13 April 2018

The Commission met for its 60th meeting in Lakes Entrance, Victoria on 7-8 March 2018.

Key decisions taken by the Commission at its meeting included:

Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery (SESSF) – Total Allowable Catches (TAC) for 2018-19

The Commission set TACs, and other catch limits, for 36 quota and non-quota species in the SESSF. While TACs for some species increased and others decreased, the combined agreed TACs are 83 tonnes lower than last year. For example, two key economic drivers in the fishery, flathead and school whiting, have had their TACs reduced. This will be partly offset by the proposed increase in eastern orange roughy TAC.

Commissioners also noted that several SESSF TACs remain significantly undercaught and some stocks appear to be declining or not recovering despite periods of lower TACs and catches. Recognising this, AFMA and the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation are holding workshops and planned research:

  • to better understand the reasons for undercaught TACs;
  • to understand declining or non-recovering stocks in the SESSF, including whether assessments are accurately reflecting stock status; and
  • accounting for climate change in fisheries management.

Small Pelagic Fishery (SPF) – Total Allowable Catches for 2018-19

For the SPF, the TACs remain largely unchanged for six of the target stocks but will increase for jack mackerel west as a result of a new biomass estimate. These approved TACs are consistent with the SPF Harvest Strategy and take account of the latest advice from the SPF Scientific Panel and Stakeholder Forum, and the South East Management Advisory Committee (SEMAC).

The SPF TACs ensure that enough fish are left in the water for predators that feed on them, including species targeted by the recreational sector.

Use of Jigging and Minor Line Methods in the SPF

The Commission approved the use of jigging and minor line methods in the SPF on an ongoing basis subject to the following conditions:

  • ongoing monitoring including that initially, an observer is present on the first five trips of any new fishing operation and AFMA will determine appropriate monitoring on any further trips; and
  • any vessels using these methods must have an AFMA approved seabird management plan.

Management Advisory Committee (MAC) Appointments

The Commission appointed members for the Great Australian Bight Management Advisory Committee and the Scallop Management Advisory Committee, as well as the chairs of the Tropical Tuna, Sub-Antarctic and Northern Prawn Fisheries’ Management Advisory Committees.

MACs are statutory committees established by AFMA and are one of our main points of contact with stakeholder groups to discuss strategic fisheries management issues. MACs are a key source of advice to AFMA Management and the Commission.

Other Considerations

Commissioners also considered AFMA’s draft transhipping (the transfer of catch from one boat to another while at sea) policy and guidelines that would apply to transhipment activities by Australian boats within the Australian Fishing Zone where fish are landed to an Australian port. The purpose of the policy and guidelines is to provide AFMA staff with guidance when assessing proposals to tranship, to improve consistency in decision making and to provide greater clarity and certainty for industry and other interested stakeholders.

Following revisions to reflect Commissioners’ comments, AFMA will be circulating the draft policy and guidelines for consultations with industry and other interested stakeholders.

As part of the meeting, Commissioners also met with the South East Trawl Fishing Industry Association and other commercial operators, and visited the Lakes Entrance Fishermen’s Co-operative and the SEAMEC building on Bullock Island where eight AFMA staff are expected to be located from June 2018.