The Commission met for its 61st meeting in Canberra on 9-10 May 2018. The meeting was preceded by AFMA’s Annual Public Meeting on 9 May.
Key decisions taken by the Commission at its meeting included:
- Extension of the Macquarie Island Toothfish Fishery (MITF) longline season
Commissioners agreed to extend the MITF longline season so that it runs from 15 April to 7 September 2018, and that they would review the longline season dates for future seasons after the current longline season.
In taking this decision, Commissioners recognised the good track record of past fishing operations with no seabird interactions and that seabird monitoring on-board fishing vessels would continue during the additional week. They also noted that the Australian Antarctic Division had been consulted on the request and had raised no concerns.
- Broadbill Swordfish Harvest Strategy
In recognising that the current harvest strategy was not responding as expected to the status of broadbill swordfish, Commissioners considered that a new harvest strategy will need to be developed, with the Tropical Tuna Resource Assessment Group (TTRAG) expected to lead the review. They also noted that other nations were now taking a larger proportion of the catch and that in developing this new harvest strategy, there was a need for more information on the exchange rates and movements of swordfish in the Western Pacific, with the involvement of the South Pacific Commission.
The Commission agreed to not use the current harvest strategy for setting the broadbill swordfish Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) for the next season. Rather, the Commission requested that a revised harvest strategy for broadbill swordfish should be developed and Management Strategy Evaluation tested during 2018-19 for application to the 2019-2020 fishing year. In starting work to develop this new harvest strategy, the Commission expected TTRAG to use the best available scientific indicators to provide advice on the 2019 TACC setting process.
- Fisheries Management Policy 5 – Exploratory Fishing
The Commission agreed to the draft Exploratory Fishing policy and associated guidelines being released for broad consultation with agencies, industry groups, fisheries concession holders and the public.
- Review of the Small Pelagic Fishery (SPF) Scientific Panel and Stakeholder Forum model
The Commission considered the experience of having a stakeholder forum and scientific panel in the SPF over the past two to three years and the feedback received through the recent consultation process. The Commission concluded that there was a need to:
- maintain the focus of AFMA’s Resource Assessment Groups (RAGs) on the scientific, economic and other expert advice AFMA and the Commission require in order to make informed decision regarding a fishery, and
- retain the benefits from a broader forum to engage interested stakeholders.
The Commission also considered that these two outcomes were relevant to all RAGs and agreed that AFMA should undertake a consultation process on proposed amendments to Fisheries Administration Paper 12 on Resource Assessment Groups (FAP12), and any associated policies as necessary, regarding these outcomes.
In regard to the SPF, the Commission agreed that it would transit back to a RAG structure and retain the stakeholder forum. However, to enable the above consultation to take place on proposed changes to FAP12, the Commission agreed that the current Scientific Panel and Forum model will continue in the SPF for a further 12 month period to June 2019.
- Transhipping policy and guidelines
The Commission endorsed the draft transhipping policy and guidelines for release for consultation with Management Advisory Committees (MACs), government agencies and the public.
- Retention of undercatch and overcatch arrangements
Noting that undercatch and overcatch amounts are set for an individual fishery, typically between 0–10 percent, the Commission agreed to the retention of the current undercatch and overcatch arrangements without change.
- Other Considerations
Commissioners also considered the continuing implementation by AFMA of the Fisheries Legislation Amendment (Representation) Act 2017 noting that consultations with relevant stakeholders are currently underway and expected to be completed by late June 2018.
Commissioners also noted that AFMA will shortly be releasing a draft position statement on “How AFMA considers the social aspects of the ESD principles in the management of Commonwealth fisheries” to agencies, AFMA’s MACs and RAGs and then the broader public. During this public consultation period, AFMA will also write to targeted stakeholders including industry associations and key recreational, indigenous and environment groups.
Finally, Commissioners spent some time discussing directions and options for new management systems for Commonwealth fisheries that would adapt to change quickly and effectively. This could involve addressing such elements as management of catch shares within and between fishing sectors (and jurisdictions), risk management (ecological, economic and social), fishery standards and co-management. Commissioners recognised that a three to five year timeframe for ensuring effectiveness and alignment was expected.
As part of the meeting, Commissioners also met with the consultants undertaking an independent review of AFMA’s fisheries management, organisation and governance, noting that the full draft of the report would be available for consideration at the next Commission meeting in July 2018.