18, and with a better understanding of how to locate squid, it is hoped that it will result in more profitable fishing, more consistent supply (to both domestic and overseas markets) and new/previous fishers entering the underexploited squid fishery.

Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery

Performance results

Performance criteria
(AFMA Corporate Plan 2016–19)

2016–17 Target10

2016–17 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 proxy11

1

1

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

1

1

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

0

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

2015

2016

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Striped marlin (Tetrapturus audax)

Albacore (Thunnus alalunga)

Yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares)

Bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus)

Swordfish (Xiphias gladius)

Biomass Not overfished
Fishing Mortality Not subject to overfishing

Uncertain

Biomass Overfished
Fishing Mortality Subject to overfishing

Source: Patterson, H, Noriega, R, Georgeson, L, Larcombe, J and Curtotti, R 2017. Fishery status reports 2017, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra. CC BY 4.0

Management Plans/Arrangements

The fishery continues to be 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.

The performance criteria detailed in the fishery management plan were all met in 2016–17.

Analysis of performance

Status of stocks

Overall, Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery catches were lower in the 2016–17 season relative to the previous season, largely due to significantly reduced catches of yellowfin tuna and to a lesser degree, broadbill swordfish. At the end of the 2016–17 season, the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery had taken close to 70 per cent of the total allowable commercial catch of each of yellowfin tuna (down from 99 per cent in 2015–16), broadbill swordfish, striped marlin and bigeye tuna.

The reduction in yellowfin tuna catch is thought to be related to a reduced availability of yellowfin in the fishery area, possibly due to regional oceanographic processes. There is currently genetic research underway to assess connectivity between target species in the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery and the broader Pacific Ocean. We are also seeking to investigate oceanographic impacts on the fishery to better understand inter-annual variations in catches. Finally, while the fishery caught only 39 per cent of the albacore tuna total allowable commercial catch, this represented the highest catch of albacore tuna in more than five years.

Domestically, the total allowable commercial catches of all the key commercial species are currently considered to be appropriate and of no concern to the regional status of these regional stocks. A recent downturn in broadbill swordfish catch rates (which resulted in a reduction in the total allowable commercial catch for the 2017–18 season) will continue to be monitored and managed by us under the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery Harvest Strategy.

However, as the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery target species are also 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 tuna and yellowfin tuna in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean and broadbill swordfish in the South Pacific are due later in 2017.

Fishery management arrangements

In July 2015 a major management change in the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery was the implementation of e-monitoring and this program continued through the 2016–17 season. All full-time (fish for more than 30 days per season) active boats in the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery now have a system of cameras and sensors installed to monitor all fishing operations. Footage is recorded when fishing operations are occurring to verify the logbook records. All fishing operations on full-time boats are now monitored, with 10 per cent of all longline shots (minimum of one shot per boat, per month) reviewed and compared to the logbook reports. Regular feedback reports are provided back 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.

During May to November 2016, AFMA also implemented the annual southern bluefin tuna zone in the fishery to ensure that any southern bluefin tuna caught was covered by quota. To enter the zone, 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 location was updated weekly using sea surface temperature maps and industry catch information.

In 2016–17 we started the process of reviewing and updating the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery Harvest Strategy. A revision of the ecological risk assessment and development of an integrated Fisheries Management Strategy will combine existing fishery strategies and action plans into a single strategy to operationalise the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery Management Plan. It is expected these processes will be finalised during the 2017–18 season.

In relation to protected species, an increase in seabird interactions in the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery was reported in the 2016–17 summer season and AFMA is currently responding to that increase as required under the Seabird Threat Abatement Plan 2014. We also investigate any Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery interactions with marine mammals, although these are uncommon.

External reviews

Compliance by the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery with Conservation and Management Measures of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission is reviewed on an annual basis under the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission Compliance Monitoring Scheme. In 2016–17, as in previous years, Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery management arrangements were consistent with Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission measures.

Southern Bluefin Tuna Fishery

Performance results

Performance criteria
(AFMA Corporate Plan 2016–19)

2016–17 Target

2016–17 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

n/a

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

1

1

Stock status of target species

Common name (scientific name)

Latest available status assessment

2015

2016

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Southern Bluefin tuna (Thunnus maccoyii)

Biomass Not overfished
Fishing Mortality Not subject to overfishing

Uncertain

Biomass Overfished
Fishing Mortality Subject to overfishing

Source: Patterson, H, Noriega, R, Georgeson, L, Larcombe, J and Curtotti, R 2017. Fishery status reports 2017, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra. CC BY 4.0

Management Plans/Arrangements

The fishery continues to be managed in accordance with 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 fishery management plan. The performance criteria detailed in the fishery management plan were all met in 2016–17.

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 upon 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 – quota setting

The domestic total allowable catch for the 2015–16 Southern Bluefin Tuna fishing season was 5665 tonnes.

The total catch in the fishery, for the 2015–16 fishing season, was 5636 tonnes. Concession holders in the ranching sector of the fishery took approximately 89 per cent of the catch. The remaining catch was taken by longline.

Performance – status of fish stocks

The Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna management procedure specified that a full quantitative stock assessment should be undertaken every three years. The first full assessment since the 2011 adoption of the management procedure was in 2014.

The 2014 stock assessment suggested that the southern bluefin tuna stock remains at a very low level of biomass, estimated to be nine per cent of the initial spawning stock biomass, and below the level to produce maximum sustainable yield (33 000 tonnes). However there has been some improvement since the 2011 stock assessment and fishing mortality is below the level associated with maximum sustainable yield. There are indicators of higher recruitment in recent years. This suggests that some relatively strong cohorts are moving through the fishery, though have yet to contribute to the spawning stock.

There still remains a level of uncertainty around unaccounted mortality and its impact on the recovery of the stock. This will be further investigated in the next full stock assessment that will be conducted later in 2017.

Performance – economic returns

The majority of the southern bluefin tuna total allowable catch continues to be taken by the purse seine sector in the Great Australian Bight for subsequent grow out by the ranching sector. However, in recent years an increasing amount has been taken by pelagic longline vessels operating in the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery. The longline catch of southern bluefin tuna in 2015–16 was approximately 731 tonnes, up from 580 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.

External reviews

Environmental Assessment of the Southern Bluefin Tuna Fishery

In late 2016 the Department of the Environment and Energy assessed the operation of the Southern Bluefin Tuna Fishery for the purposes of Parts 13 and 13A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The Department declared the fishery an approved wildlife trade operation until 13 December 2019. Conditions placed on the export approval include increasing confidence in the estimates of purse-seine catches, and for management arrangements to start accounting for Australia’s attributable catch, including recreational and indigenous catch, by 2018.

Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery

Performance results

Performance criteria
(AFMA Corporate Plan 2016–19)

2016–17 Target

2016–17 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

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

2015

2016

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Albacore (Thunnus alalunga)

Yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares)

Bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus)

Swordfish (Xiphias gladius)

Striped marlin (Tetrapturus audax)

Biomass Not overfished
Fishing Mortality Not subject to overfishing

Uncertain

Biomass Overfished
Fishing Mortality Subject to overfishing

Source: Patterson, H, Noriega, R, Georgeson, L, Larcombe, J and Curtotti, R 2017. Fishery status reports 2017, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra. CC BY 4.0

Management Plans/Arrangements

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

The performance criteria detailed in the fishery management plan were all met in 2016–17.

Analysis of 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. In 2016–17, catch levels for each of the four main target species were slightly lower than in 2015–16 but were consistent with average levels.

Domestically, the total allowable commercial catches for all the key commercial species are currently considered to be appropriate and of no concern to the regional 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. Both are considered to be subject to overfishing within the wider Indian Ocean. Updated stock assessments for both striped marlin and yellowfin tuna are due to be completed in 2018.

Albacore tuna

Albacore tuna. Photo courtesy: AFMA

Fishery management arrangements

In July 2015 a major management change in the Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery was the implementation of e-monitoring and this continued through 2016–17. All full-time (fish for more than 30 days per season) active boats in the Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery now have a system of cameras and sensors installed to monitor all fishing operations. Footage is recorded when fishing operations are occurring to verify logbook records. All fishing operations on full-time boats are now monitored, with 10 per cent of all longline shots (minimum of one shot per boat, per month) reviewed and compared to the logbook reports. Regular feedback reports are provided back 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.

AFMA continues to monitor protected species interactions in the fishery. In the 2016–17 summer season, an increase in seabird interactions was reported in the Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery and AFMA is responding to that increase as required under the Seabird Threat Abatement Plan 2014.

Heard Island and McDonald Islands Fishery

Performance results

Performance criteria
(AFMA Corporate Plan 2016–19)

2016–17 Target

2016–17 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

2015

2016

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Mackerel icefish (Champsocephalus gunnari)

Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides)

Biomass Not overfished
Fishing Mortality Not subject to overfishing

Uncertain

Biomass Overfished
Fishing Mortality Subject to overfishing

Source: Patterson, H, Noriega, R, Georgeson, L, Larcombe, J and Curtotti, R 2017. Fishery status reports 2017, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra. CC BY 4.0

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. All operations conducted in the fishery were in compliance with the performance criteria outlined in the management plan. Four vessels operated in the fishery during 2016–17. Three vessels were longliners and one vessel was a trawler/longliner.

There were no changes to the Heard Island and McDonald Islands Fishery Management Plan 2002 during the 2016–17 period.

Analysis of performance

Performance – status of fish stocks

In November 2016, the AFMA Commission set the Heard Island and McDonald Islands Fishery total allowable catches at 3405 tonnes for patagonian toothfish and 561 tonnes for mackerel icefish for the 2016–17 fishing year. While recognising that there had been a drop in recent catch rates that was raising some concerns, Commissioners also recognised that the current total allowable catch level set by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (to which Australia is a member country), should not unreasonably impact on long term sustainability of patagonian toothfish stocks.

The Sub-Antarctic Resource Assessment Group and Sub-Antarctic Management Advisory Committee supported the Heard Island and McDonald Islands Fishery total allowable catches for the 2016–17 fishing year.

Performance – status of bycatch

To allow vessels access to more fishing time, the 2016–17 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 2017 to 30 November 2017 for approved vessels. Strict rules are in place around interactions with seabirds during the autumn and spring extension periods, when seabird activity increases around Heard Island and McDonald Islands. If three or more seabirds are caught and killed by fishing gear during the trial extension periods, that vessel can no longer fish by longline in the extension periods.

External reviews

Management of the Heard Island and McDonald Islands Fishery is reviewed internationally by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. The Heard Island and McDonald Islands Fishery lies within the area of Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. 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.

During 2016–17 the patagonian toothfish assessment also underwent an independent scientific review conducted by Dr Tony Smith. A number of recommendations from this review will be implemented in 2017–18 and beyond to improve the stock assessment.

Iceberg off Heard Island in the southern ocean

Iceberg off Heard Island in the southern ocean. Photo courtesy: Alex Inwood, observer

Macquarie Island Toothfish Fishery

Performance results

Performance criteria
(AFMA Corporate Plan 2016–19)

2016–17 Target

2016–17 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

2015

2016

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides)

Biomass Not overfished
Fishing Mortality Not subject to overfishing

Uncertain

Biomass Overfished
Fishing Mortality Subject to overfishing

Source: Patterson, H, Noriega, R, Georgeson, L, Larcombe, J and Curtotti, R 2017. Fishery status reports 2017, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra. CC BY 4.0

Management Plans/Arrangements

The Macquarie Island Toothfish Fishery is managed in accordance with the Macquarie Island Toothfish Fishery Management Plan 2006. All operations conducted in the fishery were in compliance with the performance criteria outlined in the management plan. As at June 2017, one vessel had operated in the fishery during 2016–17 fishing season.

There were no changes to the Macquarie Island Toothfish Fishery Management Plan 2006 during the 2016–17 period.

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.

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 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 and reducing uncertainty in the stock assessment.

External reviews

There has been no external review of the fishery in 2016–17.

Patagonian Toothfish

Patagonian Toothfish. Photo courtesy: AFMA

High Seas Permits

Major species:

Insufficient information is available to enable the fishery-wide determination of stock status for any of the high-seas demersal fish stocks in the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation and the Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement areas of competence.

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 the Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement. AFMA implemented new conservation and management measures (see paragraph below) applying under the Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement in 2016. 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 both of which the Australian Government is a party.

Analysis of performance

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 adopted by the Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement meeting of the parties in July 2016. These measures are important to ensure the ecological sustainability of fisheries in this area and have been implemented through High Seas Permits.

Australia hosted the 2017 South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation Commission in Adelaide in January 2017, preceded by a meeting of the Compliance and Technical Committee. A key outcome from this meeting was progressing the establishment of a Vessel Monitoring System as a critical tool to ensure compliance with conservation and management measures and in combating illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in the convention area.

Non-operational fisheries

Commercial operators were not working in the following Commonwealth fisheries during 2016–17.

Norfolk Island Fishery

The Norfolk Island Fishery has no formal management plan and there are currently no commercial fishing concessions in this fishery. The fishery is managed by the Norfolk Island Regional Council in accordance with the Norfolk Island Inshore Fishery Policy 2009. The associated Memorandum of Understanding has enabled AFMA to provide management expertise and guidance to the Norfolk Island Regional Council and the Norfolk Island Fishing Association as required.

We are working with the Norfolk Island Fishing Association and other government agencies on future management arrangements following the 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

2015

2016

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Indian Ocean skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis)

Western and Central Pacific Ocean skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis)

Biomass Not overfished
Fishing Mortality Not subject to overfishing

Uncertain

Biomass Overfished
Fishing Mortality Subject to overfishing

Source: Patterson, H, Noriega, R, Georgeson, L, Larcombe, J and Curtotti, R 2017. Fishery status reports 2017, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra. CC BY 4.0

The fishery is managed in accordance with the Skipjack Tuna Harvest Strategy, the statement of fishery management arrangements and fishing concession conditions.

Effort in the fishery has remained at very low levels since 2008 for economic reasons. There were no new management arrangements implemented in the fishery in 2016–17. There are 19 Eastern Skipjack Tuna Fishery permits and 14 Western Skipjack Tuna Fishery permits. However no Australian vessels are currently targeting skipjack tuna.

South Tasman Rise Fishery

Stock status of target species

Common name (scientific name)

Status

2015

2016

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Orange roughy (Hoplostethus atlanticus)

Biomass Not overfished
Fishing Mortality Not subject to overfishing

Uncertain

Biomass Overfished
Fishing Mortality Subject to overfishing

Source: Patterson, H, Noriega, R, Georgeson, L, Larcombe, J and Curtotti, R 2017. Fishery status reports 2017, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra. CC BY 4.0

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.

1 2016–17 Agriculture Portfolio Budget Statements p. 200

2 Where higher and lower value species are caught together, different targets for the lower value species may maximise net economic returns over all.

3 In AFMA managed fisheries, not including jointly and internationally managed fisheries.

4 2016–17 Agriculture Portfolio Budget Statements p. 200

5 In AFMA managed fisheries, not including jointly and internationally managed fisheries.

62016–17 Agriculture Portfolio Budget Statements p. 200

7The reason the 2016–17 actual number of stocks dropped to 10 from target 14 in SESSF is that four stocks that are managed to maximum economic yield targets have dropped off from the top 30 commercial stocks and four non-SESSF stocks that are not managed to maximum economic yield targets have moved into the top 30 commercial stocks.

8Where higher and lower value species are caught together, different targets for the lower value species may maximise net economic returns over all.

9In AFMA managed fisheries, not including jointly and internationally managed fisheries.

10𖝰–17 Agriculture Portfolio Budget Statements p. 200

11 Where higher and lower value species are caught together, different targets for the lower value species may maximise net economic returns over all.