The Commission met for its 73rd meeting via teleconference on 9 September 2020.

This document provides 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. Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery (ETBF) Swordfish Harvest Strategy

The Commission adopted the new ETBF Swordfish Harvest Strategy 2020. In making its decision the Commission considered arrange of matters including:  

  • The new harvest strategy meets the requirements of the Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy Policy
  • The harvest strategy has been endorsed by the Tropical Tuna Resource Assessment Group and Tropical Tuna  Management Advisory Committee
  • Industry has endorsed the harvest strategy noting some remaining concerns that the index of abundance (standardised CPUE), might not be able to adequately reflect recent changes in fishing behaviour. However, AFMA Management and TTRAG consider that these concerns have been adequately addressed.
  • The harvest strategy finds a balance between managing the fishery within domestic requirements but also includes provisions to account for what is occurring at the stock level, much of which is outside Australia’s jurisdiction. 
  • The new harvest strategy will be used to inform the swordfish Total Allowable Catch (Commonwealth) for the 2021 ETBF season.

2. Future of AFMAs Electronic Monitoring Program

Electronic Monitoring (EM) is mandatory in a number fisheries and forms a large proportion of the cost recovered budget in the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery, Small Pelagic Fishery and the Gillnet Hook and Trap Fishery. A trial is also under way in the Commonwealth Trawl Sector of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery. EM is primarily used to verify fishers’ logbook information and monitoring protected species interactions.

Commissioners noted that AFMA is undertaking a review of the program, including consultation with internal and external stakeholders. The outcome of this process will inform the future direction of AFMAs EM program.

The Commission provided some useful thoughts and guidance for what AFMAs future of the EM program might look like and issues that could be considered as a part of the review.

3. AFMA Data Program

The Commission received presentations on the recently completed e-Fish project and the need for an AFMA data strategy.  The purpose of the e-Fish project was to design a scalable solution to link and share fisheries data that could be used by any agency to better inform decision making. The project showed a clear benefit to AFMA and other stakeholders of moving to an integrated system. An AFMA wide Data Strategy is now under development to ensure that AFMA can continue to meets its objectives with respect to data. Commissioners welcomed both initiatives and saw them as an exciting opportunity for AFMA to improve efficiency, contribute to stronger decision making at all levels and promote greater transparency than is possible at the moment.

4. Stakeholder Engagement

Commissioners progressed consideration of the development of a broader stakeholder engagement strategy, agreeing on the need to clearly articulate the purpose of such a strategy as a first step but acknowledging that it is broader than a communication strategy. Further discussion is scheduled for its November meeting.

The Commission also discussed capitalising on the opportunity provided by the virtual environment to directly engage with stakeholders and agreed to resume extending invitations to stakeholders to present at subsequent meetings.   

5. Other matters

The Commission acknowledged the impact COVID-19 continues to have on AFMA and the fishing industry but remained confident and complimentary of AFMAs effort to deliver outcomes across Commonwealth fisheries under the circumstances. Helen Kroger

Chairman