14 May 2013

No Australian Sea Lion deaths have been reported in any Commonwealth fishery since March 2012.

This is confirmed by monitoring on every gillnet trip, either with video cameras or an Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) observer on board and is an excellent result for sea lion populations and the fishing industry.

AFMA acted quickly to close an area of 6,300 square kilometers in 2010 after a scientific study indicated there were  unreported sea lion deaths  occurring each year due to gillnet fishing.

AFMA implemented more extensive closures following sea lion interactions in the shark fishery in early 2012, taking the total area closed to fishing to approximately 102,000 square kilometers, an area much bigger than the size of Tasmania. There have been no reported deaths since that time.

AFMA’s quick intervention and the cooperation of the fishing industry, has provided urgent and comprehensive protection for sea lions, with marine mammal expert Associate Professor Simon Goldsworthy saying that this sets a benchmark for other fisheries.

“Globally, this is now seen as an important case study,” Associate Professor Goldsworthy said.

AFMA acting CEO, Mr Peter Venslovas, said that this confirmed that consumers could be confident in buying Australian seafood knowing that effective management arrangements are in place to protect sea lions.

“AFMA works very hard to limit the impact of fishing operations on the environment but still enable fishing business to be viable and to meet the needs of Australian seafood consumers” he said.

AFMA has implemented ongoing gillnet fishing closures around all sea lion breeding colonies and has added two additional closures around newly identified breeding colonies from 1 May 2013. These closures form part of the Australian Sea Lion Management Strategy developed by marine mammal experts, industry and conservation representatives and government officials.

Shark fishers have also been participating in a trial using hooks instead of gillnets as these pose much less risk to sea lions.  The trial will be completed later in 2013.

The fishing industry is working with AFMA on future management arrangements for the fishery to further reduce the impact of fishing on marine mammals.

Electronic monitoring is sometimes used in place of observers to record catch data, including interaction with protected species. AFMA is bound by certain obligations to protect the identity of fishers and commercially sensitive information and must observe these requirements when determining what information can be released.

Contact: Rebecca Atkins, AFMA Communications 02 6225 5541 or 0447 942 840 or rebecca.atkins@afma.gov.au.