In many of AFMA’s fisheries, the key commercial fish species are managed under a quota system. Landed catch is deducted from individual quota holdings of each species or stock. Discarded fish are not deducted from individual quota holdings, rather they are deducted from the recommended biological catch before the total allowable catch (TAC) is recommended to the AFMA Commission.
What are discards of quota fish? “Any part of the catch to which fishing quota applies which is returned to the sea, dead or alive”.
Because discards are deducted before setting a TAC and allocating to quota owners, it means that discards are not ‘paid for with quota’ directly by the quota owner who is doing the discarding. In effect all quota owners have their quotas reduced proportionally and the TAC for the stock or species is set at a sustainable level.
AFMA’s Quota Administration Policy states that AFMA will monitor opportunities to introduce individual accountability for discards where it is cost-effective to do so. Individually accounting for discards of stocks or species subject to catch quota is a more equitable system and encourages fishers to avoid fishing practices that result in higher levels of discards. AFMA has evaluated the costs and benefits of individual quota owners having their discards deducted from their quota in the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery and the Gillnet Hook and Trap Fishery.
The Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery targets several highly migratory fish stocks that are shared among several countries. TACs are set within levels agreed in the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), a regional fisheries management organisation. To benefit from individually accounting for discards of stocks subject to catch quotas, Australia would need to get agreement at WCPFC that:
1) catch limits include discards; and
2) if Australia reduces its discards it can increase its landed catches proportionally while remaining within its TAC.
AFMA has completed an economic analysis (cost benefit analysis) for individually accounting for the discards of quota species/stocks in the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery and the Gillnet, Hook and Trap Fishery. These two fisheries have high numbers of fishing vessels with electronic monitoring (on-board cameras) in operation to verify discards of quota species/stocks at the individual vessel level.
The cost benefit analysis considered a range of costs associated with:
• upgrading the electronic monitoring system for analysis of discards; and
• upgrading AFMA’s databases and systems to enable discards to be deducted from individual fisher’s quota.
The analysis also assumed that this system would incentivise reduced discarding by 10% and therefore increase the amount (and value) of the landed catch.
The analysis considered:
1) whether changing the cost and benefit values within reasonable amounts would make any difference to whether there was a negative or positive benefit;
2) the extent of any changes; and
3) which factors have the most influence on the result (this is called a sensitivity analysis).