In pursuing its ecologically sustainable development (ESD) objective the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) takes an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries by managing the effects of commercial fisheries on the marine environment.

As part of this commitment, the Ecological Risk Management (ERM) framework is used to assist decision makers in developing fisheries management arrangements that are consistent with the ESD objective. The framework uses the Ecological Risk Assessment for the Effects of Fishing (ERAEF) as the primary means of assessing the risks that fisheries may pose to the marine environment.

What is the Ecological Risk Assessment for the Effects of Fishing?

The ERAEF involves a hierarchy of risk assessment methodologies progressing from a qualitative analysis at the first stage, to a more detailed and quantitative analysis at the final stage. This approach allows easy identification of high and low risk species, as well as those that are data deficient.

The ERAEF was designed to support the pursuit of ESD in Commonwealth fisheries. It considers the impacts of fishing on five key components of the marine environment, including commercial species, byproduct species, bycatch species, protected species, and habitats and communities.

Ecological risk assessments are used to identify which species, habitats or communities are at risk from the effects of fishing. The ERAEF allows a broad range of species to be assessed under a single framework, allowing fisheries managers to make more informed decisions without needing exhaustive data collection and assessments of all species.

What changes have been made to the Ecological Risk Management framework?

AFMA’s ERM framework was initially developed in 2007 and has been successfully applied to a number of fisheries in Australia and internationally. The framework was independently reviewed by the independent Australian Continuous Improvement Group in 2014 and several recommendations were made to improve the ERAEF and ensure the framework is robust, efficient and cost-effective, while remaining precautionary.

Why has AFMA introduced the Ecological Risk Management guide?

The ERM Guide was released in June 2017 to assist AFMA fishery managers to better implement ERAEF in a consistent and transparent manner. The Guide introduces the use of Fishery Management Strategies for each Commonwealth managed fishery. These are much broader reports than ERMs; addressing responses to ERAEF outcomes, the Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy Policy and Guidelines, the Commonwealth Policy on Fisheries Bycatch, EPBC Act assessment and reporting obligations as well as better focusing management and research strategies for each fishery.

The Guide outlines the process by which fishery managers can develop FMSs to plan, implement, monitor and review fisheries, ensuring they are being managed in an ecologically sustainable way. And a five year schedule of re-assessment for all Commonwealth fisheries has been developed (unless an earlier re-assessment has been triggered).

Application of the Guide will improve the implementation of the ERAEF framework, by applying certainty to the identification of high risk species and the adoption of risk mitigation management responses.

Read the guide to AFMA’s Ecological Risk Management.

Read the policy for AFMA’s Ecological Risk Management.

Click a fishery below to view its ecological risk assessment and management strategy