Danish Seine net

PART 3

Introduction

AFMA managed fisheries

Jointly managed fisheries

High seas permits

Non-operational fisheries

Introduction

Summary infographic

In 2017–18 Commonwealth fisheries continued to be sustainably harvested, providing profits for commercial fishers and fresh seafood for Australians and the world.

For the last five years no stocks managed solely by AFMA have been classified as subject to overfishing (see Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences Fishery Status Reports 2018). Despite this very good outcome, we need to regularly assess Commonwealth fish stocks to maintain sustainable catches of key commercial species by adjusting total allowable catches. A small number of stocks still remain classified as overfished (generally reflecting past unsustainable fishing practices). Setting the right management arrangements will enable stock rebuilding to levels where they can be commercially fished once more.

AFMA has been working on two initiatives that seek to better understand why the total allowable catches for some species are not being caught and what the future may hold for Australian fish stocks under future climate scenarios. A workshop with key fishery stakeholders in April 2018 considered causes for undercaught total allowable catches and identified the following as most likely having the greatest impact on declining indicators:

  • undercaught total allowable catches: economic targets cannot be met for every stock in a multispecies fishery, fishers avoiding less profitable stocks and a fully caught total allowable catch for one fish stock preventing the total allowable catches of associated species from being caught, some assessments might be too optimistic
  • declining catch rates: fishing less profitable stocks, increasing areas closed to commercial fishing and climate change
  • lack of recovery: climate change and not having enough data to accurately assess the species to identify recovery.

A second workshop is due to take place in 2018–19.

In response to scientific predictions that climate change is likely to significantly alter the distribution and abundance of fish, AFMA has begun undertaking scenario planning to test our regulatory system against future climate scenarios.

Reflecting our efforts to deliver ecologically sustainable fisheries, protected species interactions remain a focus for AFMA. Work is continuing on mitigation measures for dolphins in the Gillnet, Hook and Trap and Small Pelagic Fishery. Dolphin strategies in both fisheries are currently being reviewed after the first year of operation. AFMA is supporting a project that is investigating the diet of one of Australia’s endemic seabirds, the shy albatross, so we can take the necessary steps to ensure our fishery management does not negatively impact the population. The results of this work will be known in 2019.

The reviews of the Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy Policy and Bycatch Policy are likely to be finalised by the end of 2018. In the meantime, AFMA is already working with its research and development partners to progress several key components including multispecies harvest strategies, cumulative impacts and reducing unwanted bycatch. These projects are expected to commence in 2018–19.

AFMA’s new Ecological Risk Assessment and Ecological Risk Management framework for Commonwealth fisheries is now being implemented with new assessments for the Small Pelagic Fishery, Heard Island and McDonald Islands Fishery and the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery all completed during 2017–18. A further five assessments are underway. These new assessments are generally showing improvements with fewer species at high risk, mainly due to the new framework enabling the resolution of previously “potential high risk species” to either medium/low risk or actual high risk. The identification of this latter group enables AFMA to better direct its limited resources to where they are going to have the greatest beneficial effect. To support the continued refinement of the Ecological Risk Assessment and Ecological Risk Management framework a Steering Committee has been formed under the chair of an AFMA Commissioner.

Following the passing of the Fisheries Legislation Amendment (Representation) Act 2017 in November 2017, AFMA is explicitly required to have regard to accounting for the interests of commercial, recreational and Indigenous fishing sectors in managing Australian fisheries. As a first step in implementing this new requirement, AFMA has reviewed its Management Advisory Committee and Resource Assessment Group policies in preparation for potentially increasing the number of recreational and Indigenous members on relevant bodies.

AFMA has also formalised its Economic Working Group with an AFMA Commissioner chairing. This body is currently examining economic indicators for Commonwealth fisheries and these are expected to be finalised in 2018–19. Alongside this, AFMA has developed a statement regarding how it takes into consideration the social aspects of ecologically sustainable development principles. This initiative is currently subject to public consultation.

AFMA is continuing to pursue co-management opportunities with the Commonwealth fishing industry with the Gillnet, Hook and Trap, South East Trawl and Bass Strait Scallop industries being the focus of attention in 2017–18. Gillnet, Hook and Trap co-management data collection project is expected to start in October 2018 and co-management arrangements between AFMA and South East Trawl and Bass Strait Scallop fisheries anticipated to be agreed in 2018–19. Successful co-management may reduce regulatory burden on fishers, build industry capacity and contribute to efficient and cost-effective management for the fishery.

AFMA began work on a Transhipping Policy and Guidelines to support consistent decision making and create greater certainty for the fishing industry regarding transhipping. Transhipping can improve the economic efficiency and profitability of a fishery in a number of ways including decreasing the time between fish being caught and processed (thereby maintaining product quality) and reducing fuel and travel costs. AFMA commenced a public consultation process on the draft policy and guidelines in June 2018 and will look to finalise the policy and guidelines during 2018–19.

Gross Value of Production

The gross value of production is an indication of the economic value of fisheries. The estimated gross value of production for all Commonwealth fisheries is approximately $380 million for 2017–18.

Performance results discussed in fishery reports

Estimated catch totals for 2017–18

Estimated catch totals are taken from data compiled by AFMA from catch and effort logs and Catch Disposal Records sourced from fishers in Commonwealth managed or jointly managed fisheries for the financial year July 2017 to June 2018.

Performance results

The sources of information presented in the fishery performance results shown are:

  • Economic yield data presented in the reports are based on Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences’ gross value of production data for Commonwealth fisheries and AFMA stock assessments.
  • Data on fishing mortality and biomass are taken from Fishery Status Reports 2018 prepared by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences
List of Fishery Reports
AFMA managed fisheries:

Bass Strait Central Zone Scallop Fishery

Coral Sea Fishery

Northern Prawn Fishery

North West Slope Trawl and Western

Deepwater Trawl Fisheries

Small Pelagic Fishery

Southern and Eastern Scalefish

and Shark Fishery

Southern Squid Jig Fishery

Joint managed fisheries:

Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery

Southern Bluefin Tuna Fishery

Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery

Heard Island and

McDonald Islands Fishery

Macquarie Island Toothfish Fishery

High seas permits
Non-operational fisheries:

Norfolk Island Fishery

Skipjack Tuna Fishery

South Tasman Rise Fishery

Bass Strait Central Zone Scallop Fishery

Estimated Catch

2964 tonnes

Performance results

Performance criteria
(AFMA Corporate Plan 2017–20)
2017–18
Target
2017–18
Actual
Number of fish stocks subject to overfishing (The number of stocks where the level of catches by fishery operators is likely to result in stock becoming overfished)00
The number of stocks that are assessed as overfished and require effective management to return the stock to sustainabilityn/a0
Stock status of target species
Common name (scientific name)Latest available status assessment
20162017
Fishing mortalityBiomassFishing mortalityBiomass
Commercial Scallop (Pecten fumatus)Not subject to overfishingNot overfishedNot subject to overfishingNot overfished

Source: Patterson, H, Larcombe, J, Nicol, S and Curtotti, R 2018. Fishery status reports 2018, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra

Management Plans/Arrangements

The Bass Strait Central Zone Scallop Fishery continues to be managed in accordance with the Bass Strait Central Zone Scallop Fishery Management Plan 2002. The Bass Strait Central Zone Scallop Fishery is managed through open and closed seasons, area closures, catch limits and size limits. Fishers must hold statutory fishing rights to fish in this fishery.

The performance criteria detailed in the fishery management plan were all met in 2017–18.

In 2017–18 AFMA started exploring the potential for co-management arrangements to be developed with the Bass Strait Scallop industry. Under such arrangements, various responsibilities such as season start and end dates could be delegated to an industry body enabling greater flexibility of arrangements and improved government regulation. Consideration of co-management arrangements in the fishery will be pursued during 2018–19.

Analysis of performance

Status of fish stocks

As recruitment and availability of scallops are naturally variable and surveys do not aim to estimate the total biomass of scallops across the whole fishery, commercial scallops are not managed to a specific biomass target. Instead, the operational objectives of the harvest strategy are to:

  • keep stocks at ecologically sustainable levels and, within that context, maximise returns to the Australian community
  • pursue efficient and cost-effective management.

Following a pre-season survey in 2017, a total allowable catch of 3000 tonnes, with the option to increase to a maximum of 4880 tonnes if triggers were met, was set for the season. The catch for the 2017 season was 2964 tonnes (98.8 per cent of the total allowable catch). The 2018 pre-season survey indicates that biomass and bed density are similar to that of the 2017 survey. Good catches are expected to continue.

Economic returns

The Bass Strait Central Zone Scallop Fishery Harvest Strategy focuses on ensuring the sustainability of the stock by protecting areas of spawning biomass each season. This approach allows industry the flexibility to catch scallops from open beds, thereby improving economic returns while ensuring continued ecological sustainability.

Positive trends in the economic outlook for the scallop fishery continued through 2017–18 with good catches and increasing beach prices. The number of vessels operating has remained stable.

Scallop Dredge Devonport

Scallop dredge Devonport

Photo courtesy: Clayton McCloud, AFMA

Coral Sea Fishery

Estimated Catch

70 tonnes

Performance results

Performance criteria
(AFMA Corporate Plan 2017–20)
2017–18
Target
2017–18
Actual
Number of fish stocks subject to overfishing (The number of stocks where the level of catches by fishery operators is likely to result in stock becoming overfished)00
The number of stocks that are assessed as overfished and require effective management to return the stock to sustainabilityn/a0
Stock status of target species
Common name (scientific name)Latest available status assessment
20162017
Fishing mortalityBiomassFishing mortalityBiomass
Sea cucumber sector:
  • Black teatfish (Holothuria whitmael)
  • Prickly redfish (Thelenota ananas)
  • Surf redfish (Actinopyga mauritiana)
Aquarium sector: Multiple species Lobster and Trochus sector:
  • Tropical rock lobster (Panulirus ornatus)
  • possibly other species
Not subject to overfishingNot overfishedNot subject to overfishingNot overfished
Sea cucumber sector:
  • Other sea cucumber species (11 spp.)
Trawl and trap sector:
  • Numerous fish, shark and crustacean species
Not subject to overfishingUncertainNot subject to overfishingUncertain
Sea cucumber sector:
  • White teatfish (Holothuria fuscogilva)
Line and Trap sector:
  • Mixed reef fish and sharks
Not subject to overfishingUncertainUncertainUncertain

Source: Patterson, H, Larcombe, J, Nicol, S and Curtotti, R 2018. Fishery status reports 2018, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra

Management Plans/Arrangements

There is no statutory management plan for the Coral Sea Fishery. The fishery has five sectors:

  • Sea cucumber
  • Aquarium
  • Lobster and trochus
  • Line and trap
  • Trawl and trap.

These are managed through input and output controls including limited entry, catch limits, spatial closures, move-on provisions, size limits and catch and effort triggers that are used to initiate further analysis and assessment. Fishers must hold permits to fish in this fishery. The use of multiple gear types while operating under a line and trap permit was introduced for 2017–18. There were no other changes to management arrangements.

Analysis of performance

As the season runs over a financial year, the most recent Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences status report analyses catch from the 2016–17 fishing season. Catch of white teatfish remains well below the historical peak of 19.7 tonnes in 1999–2000. However, biomass estimates for white teatfish remain uncertain. Because of this, an increase in the catch of white teatfish from 0 tonnes in 2015–16 to 2.4 tonnes in 2016–17 resulted in an ‘uncertain’ status with regards to fishing mortality in the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences Fishery Status Reports 2018.

Total catch in the line and trap sector was within Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences estimates for combined species maximum sustainable yield. However because of uncertainty around species-specific maximum sustainable yield estimates and the proportionate increase in catch for some species, namely flame snapper, fishing mortality in the line and trap sector during the 2016–17 fishing season was classified as uncertain in the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences Fishery Status Report 2018.

To ensure the ecological sustainability of the fishery, AFMA continues to monitor catches against triggers in the Coral Sea Fishery. Trigger limits in the Line, Trap and Trawl sector as well as the Aquarium sector are currently being reviewed in consultation with industry, scientific experts and the Department of Environment and Energy. AFMA expects to implement a revised set of triggers through updated harvest strategies in 2018–19. Until then, catches will continue to be monitored and reported against existing triggers.

Northern Prawn Fishery

Estimated catch

6537 tonnes

Performance results

Performance criteria
(AFMA Corporate Plan 2017–20)
2017–18
Target
2017–18
Actual
For economically significant stocks managed solely by AFMA
a.Number of key commercial stocks with harvest strategy targets based on maximum economic yield or the best available proxy33
b.improve the number of stocks in (a) assessed as being on target11
c.for those stocks in (a) that are assessed as not on target, improve the number that are heading towards their target reference point.01
Number of fish stocks subject to overfishing14 (The number of stocks where the level of catches by fishery operators is likely to result in stock becoming overfished)00
The number of stocks that are assessed as overfished and require effective management to return the stock to sustainability00
Stock status of target species
Common name (scientific name)Latest available status assessment
20162017
Fishing mortalityBiomassFishing mortalityBiomass
White banana prawn (Fenneropenaeus merguiensis) Brown tiger prawn (Penaeus esculentus) Grooved tiger prawn (Penaeus semisulcatus) Blue endeavour prawn (Metapenaeus endeavouri)Not subject to overfishingNot overfishedNot subject to overfishingNot overfished
Red endeavour prawn (Metapenaeus ensis)UncertainUncertainUncertainUncertain
Red-legged banana prawn (Fenneropenaeus indicus)Not subject to overfishingUncertainUncertainNot overfished

Source: Patterson, H, Larcombe, J, Nicol, S and Curtotti, R 2018. Fishery status reports 2018, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra

13 Where higher and lower value species are caught together, different targets for the lower value species may maximise net economic returns over all.

14 In AFMA managed fisheries, not including jointly and internationally managed fisheries.

Management Plans/Arrangements

The principal legal framework for the management of the fishery is specified in the Northern Prawn Fishery Management Plan 1995. The Northern Prawn Fishery is a multi-species fishery managed through input controls including limited entry, season length and individual transferable effort units – based on fishing gear size. The fishery relies on: a size and sex-based stock assessment model for brown and grooved tiger prawns; a biomass dynamic assessment model for blue endeavour prawns; and a quarterly age based biological stock assessment model for red-legged banana prawns. There is currently no formal stock assessment for the white banana prawn fishery as the species is short lived and its abundance is driven by environmental factors, principally rainfall. The operational objective of the white banana prawn harvest strategy is to allow sufficient escape to ensure an adequate spawning biomass of banana prawns (based on historical data), and to achieve the maximum economic yield from the fishery.

Analysis of performance

Performance – status of fish stocks

Tropical prawn species are very short-lived animals and their stocks are prone to fluctuating widely in size with strong dependence on prevailing environmental conditions. For this reason, the assessment of prawn stock health is based on a five-year moving average of spawning stock abundance relative to a spawning stock abundance that produces maximum sustainable yield, which should not fall below the limit reference point of 50 per cent. The 2017 assessment indicates the five-year average for both grooved and brown tiger prawn spawning stocks are at 135 per cent and 131 per cent respectively. The management objective of maximising economic yield is also assessed against an annual target reference point, which is a spawning stock size equal to that which is estimated to produce maximum economic yield. Both grooved and brown tiger prawn stocks were assessed as being below target in 2017 at 63 per cent and 75 per cent, respectively. This is consistent with the last two of five years of recruitment measured through annual independent surveys being low compared to the previous three years. Catch in 2017 was around 50 per cent of catch in 2016. Catch rate triggers monitored throughout the season resulted in the fishery being closed 10 days before the scheduled season closing date. All 52 boat statutory fishing rights were utilised during the 2017 tiger prawn season.

As with the tiger prawn fishery, all 52 boat statutory fishing rights were utilised during the 2018 banana prawn season (1 April to 15 June 2018). Total catch in the 2018 banana fishery was lower than 2017, decreasing by around 300 tonnes to 4400 tonnes. This level of catch is consistent with previous 10-year averages. Changes in environmental conditions, such as rainfall, normally causes fluctuations in year to year stock size (and therefore catch) of banana prawns.

During 2017, fishing catch and effort in the red-legged banana prawn fishery was considerably higher than the previous two years with a reported total catch of 365 tonnes across a total of 548 boat days. Effort in 2017 was similar to the 2014 effort level although the catch per unit effort was substantially less at only 44 per cent of the 2014 catch per unit effort. The latest catch per unit effort data suggests a decline in the spawning biomass. The most plausible reason for this was the combined impact of fishing pressure and the major environmental anomalies, related to El Niño events and below average rainfall, observed over the last few years. The harvest strategy is being reviewed to explore options that allow catch and effort levels to be progressively adjusted to levels that achieve maximum economic yield.

Performance – status of bycatch

The reduction of bycatch in the Northern Prawn Fishery has remained the focus for industry and AFMA during 2017–18 with significant progress being made toward achieving the objectives of the Northern Prawn Fishery Bycatch Strategy 2015–18. Further industry trials of bycatch reduction devices were conducted in 2018 with results showing improved reduction in bycatch over the previously trialled Kon’s Covered Fisheye bycatch reduction devices. One new fisheye device will be added to the list of approved bycatch reduction devices for use in the 2018 tiger prawn season. Industry will continue to trial refinements of the devices throughout 2018 to achieve at least the 30 per cent bycatch reduction target in 2019.

Performance – economic returns

In the 2017 calendar year the Northern Prawn Fishery remained the highest valued Commonwealth managed fishery. The gross value of production for the Northern Prawn Fishery is estimated to be $118.1 million. The fishery is broadly (across the two key species groups – banana and tiger prawns) managed to pursue maximum economic yield. Overall fishing effort limits (fishing gear and season lengths) are set on the result of outputs from the bio-economic model for tiger and endeavour prawns. Additionally, season length is further controlled through catch-rate triggers in the banana and tiger prawn sub-fisheries to account for annual variability in these stocks and assist in maximising overall economic performance. Recent assessments of economic performance by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences indicates that net economic returns have improved from around $5 million in 2012–13 to over $30 million in 2016–17.

Innovations

The Northern Prawn Fishery industry works closely with AFMA and cooperates through co-management arrangements to assist us with a range of key management functions. For example, the industry manages the collection and provision of catch and effort information, the quality control of the information and its dissemination to all users.

As part of these co-management arrangements, the industry undertakes additional crew-based observations of interactions with protected species and provides these records directly to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation for analysis as part of a Fisheries Research and Development Corporation project ‘monitoring interactions with bycatch species using crew-member observer data collected in the Northern Prawn Fishery: 2017–19’. The industry also assists in facilitating the supply of a trawl vessel and crew for Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation scientists to undertake the annual, independent scientific monitoring program. The data collected in this program is an integral part of the Northern Prawn Fishery stock assessment. These co-management measures add value to the management of the fishery and are cost effective for industry and AFMA. They increase stewardship outcomes in the fishery and provide valuable information which will enhance future management decisions.

There has also been some progress by the Northern Prawn Fishery Industry in the development of indicators that can be used to monitor trends in fishing capacity in the Northern Prawn Fishery relative to the economic and biological performance of the fishery. This is to ensure that steps can be taken in good time to keep the fishery profitable through autonomous adjustments in fleet structure by industry.

External reviews

The Northern Prawn Fishery remains accredited under Part 13 and is approved as a wildlife trade operation under Part 13A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The fishery is also certified as a sustainable fishery by the Marine Stewardship Council, which is an independent global certifier of sustainable fisheries. In January 2018, the fishery was granted recertification after an independent assessment, reaffirming the industry’s commitment to the world’s best standard on sustainability and management.

pre-season inspection Northern Prawn Fishery

Pre-season inspection Northern Prawn Fishery Photo courtesy: Alan Specketer, AFMA

North West Slope Trawl and Western Deepwater Trawl Fisheries

Estimated catch

Confidential

Performance results

Performance criteria (AFMA Corporate Plan 2017–20)2016–17 Target2016–17 Actual
Number of fish stocks subject to overfishing (The number of stocks where the level of catches by fishery operators is likely to result in stock becoming overfished)00
The number of stocks that are assessed as overfished and require effective management to return the stock to sustainability00
Stock status of target species
Common name (scientific name)Latest available status assessment
20162017
Fishing mortalityBiomassFishing mortalityBiomass
North West Slope Trawl Fishery
Scampi (Metanephrops australiensis, M. boschmai, M. velutinus)Not subject to overfishing;Not overfishedNot subject to overfishingNot overfished
Western Deepwater Trawl Fishery
Bugs (Ibacus spp.)
Ruby snapper (Etelis carbunculus)
Not subject to overfishingUncertainNot subject to overfishingUncertain

Source: Patterson, H, Larcombe, J, Nicol, S and Curtotti, R 2018. Fishery status reports 2018, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra

Management Plans/Arrangements

There is no formal management plan for the North West Slope Trawl or the Western Deepwater Trawl Fisheries. The fisheries are managed by granting a limited number of fishing permits consistent with the provisions provided by the Fisheries Management Act 1991 and the Fisheries Management Regulations 1992.

There are 11 permits allowed in the Western Deepwater Trawl Fishery and seven in the North West Slope Trawl Fishery, all of which are valid for a maximum of five years. Fishers must adhere to a number of permit conditions aimed at protecting stocks and ecosystems. The permit conditions include specific gear limitations to reduce bycatch and move on provisions if fishing gear interacts with sponges or corals.

Analysis of performance

During the past five years, North West Slope Trawl and Western Deepwater Trawl Fisheries have experienced low and stable levels of fishing effort. This trend continued in the 2017–18 season. The limited levels of effort are due in part to permit holders accessing more lucrative fisheries that are adjacent to the North West Slope Trawl or Western Deepwater Trawl Fishery areas.

In December 2017 the North West Slope Trawl and the Western Deepwater Trawl Fisheries were declared as approved Wildlife Trade Operations for three years until December 2020. Planned updates to the harvest strategies for North West Slope Trawl and Western Deepwater Trawl Fisheries were not carried out over the course of 2017–18. These updates are planned to take place during 2019–20, when the revised Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy Policy and Guidelines are finalised and following a review of the Ecological Risk Assessment and Ecological Risk Management framework for the fisheries. Under the existing harvest strategy, analysis of catch and effort data is conducted annually to assist in the management of the fisheries.

Small Pelagic Fishery

Estimated Catch

8150 tonnes

Performance results

Performance criteria
(AFMA Corporate Plan 2017–20)
2017–18
Target
2017–18
Actual
Number of fish stocks subject to overfishing15 (The number of stocks where the level of catches by fishery operators is likely to result in stock becoming overfished)00
The number of stocks that are assessed as overfished and require effective management to return the stock to sustainabilityn/a0
Stock status of target species
Common name (scientific name)Latest available status assessment
20162017
Fishing mortalityBiomassFishing mortalityBiomass
Australian sardine (Sardinops sagax) Blue mackerel, east/west (Scomber australasicus) Jack mackerel, east/west (Trachurus declivis) Redbait, east/west (Emmelichthys nitidus)Not subject to overfishingNot overfishedNot subject to overfishingNot overfished

Source: Patterson, H, Larcombe, J, Nicol, S and Curtotti, R 2018. Fishery status reports 2018, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra

15 In AFMA managed fisheries, not including jointly and internationally managed fisheries.

Management Plans/Arrangements

Management Plan

The Small Pelagic Fishery is managed in accordance with the Small Pelagic Fishery Management Plan 2009. The management arrangements include the allocation of statutory fishing rights, area based catch limits and rules governing gear that may be used. There were no changes to the Small Pelagic Fishery Management Plan 2009 in 2017–18. The performance criteria detailed in the fishery management plan were all met in 2017–18.

Analysis of performance

Harvest Strategy

The Small Pelagic Fishery Harvest Strategy was updated in 2017. As a result, all aspects of the harvest strategy have now been quantitatively tested and the reference points and harvest rates have been found to meet the biological, ecological and economic requirements of the fishery.

The harvest strategy uses Daily Egg Production Method surveys to provide an estimated biomass for each of the four Small Pelagic Fishery stocks. These surveys along with an annual review of catch and effort data are used to inform the catch limits set for commercially caught species in the fishery.

Performance – sustainability and economic returns

The results of the 2016–17 survey of jack mackerel west were considered by the Small Pelagic Fishery Scientific Panel and South East Management Advisory Committee during 2017–18. As a result, this stock moved into the highest tier of the harvest strategy with an updated biomass estimate providing an increased total allowable catch for the 2018–19 season.

A survey was undertaken for the redbait west stock in 2017–18 with the results expected to become available in 2018–19. The survey for redbait west means that all stocks have now had at least one survey completed, increasing our understanding of the fishery.

In 2017–18, AFMA undertook a review of the spatial management arrangements in the Small Pelagic Fishery. The review considered fishery data, advice from the Small Pelagic Fishery Scientific Panel, Small Pelagic Fishery Stakeholder Forum and South East Management Advisory Committee, concluding that the risk of localised depletion in the Small Pelagic Fishery remains low and is best managed through the conservative catch limits set under the harvest strategy. Although the risk of localised depletion is low, based on the best available science, spatial management has been maintained which may further reduce the risk by restricting catches in localised areas of the fishery over time. As such, vessels have a catch limit of 2000 tonnes from each localised area over a 30 day period, which if reached, requires them to move outside that area to keep fishing.

During 2017–18 AFMA approved the use of jigging and minor line (rod and reel) fishing methods in the fishery. The new methods are conditional on fishers meeting protected species management rules, monitoring and reporting requirements. Within this framework, approving these methods provides fishers with the flexibility to decide how best to fish their quota.

Despite such management efforts by AFMA, the total allowable catches for 2017–18 for the seven target stocks were undercaught due to limited fishing capacity and effort.

Performance – status of bycatch

During 2017–18 AFMA started a review of the Small Pelagic Fishery Dolphin Mitigation Strategy. The strategy aims to minimise dolphin interactions in the trawl sector of the fishery by creating incentives for fishers to innovate and adopt best practice to minimise interactions. The results of the review are expected to be available in late 2018.

The Ecological Risk Assessment for the mid-water trawl sector of the Small Pelagic Fishery was updated during 2017–18 and is expected to be published in 2018. The report by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation applied the newly revised methodology for conducting ecological risk assessments for Commonwealth fisheries. The results of this assessment will be used to inform the management of bycatch in this fishery.

External reviews

On 13 September 2016 the Senate agreed to re-adopt the Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communication’s inquiry into: the Environmental, social and economic impacts of large-capacity fishing vessels commonly known as ‘super trawlers’ operating in Australia’s Marine Jurisdiction. The Committee released its findings and final recommendations in November 2016, following which the Government tabled a response to the Inquiry on 6 December 2017. AFMA will take guidance from the outcomes of these considerations in the management of all Commonwealth fisheries, including the Small Pelagic Fishery.

Consultation

During 2017–18 AFMA undertook a review of the Scientific Panel and Stakeholder Forum model which was trialled in place of a Small Pelagic Fishery Resource Assessment Group, as a way of obtaining scientific and economic advice in relation to this fishery. As a part of the review, AFMA consulted with the Small Pelagic Fishery Scientific Panel, South East Management Advisory Committee and the general public. The Commission considered the experience of the trial and feedback received through the consultation process and concluded that there was a need to:

  • maintain the focus of Resource Assessment Groups on the scientific, economic and other expert advice AFMA requires
  • retain the benefits from a broader forum to engage interested stakeholders.

The Commission also considered that these outcomes were relevant to all AFMA Resource Assessment Groups and consequently, AFMA will be consulting stakeholders during 2018–19 on proposed amendments to relevant policies regarding these outcomes.

AFMA will transition the Small Pelagic Fishery to a Resource Assessment Group structure with a Stakeholder Forum by June 2019 with the current Scientific Panel and Stakeholder Forum model in place until that time.

Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery

Estimated Catch

15 929 tonnes

SESSF Sectors:

  • South East Trawl Sector
  • East Coast Deepwater Trawl Sector
  • Scalefish Hook Sector*
  • Shark Hook Sector*
  • Shark Gillnet Sector*
  • Trap Sector*
  • Great Australian Bight Trawl Sector

*collectively called the Gillnet Hook and Trap sector

Performance results

Performance criteria (AFMA Corporate Plan 2017–20)2017–18
Target
2017–18
Actual
For economically significant stocks managed solely by AFMA:
a.Number of key commercial stocks with harvest strategy targets based on maximum economic yield or the best available proxy161011
b.improve the number of stocks in (a) assessed as being on target33
c.for those stocks in (a) that are assessed as not on target, improve the number that are heading towards their target reference point.45
Number of fish stocks subject to overfishing (The number of stocks where the level of catches by fishery operators is likely to result in stock becoming overfished)1700
The number of stocks that are assessed as overfished and require effective management to return the stock to sustainability66

16 Where higher and lower value species are caught together, different targets for the lower value species may maximise net economic returns over all.

17 In AFMA managed fisheries, not including jointly and internationally managed fisheries

Stock status of target species
Common name (scientific name)Latest available status assessment
20162017
Fishing mortalityBiomassFishing mortalityBiomass
Commonwealth Trawl and Scalefish Hook sectors
Blue grenadier (Macruronus novaezelandiae)
Eastern school whiting (Sillago flindersi)
Gemfish, western zone (Rexea solandri)
Jackass morwong (Nemadactylus macropterus)
Pink ling (Genypterus blacodes)
Ribaldo (Mora moro)
Not subject to overfishingNot overfishedNot subject to overfishingNot overfished
Commonwealth Trawl Sector
Flathead (Neoplatycephalus richardsoni and 4 other spp.)
John dory (Zeus faber)
Mirror dory (Zenopsis nebulosa)
Ocean jacket, eastern zone (Nelusetta ayraud)
Orange roughy, Cascade Plateau (Hoplostethus atlanticus)
Orange roughy, eastern zone (Hoplostethus atlanticus)
Oreodory – smooth: (Pseudocyttus maculatus) Cascade Plateau and non-Cascade Plateau
Royal red prawn (Haliporoides sibogae)
Silver trevally (Pseudocaranx georgianus)
Silver warehou (Seriolella punctata)
Not subject to overfishingNot overfishedNot subject to overfishingNot overfished
East Coast Deepwater Trawl Sector
Alfonsino (Beryx splendens)Not subject to overfishingNot overfishedNot subject to overfishingNot overfished
Great Australian Bight Trawl Sector
Bight redfish (Centroberyx gerrardi)
Deepwater flathead (Neoplatycephalus conatus)
Ocean jacket, west (Nelusetta ayraud)
Not subject to overfishingNot overfishedNot subject to overfishingNot overfished
Shark Gillnet and Shark Hook sectors
Gummy shark (Mustelus antarcticus) Sawshark (Pristiophorus cirratus, P. nudipinnis)
Elephantfish (Callorhinchus milii)
Not subject to overfishingNot overfishedNot subject to overfishingNot overfished
Commonwealth Trawl and Scalefish Hook sectors
Blue-eye trevalla (Hyperoglyphe antarctica)Not subject to overfishingNot overfishedNot subject to overfishingNot overfished
Ocean perch (Helicolenus barathri, H. percoides)UncertainNot overfishedUncertainNot overfished
Commonwealth Trawl Sector
Orange roughy, southern & western zones (Hoplostethus atlanticus)Not subject to overfishingOverfishedNot subject to overfishingOverfished
Redfish, eastern (Centroberyx affinis)UncertainOverfishedUncertainOverfished
Gemfish, eastern zone (Rexea solandri)UncertainOverfishedUncertainOverfished
Blue warehou (Seriolella brama)
Gulper sharks (Centrophorus harrissoni, C. moluccensis, C. zeehaani)
UncertainOverfishedUncertainOverfished
Shark Gillnet and Shark Hook sectors
School shark (Galeorhinus galeus)UncertainOverfishedUncertainOverfished
Commonwealth Trawl Sector
Deepwater sharks, eastern & western zones (18spp.)Not subject to overfishingUncertainNot subject to overfishingUncertain
Great Australian Bight Trawl Sector
Orange roughy (Hoplostethus atlanticus)Not subject to overfishingUncertainNot subject to overfishingUncertain
Commonwealth Trawl Sector
Oreodory – other: 3spp. (Neocyttus rhomboidalis, Allocyttus niger, A. verrucosus)Not subject to overfishingNot overfishedNot subject to overfishingUncertain

Management Plans/Arrangements

The principal legal framework for the management of the fishery is specified in the Fisheries Management Act 1991 and the Fisheries Management Regulations 1992. The Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery has seven sectors that are managed through input and output controls including limited entry, catch limits, spatial closures, size limits and catch-and-effort triggers that are used to initiate further analysis and assessment. Fishers must hold a valid fishing concession to fish in this fishery.

The fishery continues to be managed in accordance with the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery Management Plan 2003. The management arrangements include the allocation of statutory fishing rights, catch limits and rules governing gear that may be used.

The performance criteria in the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery Management Plan 2003 were met noting that, where reference points have been determined for fish stocks relevant to the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery, all stocks are either above the target reference point or have management arrangements in place to return stocks to target levels.

Offshore Constitutional Settlement with New South Wales

AFMA and NSW Department of Primary Industries are working together to transition the NSW Southern Fish Trawl Fishery into the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery. The two fisheries have many fish stocks in common and their consolidation will mean that these fish stocks will only be managed by one jurisdiction (AFMA), removing duplication and red tape for operators. Improved sustainability outcomes are also expected given many fish stocks straddle both jurisdictions.

If an Offshore Constitutional Settlement arrangement is agreed between the NSW and Commonwealth fisheries ministers, it is anticipated that fishers will begin operating in the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery on 1 May 2019.

Analysis of performance

Performance – status of fish stocks

All quota species in the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery are managed to a biological target reference point, or a proxy thereof, based on either maximum economic yield or maximum sustainable yield.

During 2017–18, the previously overfished stock of orange roughy east was assessed. The stock assessment, which incorporates an acoustic survey of spawning aggregations, showed continued rebuilding providing for a higher total allowable catch in the 2018–19 season.

Performance – economic returns

For the purposes of reporting economic key performance indicators, AFMA considers its key commercial stocks as the top 30 by value. In 2017–18, 12 of the top 30 species were Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery quota species, all of which have biological targets based on either maximum economic yield or maximum sustainable yield. The economic performance of those species is measured based on the five year average stock biomass relevant to the maximum economic yield target. Three of those species, deepwater flathead, eastern school whiting and tiger flathead are assessed as being ‘on target’ or within 20 per cent of their target biomass on average over the past five years. Three stocks, while above their target biomass, are considered underutilised – bight redfish, blue grenadier and pink ling west. Three stocks – blue-eye trevalla, orange roughy east and pink ling east – while between the limit reference point and target reference point, are considered over utilised. However they are assessed as ‘heading towards the target’ at a rate that is consistent with the Commonwealth Harvest Strategy Policy 2007. School shark is on a recovery program. A new assessment using the close kin markrecapture method as an indicator of abundance is due to be completed by late 2018.

Furthermore, several total allowable catches for species in the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery remain significantly undercaught. During 2017–18, a research project investigated reasons for declining indicators and undercaught total allowable catches in the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery. A stakeholder workshop was held in April 2018 to analyse indicators and prioritise further action. Possible next steps include integrating additional information into stock assessments such as climate, fishing power and economic information; assessing ‘dollar per unit of effort’; and considering an alternative harvest strategy. A follow up workshop is scheduled for late 2018. The project report is expected to be published during 2018.

AFMA anticipates that the outcomes of this project along with others looking at monitoring and assessment options will result in revisions to the fishery harvest strategy.

Performance – reliability of information

Vessel specific discard reporting performance of Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery vessels continued to be monitored in 2017–18 through comparison of logbook reported discards against electronic monitoring reviews or estimated discards from the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery Integrated Scientific Monitoring Program. While reporting by fishers is improving across the board, it is better for quota species than bycatch species. Improving discard reporting continues to be a priority for AFMA.

Performance – status of bycatch

The Gillnet Dolphin Mitigation Strategy had its first full year of operation in 2017–18 to minimise dolphin interactions with gillnets in the shark gillnet sector. The strategy adopts an individual responsibility approach to create incentives for fishers to innovate and adopt best practices. For each dolphin interaction there is an associated management response that escalates to the point where an individual fisher cannot continue fishing with gillnets in the fishery. Following dolphin interactions, a number of boats were required to return to port for AFMA inspection. However, while several boats exceeded the performance criteria in one of the review periods, no fishers were excluded from fishing using gillnets in the fishery because they did not exceed the criteria over consecutive periods.

External reviews

There were 21 recommendation across four monitoring and assessment processes made by the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery Strategic Monitoring and Assessment Review Project: data collection and monitoring; data documentation, handling and reporting; assessments; data analysis and reporting; outsourcing and marketing. Some of the work required to implement these recommendations is underway, with further research proposed to investigate a revised harvest strategy and a workshop scheduled for February 2019 to consider data needs for the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery and the most cost-effective means of collecting it.

Pre-season inspection Northern Prawn Fishery

Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery trawl vessel baffler – learning and development Photo courtesy: Dylan Maskey, AFMA

FEATURE STORY
Electronic logbooks (E-logs) introduced to improve data quality and cost effectiveness

In October 2017, AFMA approved the transition to mandatory e-logs for Commonwealth fishers using trawl, gillnet and line fishing methods who fish for 50 days per fishing season or more, or have an electronic monitoring system installed. This requirement will apply to all Commonwealth fisheries, excluding Antarctic fisheries where alternate electronic reporting arrangements are already in place. A staged approach to the e-log roll-out has been undertaken, with all Commonwealth fisheries to come on board by 1 January 2019.

Most Commonwealth fishers are currently using paper logbooks. E-logs are an electronic alternative to submitting these traditional paper logbooks that allow fishers to enter and submit their catch information on the boat in real time through a computer program.

Currently the South East Trawl and Great Australian Bight Trawl sectors have been transitioned to compulsory electronic reporting, with requirements in place from 1 May 2018 and 1 July 2018 respectively. The Northern Prawn fishery has been reporting via e-logs for many years, with only six operators currently remaining on paper.

E-logs provide numerous benefits over the use of paper for the collection of catch and effort data. One of the main benefits of e-logs is its ability to collect data in near-real time in a digital format providing more timely data to managers allowing for more responsive decision making. This capability will likely be fundamental to the cost effective operation of future traceability schemes that may present themselves to the fishing industry.

For full time boats, e-logs are more cost effective than their paper logbook equivalent. Paper logbooks require manual entry into AFMA’s database which is charged back to operators on a fee for service basis. So using e-logs offers a direct saving to industry while removing the need to mail in logbooks.

As the e-logs software is on-board the vessel, the use of e-logs provides future scope for integration with other on-board systems such as Vessel Monitoring Systems and electronic monitoring, as well as fleet management capabilities for operators.

Southern Squid Jig Fishery

Estimated catch

817 tonnes

Performance results

Performance criteria (AFMA Corporate Plan 2017–20)2017–18
Target
2017–18
Actual
Number of fish stocks subject to overfishing (The number of stocks where the level of catches by fishery operators is likely to result in stock becoming overfished)00
The number of stocks that are assessed as overfished and require effective management to return the stock to sustainabilityn/a0
Stock status of target species
Common name (scientific name)Latest available status assessment
20162017
Fishing mortalityBiomassFishing mortalityBiomass
Gould’s squid (Nototodarus gouldi)Not subject to overfishingNot overfishedNot subject to overfishingNot overfished

Source: Patterson, H, Larcombe, J, Nicol, S and Curtotti, R 2018. Fishery status reports 2018, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra

Management Plans/Arrangements

The Southern Squid Jig Fishery is managed in accordance with the Southern Squid Jig Fishery Management Plan 2005 and the Arrow Squid Fishery Harvest Strategy. The management arrangements include regulating the type and amount of fishing gear able to be used. There were no changes to the Southern Squid Jig Fishery Management Plan 2005 in 2017–18.

Analysis of performance

Gould’s squid (also known as arrow squid) is a highly productive and relatively short lived species. It is not managed to a target reference point; the harvest strategy is based on a series of catch and effort triggers which, if reached, will trigger further analyses and management responses.

Effort and catch in the Southern Squid Jig Fishery continues to vary between seasons and has been relatively low in recent years but increased to 817 tonnes during 2017–18. This catch level was still below the initial 3000 trigger in the harvest strategy and has not resulted in further analyses and management responses being triggered.

In 2016–17, a research project on ‘Improving the location and targeting of economically viable aggregations of squid available to the squid jigging method and the fleet’s ability to catch squid’ was undertaken. The results of this project are expected to be available in late 2018, and it is hoped that it will result in more profitable fishing, more consistent supply (to both domestic and overseas markets) and new fishers entering the underexploited squid fishery.

Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery

Estimated Catch

5105 tonnes

Performance results

Performance criteria (AFMA Corporate Plan 2017–20)2017–18
Target
2017–18
Actual
For economically significant stocks managed solely by AFMA:
a.number of key commercial stocks with harvest strategy targets based on maximum economic yield or the best available proxy1822
b.improve the number of stocks in (a) assessed as being on target11
c.for those stocks in (a) that are assessed as not on target, improve the number that are heading towards their target reference point11
Number of fish stocks subject to overfishing (The number of stocks where the level of catches by fishery operators is likely to result in stock becoming overfished)00
The number of stocks that are assessed as overfished and require effective management to return the stock to sustainability00
Stock status of target species
Common name (scientific name)Latest available status assessment
20162017
Fishing mortalityBiomassFishing mortalityBiomass
Striped marlin (Kajikia audax)
Albacore (Thunnus alalunga)
Yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares)
Not subject to overfishingNot overfishedNot subject to overfishingNot overfished
Bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus)Subject to overfishingOverfishedNot subject to overfishingNot overfished
Swordfish (Xiphias gladius)UncertainNot overfishedNot subject to overfishingNot overfished

Source: Patterson, H, Larcombe, J, Nicol, S and Curtotti, R 2018. Fishery status reports 2018, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra

18 Where higher and lower value species are caught together, different targets for the lower value species may maximise net economic returns over all.

Management Plans/Arrangements

The fishery continues to be managed in accordance with the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery Management Plan 2010, and conservation and management measures mandated by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission of which Australia is a member.

The performance criteria detailed in the fishery management plan were all met in 2017–18.

Analysis of performance

Status of stocks

Overall, Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery catches of key commercial species were similar in the 2017–18 season relative to the previous season, with reduced catches of bigeye tuna and albacore tuna offset by larger catches of swordfish and yellowfin tuna. A high proportion of the total allowable commercial catches were caught for yellowfin tuna, swordfish and striped marlin but less than half the total allowable commercial catches set for albacore tuna and bigeye tuna were caught. The availability of these species to the fishery varies between years.

There are currently two major research projects underway in the fishery. The first aims to use genetic information to assess connectivity between target species in the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery and the broader Pacific Ocean. The second project aims to investigate oceanographic impacts on the fishery to better understand inter-annual variations in catches, interactions between fishery sectors, connectivity and longer term potential climate change impacts. Domestically, the total allowable commercial catches of all the key commercial species are currently considered to be appropriate and of no concern to the status of these regional stocks. A recent downturn in broadbill swordfish catch rates resulted in a reduction in the total allowable commercial catch for the 2017–18 season and the current season.

The Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery Harvest Strategy for swordfish has undergone a comprehensive review over the past 18 months. AFMA will be implementing recommendations from the review and developing a new harvest strategy in the coming 12–18 months. An interim total allowable commercial catch advice process is being developed to inform the 2019 season total allowable commercial catch decisions.

The Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery is part of the broader Western and Central Pacific tuna fishery managed under the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. The most recent Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission assessments for each of the five target stocks indicate that none of these stocks are overfished or subject to overfishing.

Fishery management arrangements

Since July 2015 all boats fishing more than 30 days a year in the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery have been required to have a system of cameras and sensors installed to monitor all fishing operations. Footage is recorded when fishing operations are occurring to verify the logbook records. All fishing operations on full time boats are now monitored, with 10 per cent of all longline shots (minimum of one shot per boat, per month) reviewed and compared to the logbook reports. Regular feedback reports are provided back to Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery operators to inform them of their reporting performance. Since the implementation of e-monitoring, analyses conducted by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences has indicated an improvement in logbook reporting. The improved logbook reporting has enabled AFMA to make better risk assessments and better focus resources to minimise the impact of fishing on the marine environment.

Between May and November each year, AFMA also implements a southern bluefin tuna zone in the fishery to help ensure that any southern bluefin tuna caught is covered by quota and minimise discarding. To enter the zone, Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery operators are required to hold a minimum amount of southern bluefin tuna quota and maintain an operational electronic monitoring system on board. The southern bluefin tuna zone location is reviewed weekly using sea surface temperature maps and industry catch information.

In 2017–18 AFMA completed its review of the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery Harvest Strategy, completed an ecological risk assessment for the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery longline fishery and is progressing the development of an integrated Fisheries Management Strategy that will combine existing fishery strategies and action plans into a single strategy to operationalise the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery Management Plan 2010.

In relation to protected species, an increase in seabird interactions in the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery was reported in the 2017–18 summer season. AFMA is currently responding to that increase as required under the Seabird Threat Abatement Plan 2014. AFMA is also reviewing turtle interaction data and interactions with marine mammals, although these are uncommon.

During 2017 the AFMA Commission agreed to transition the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery fishing season to the calendar year (from 1 January 2019), following advice from AFMA Management and the Tropical Tuna Management Advisory Committee.

External reviews

Compliance by the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery with Conservation and Management Measures of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission is reviewed on an annual basis under the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission Compliance Monitoring Scheme. In 2017–18, as in previous years, Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery management arrangements were consistent with Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission measures.

FEATURE STORY
Fishery Management Strategies

In 2017–18, AFMA took a major step towards further strengthening the way in which it plans, implements and reports on its fisheries management processes. The development of AFMA’s first “Fisheries Management Strategy” commenced in both the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery and the Small Pelagic Fishery, and AFMA intends that all Commonwealth fisheries will adopt Fisheries Management Strategies in the coming years.

Closely linked to each fishery Fisheries Management Plan, Fisheries Management Strategies are intended to:

  • Transparently outline how AFMA is, at a detailed operational level, pursuing the objectives of the Fisheries Management Act 1991 and associated government policies.
  • Bring together in one location for each fishery, the many, previously separate, management strategies for commercial, general bycatch and protected species.
  • Align planning, implementation, reporting and evaluation processes more closely with the international “gold standard” for quality management systems (ISO 9001) and in doing so, further enhance transparency, accountability and continual improvement over time.

Associated with the development of Fisheries Management Strategies will be Annual Fisheries Management Strategy Performance Reports which will outline progress made in each fishery towards meeting its management objectives. This system of planning and reporting will enhance stakeholder understanding of AFMA’s management systems and increase public confidence in the sustainable management of our fisheries resources.

The development of Fisheries Management Strategies in AFMA fisheries is also anticipated to have strong benefits for the fishing industry which is increasingly looking towards independent certification schemes (eg. Marine Stewardship Council) to increase industry market access in domestic and international markets and gain premium prices for its quality products. These schemes require that increasingly strong and auditable fisheries management practices are being implemented, and Fisheries Management Strategies will play a key role in demonstrating such practices into the future.

Southern Bluefin Tuna Fishery

Estimated Catch

5869 tonnes

Performance results

Performance criteria (AFMA Corporate Plan 2017–20)2017–18
Target
2017–18
Actual
Number of fish stocks subject to overfishing (The number of stocks where the level of catches by fishery operators is likely to result in stock becoming overfished)00
The number of stocks that are assessed as overfished and require effective management to return the stock to sustainability11
Stock status of target species
Common name (scientific name)Latest available status assessment
20162017
Fishing mortalityBiomassFishing mortalityBiomass
Southern Bluefin tuna (Thunnus maccoyii)UncertainOverfishedNot subject to overfishingOverfished

Source: Patterson, H, Larcombe, J, Nicol, S and Curtotti, R 2018. Fishery status reports 2018, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra

Management Plans/Arrangements

The fishery continues to be managed in accordance with the Southern Bluefin Tuna Fishery Management Plan 1995. It is managed through a system of output controls in the form of individually transferable quotas which are allocated as statutory fishing rights under the management plan. The performance criteria detailed in the management plan were all met in 2017–18

The Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna sets an annual global total allowable catch. From the global total allowable catch national allocations are provided to all member nations. Prior to the commencement of the fishing season (1 December to 30 November), AFMA determines a total allowable catch of southern bluefin tuna for the domestic fishery based upon Australia’s national allocation.

Analysis of performance

Performance – quota setting

The domestic total allowable catch for the 2016–17 Southern Bluefin Tuna fishing season was 5665 tonnes.

The total catch in the fishery, for the 2016–17 fishing season, was 5333 tonnes. Concession holders in the ranching sector of the fishery took approximately 88 per cent of the catch. The remaining catch was taken by longline.

The Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna allows up to 20 per cent of any uncaught national allocation to be carried forward into the next fishing season. Australia advised that it would carry forward 362 tonnes of uncaught quota from the 2016–17 fishing season into the 2017–18 season.

The AFMA Commission set the 2017–18 total allowable catch as 6165 tonnes after accepting an undertaking from the Australian Southern Bluefin Tuna Industry Association to voluntarily set aside 250 tonnes of the quota to account for other sources of mortality.

Performance – status of fish stocks

The Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna management procedure specifies that a full quantitative stock assessment should be undertaken every three years. The 2017 stock assessment suggested that the stock remains at a low state, estimated to be 13 per cent of the initial spawning stock biomass, and below the level to produce maximum sustainable yield (33 036 tonnes).

There has been improvement since previous stock assessments which indicated the stock was at 5.5 per cent of original biomass in 2011 and 9 per cent in 2014. The current fishing mortality rate is below the level associated with maximum sustainable yield.

Performance – economic returns

The majority of the southern bluefin tuna total allowable catch continues to be taken by the purse seine sector in South Australia, for subsequent grow out by the ranching sector. Historically the purse seine catch was taken in the Great Australian Bight south of Ceduna. However, in recent years the majority of the catch has been taken in areas to the east of Kangaroo Island. As these areas are closer to the aquaculture zone in Port Lincoln, the time the fish spend in the tow cage before transfer to farms has been reduced.

The amount of fish taken by longliners on the east coast depends primarily on access to available quota from the ranching sector and the seasonal availability of fish. In the 2016–17 fishing season 646 tonnes was caught compared to 731 tonnes in the previous season.

The Southern Bluefin Tuna Fishery is an approved wildlife trade operation for the purposes of Parts 13 and 13A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 until 13 December 2019.

Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery

Estimated Catch

293 tonnes

Performance results

Performance criteria (AFMA Corporate Plan 2017–20)2017–18
Target
2017–18
Actual
Number of fish stocks subject to overfishing (The number of stocks where the level of catches by fishery operators is likely to result in stock becoming overfished)22
The number of stocks that are assessed as overfished and require effective management to return the stock to sustainability00
Stock status of target species
Common name (scientific name)Latest available status assessment
20162017
Fishing mortalityBiomassFishing mortalityBiomass
Albacore (Thunnus alalunga)
Bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus)
Swordfish (Xiphias gladius)
Not subject to overfishingNot overfishedNot subject to overfishingNot overfished
Yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares)Subject to overfishingNot overfishedSubject to overfishingNot overfished
Striped marlin (Kajikia audax)Subject to overfishingNot overfishedSubject to overfishingUncertain

Source: Patterson, H, Larcombe, J, Nicol, S and Curtotti, R 2018. Fishery status reports 2018, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra

Management Plans/Arrangements

The fishery continued to be managed in accordance with the Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery Management Plan 2005 and resolutions mandated by the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission of which Australia is a member.

The performance criteria detailed in the fishery management plan were all met in 2017–18.

Analysis of performance

Status of fish stocks

The Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery has continued to operate at low levels of effort, largely due to economic conditions. In 2017–18, catch levels for the main target species were generally slightly lower than in 2016–17 but were largely consistent with average levels from recent years.

Domestically, the total allowable commercial catches for all the key commercial species are currently considered to be appropriate and of no concern to the regional stock status. However, as the Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery target species are managed internationally, there are concerns regarding the stock status of striped marlin and yellowfin tuna. Both are considered to be subject to overfishing within the wider Indian Ocean. Updated stock assessments for both striped marlin and yellowfin tuna are due to be completed in 2018.

Fishery management arrangements

Since July 2015 active boats in the Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery have been required to have electronic monitoring – a system of cameras and sensors installed to monitor all fishing operations. Footage is recorded when fishing operations are occurring to verify logbook records. All fishing operations on full time boats are now monitored, with 10 per cent of all longline shots (minimum of one shot per boat, per month) reviewed and compared to the logbook reports. Regular feedback reports are provided back to Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery operators to inform them of their reporting performance. Since the implementation of electronic monitoring, preliminary analysis has indicated an improvement in logbook reporting. The improved logbook reporting has enabled AFMA to make better risk assessments and better focus resources to minimise the impact of fishing on the marine environment.

AFMA continues to monitor protected species interactions in the fishery but these occur at a very low level, in part due to the low level of fishing effort.

Heard Island and McDonald Islands Fishery

Estimated catch

3480 tonnes PATAGONIAN TOOTHFISH

520 tonnes MACKEREL ICEFISH

Performance results

Performance criteria (AFMA Corporate Plan 2017–20)2017–18
Target
2017–18
Actual
Number of fish stocks subject to overfishing (The number of stocks where the level of catches by fishery operators is likely to result in stock becoming overfished)00
The number of stocks that are assessed as overfished and require effective management to return the stock to sustainability00
Stock status of target species
Common name (scientific name)Latest available status assessment
20162017
Fishing mortalityBiomassFishing mortalityBiomass
Mackerel icefish (Champsocephalus gunnari)
Patagonian toothfish
(Dissostichus eleginoides)
Not subject to overfishingNot overfishedNot subject to overfishingNot overfished

Source: Patterson, H, Larcombe, J, Nicol, S and Curtotti, R 2018. Fishery status reports 2018, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra

Management Plans/Arrangements

The Heard Island and McDonald Islands Fishery is managed in accordance with the Heard Island and McDonald Islands Fishery Management Plan 2002 and the conservation measures mandated by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. All operations conducted in the fishery were in compliance with the performance criteria outlined in the management plan. Four vessels operated in the fishery during 2017–18. Three vessels were longliners and one vessel both trawled and longlined. There were no changes to the Heard Island and McDonald Islands Fishery Management Plan 2002 during the 2017–18 period.

Analysis of performance

Performance – status of fish stocks

In November 2017, the AFMA Commission set the Heard Island and McDonald Islands Fishery total allowable catches at 3525 tonnes for Patagonian toothfish and 526 tonnes for mackerel icefish for the 2017–18 fishing year. Commissioners recognised that the total allowable catch level had also been agreed to by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (to which Australia is a member), and that this catch limit is not expected to unreasonably impact on long term sustainability of Patagonian toothfish stocks.

The Sub-Antarctic Resource Assessment Group and Sub-Antarctic Management Advisory Committee supported the Heard Island and McDonald Islands Fishery total allowable catches for the 2017–18 fishing year.

Performance – status of bycatch

To allow vessels access to more fishing time, the 2017–18 Heard Island and McDonald Islands Fishery longline fishing season was extended under a trial arrangement. The core longline fishing season extends from 1 May to 14 September. Under the trial, longlining can occur from 1 April 2017 to 30 November 2017 for approved vessels. Strict rules are in place around interactions with seabirds during the autumn and spring extension periods, when seabird activity increases around Heard Island and McDonald Islands. If three or more seabirds are caught and killed by fishing gear during the trial extension periods, that vessel can no longer fish by longline in the extension periods. No boat triggered this provision in 2017–18.

External reviews

Management of the Heard Island and McDonald Islands Fishery is reviewed internationally by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. The Heard Island and McDonald Islands Fishery lies within the area of the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources meets each year and, among other things, considers catch limits and bycatch management for the Heard Island and McDonald Islands Fishery.

The Heard Island and McDonald Islands Fishery stock assessment for Patagonian toothfish is considered and endorsed by Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.

Macquarie Island Toothfish Fishery

Estimated Catch

436 tonnes

Performance results

Performance criteria (AFMA Corporate Plan 2017–20)2017–18
Target
2017–18
Actual
Number of fish stocks subject to overfishing (The number of stocks where the level of catches by fishery operators is likely to result in stock becoming overfished)00
The number of stocks that are assessed as overfished and require effective management to return the stock to sustainability00
Stock status of target species
Common name (scientific name)Latest available status assessment
20162017
Fishing mortalityBiomassFishing mortalityBiomass
Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides)Not subject to overfishingNot overfishedNot subject to overfishingNot overfished

Source: Patterson, H, Larcombe, J, Nicol, S and Curtotti, R 2018. Fishery status reports 2018, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra

Management Plans/Arrangements

The Macquarie Island Toothfish Fishery is managed in accordance with the Macquarie Island Toothfish Fishery Management Plan 2006. All operations conducted in the fishery were in compliance with the performance criteria outlined in the management plan. As at June 2018, one vessel had operated in the fishery during 2017–18 fishing season. There were no changes to the Macquarie Island Toothfish Fishery Management Plan 2006 during the 2017–18 period.

Analysis of performance

Performance status of fish stocks

In November 2017, the AFMA Commission set the Macquarie Island Toothfish Fishery total allowable catch for Patagonian toothfish at 450 tonnes. Catch limits for bycatch species were set at 50 tonnes for each other species, consistent with previous years.

The Macquarie Island Toothfish Fishery has been divided into three regions, noting that toothfish within these three regions are considered to be a single stock. Industry agreed to, as far as possible, adopt a fishing strategy endorsed by the Sub-Antarctic Fisheries Resource Assessment Group which spreads fishing effort across the three regions. The voluntary strategy allows more tags to be deployed in the Northern Macquarie Region where the Sub-Antarctic Fisheries Resource Assessment Group agreed tagging would be most useful in improving scientific knowledge and reducing uncertainty in the stock assessment.

External reviews

There has been no external review of the fishery in 2017–18.

High Seas Permits

Estimated catch 2016–17

119 tonnes

Major species:

  • Orange roughy
  • Blue-eye trevalla
  • Jackass morwong
  • Yellowtail kingfish
  • Redthroat emperor
  • Robinson’s seabream
  • Flame snapper

The South Tasman Rise orange roughy stock is the only high-seas stock that has been assigned a status classification by Australian Bureau of Agricultural Resource Economics and Sciences. Insufficient information is available to enable the fishery-wide determination of stock status for any of the high-seas demersal fish stocks in the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation and the Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement areas of competence.

A number of stock assessments have recently been undertaken for orange roughy stocks in the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation and the Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement area of competence. These assessments have been accepted by both regional fisheries management organisations but have not yet been implemented into conservation and management measures.

Management Plans/Arrangements

High Seas Permits allow Australian flagged vessels to fish for non-highly migratory species in the areas of water covered under South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation and the Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement.

High Seas Permits are granted by season which lasts from 1 January to 31 December. There are currently six High Seas Permits. Six vessels are licensed to fish in the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation area and five vessels are licensed to fish in the Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement area. The main gears used by High Seas Permit holders are midwater trawl, demersal trawl and automatic longline (demersal longline).

Analysis of performance

High Seas Permits continue to be managed consistent with conservation and management measures applying under the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation and the Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement.

In 2017–18 AFMA and the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources worked with the New Zealand Government on developing a new conservation and management measure for bottom fishing in the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation Convention area. A spatial management approach is proposed that will permit bottom fishing within agreed catch limits for target species, (for example orange roughy) and prevent significant adverse impacts on vulnerable marine ecosystems. The measure will continue to be developed through 2018 with a view to implementation in 2019.

The Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement Meeting of Parties was held in late June 2018. Key priorities for Australia at this meeting were the advancement of the bottom fishing measure and the implementation of protected area closures, an enhanced encounter protocol for vulnerable marine ecosystems and consultation with the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. Australia also presented a proposal for a new conservation and management measure establishing a high seas boarding and inspection regime. The Meeting of Parties agreed to the closure of a number of vulnerable seafloor areas to trawl fishing, providing additional protection to an important part of marine diversity. A proposal led by Australia, in partnership with the European Union, introduced a Compliance Monitoring Scheme providing an important tool for monitoring countries’ compliance with Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement’s fisheries rules. The meeting resulted in the implementation of a number of positive outcomes that continue to contribute to the long-term conservation and sustainable use of fisheries resources in the southern Indian Ocean.

Non-operational fisheries

Commercial operators were not working in the following Commonwealth fisheries during 2017–18.

Norfolk Island Fishery

The Norfolk Island Inshore Fishery and the Norfolk Island Offshore Demersal Finfish Fishery have no formal management plan and there are currently no commercial fishing concessions in these fisheries. Through a Memorandum of Understanding with AFMA, the Norfolk Island Inshore Fishery is managed by the Norfolk Island Regional Council in accordance with the Norfolk Island Inshore Fishery Management Policy 2009.

In 2018, AFMA and the Norfolk Island Fishing Association, in collaboration with the Norfolk Island Regional Council commenced a review of the Policy with a view to agreeing new arrangements in late 2018.

No stock assessments or biomass estimates for species taken within the Norfolk Island fisheries have been made. No stock status classifications have been given to these fisheries as there are no defined stocks for management purposes.

Fish processing back deck

Fish processing back deck
Photo courtesy: David Schubert, AFMA

Skipjack Tuna Fishery

Stock status of target species
Common name (scientific name)Latest available status assessment
20162017
Fishing mortalityBiomassFishing mortalityBiomass
Indian Ocean skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis)
Western and Central Pacific Ocean skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis)
Not subject to overfishingNot overfishedNot subject to overfishingNot overfished

Source: Patterson, H, Larcombe, J, Nicol, S and Curtotti, R 2018. Fishery status reports 2018, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra

The fishery is managed in accordance with the Skipjack Tuna Harvest Strategy, the statement of fishery management arrangements and fishing concession conditions. There has been little or no annual effort in the fishery since 2008 for economic reasons. There were no new management arrangements implemented in the fishery in 2017–18.

There are 19 Eastern Skipjack Tuna Fishery permits and 14 Western Skipjack Tuna Fishery permits. However no Australian vessels are currently targeting skipjack tuna.

South Tasman Rise Fishery

Stock status of target species
Common name (scientific name)Latest available status assessment
20162017
Fishing mortalityBiomassFishing mortalityBiomass
Orange roughy (Hoplostethus atlanticus)Not subject to overfishingOverfishedNot subject to overfishingOverfished

Source: Patterson, H, Larcombe, J, Nicol, S and Curtotti, R 2018. Fishery status reports 2018, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra

The South Tasman Rise Fishery forms part of Australia’s fishing footprint under the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation but has been closed to fishing since 2007. The area is also subject to a Memorandum of Understanding for cooperative management between Australia and New Zealand established in 1998. New Zealand has not fished the South Tasman Rise since the end of the 2000–01 fishing season.