The Commission met for its 72nd meeting via teleconference on 8 July 2020.

Below is a summary of the key discussions and decisions by the Commission. It is not a record of discussions and does not cover agenda items and discussions that are either routine or confidential

1. Amendment to the Southern Bluefin Tuna (SBT) Fishery Undercatch Determination

The Commission amended the SBT undercatch determination to provide greater flexibility for concession holders during the COVID-19 pandemic while still meeting AFMAs international obligations.

In making its decisions, the Commission considered a range of matters including:

  1. COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the SBT longline sector as they predominantly export their product fresh via air freight which has become significantly restricted and costly, coupled by reduced domestic and international restaurant trade.
  2. Increasing the undercatch percentage from 20 per cent to 100 percent provides longline operators with the ability to choose to fish their quota in 2020 or alternatively carry a greater proportion of their unfished holdings into the 2021 year when it is hoped business conditions have improved. 
  3. AFMA’s obligations under the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT) allow 20 per cent of the national allocation to be carried forward into the following year. This means that, while individual operators will be able to carry forward up to 100 per cent of their individual uncaught 2020 quota, collectively Australia is only entitled to carry forward a maximum of 1175 tonnes of uncaught 2020 quota to the 2021 fishing season. 
  4. The proposal will only come into effect once 4700 tonnes of SBT has been caught in 2020 to ensure the CCSBT provision for 1175 tonnes of undercatch will not be exceeded.

The Commission agreed to increase the SBT undercatch percentage from 20 per cent to 100 per cent that will come into effect only once 4700 tonnes or more of southern bluefin tuna is taken in the fishery.

2. Amendments to the SBT Fishery Management Plan

The Commission supported preparation of an amendment to the SBT Management Plan for consultation to give effect to the decision to set aside five per cent of Australia’s CCSBT allocation to account for recreational catch. The Commission considered this approach to be fair and reasonable in response to Australia’s commitment to CCSBT, the recent survey results and subsequent Government announcements. 

Helen Kroger

Chairman