Care for the messengers

Bluewater Magazine Issue 121
All seafarers know it is considered bad luck to kill an albatross. These and other seabirds inhabit many of the same waters as tuna and billfish, especially in temperate latitudes and play a key role in the marine ecosystem. They also help ‘show the way’ to feeding fish, helping anglers get the bite. Unfortunately, seabirds are occasionally hooked or entangled by commercial and recreational fishers resulting in serious injury or death.
The good news is that Australian fishers and researchers have taken the lead developing measures to dramatically reduce the amount of seabirds killed during commercial tuna fishing.

Catching Tuna, not bycatch

Bluewater Magazine Issue 122
Both commercial and recreational fishers all have the same purpose – to catch their target species.
Unfortunately, as part of fishing operations, there may be the unintended catch of other species, also known as bycatch.  While levels of bycatch can vary depending on the type of fishing gear used and areas fished, in recent years, the commercial industry, together with scientists and fisheries regulators have worked hard to manage bycatch levels.

Image of yellowfin tuna swimming close to the surface

Australian longlining for yellowfin tuna

Bluewater Magazine Issue 123
Yellowfin Tuna are a highly prized species for both commercial and gamefishers alike. The majority of fresh tuna in sashimi bars across Australia is yellowfin tuna caught in Australia’s Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery (ETBF). Yellowfin tuna is the most valuable component of the ETBF and also an important gamefish, with specific tournaments targeting this hard fighting gamefish. Whilst both sectors target yellowfin tuna, there is little overlap in fishing grounds as the commercial boats typically target yellowfin tuna 30-80nm offshore, whilst the majority of gamefishing for yellowfin occurs within 30nm of shore.

Image of southern bluefin tuna in a cage

Australia's management of southern bluefin tuna

Bluewater Magazine Issue 124
Southern bluefin tuna (SBT) are an important commercial and recreational species within Australia. The species is considered a single stock and is found throughout the southern hemisphere mainly in waters between 30 and 50 degrees South but only rarely in the eastern Pacific.
Although occasional catches of SBT were recorded off New South Wales (NSW) before the Second World War, the fishery did not become commercial until the mid-1950s when pole and live bait techniques were introduced from the United States.

Image of a swordfish caught and released with a satellite tag off Tasmania

Unlocking the secrets to EAC gamefish migration

Bluewater Magazine Issue 125
As anglers know, Australia’s east coast is a unique environment. Few other places in the world allow fishers to catch tropical gamefish and tuna at such latitudes and so close to shore. The south coast of New South Wales (NSW) saw the beginnings of Australia’s now prolific game fishery in the 1930s and was the centre of the development of commercial tuna fishing in the 1950s.
The conditions that allow these tropical fish to be targeted at latitudes south of 35°S are primarily driven by the Eastern Australian Current (EAC) bringing warm tropical waters down the east coast of Australia.

Image of AFMA officers standing near a foreign fishing vessel being burned

Ruling the high seas through cooperation

BlueWater Magazine Issue 127
While tuna and billfish don’t have passports, they are hard core international travellers, often migrating across oceans. To protect fish stocks, in addition to the work that the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) does within Australian waters, we also have a strong presence in international compliance operations in waters adjacent to the Australian Exclusive Economic Zone.

Image of southern bluefin tuna hooked

CSI AFMA: In-gene-ious advances in fisheries science and management

Rapid developments in DNA and genetic research, once considered only in the realms of science fiction is now a reality, and making a very real difference to sustainable fisheries management.

Fisheries scientists are starting to use DNA to work out how big a fish population is, to determine if fish from different areas are from the same populations and discover from what part of the ocean fish come from. Researchers are even developing methods that can take a sample of ocean water and based on fragments of DNA in that water, determine what organisms live in that area!

Rebuilding southern bluefin tuna

Bluefin tuna are the most prized fish in the lucrative Japanese sashimi market. The local Japanese species, pacific bluefin tuna (Thunnus orientalis) and atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus), are rarely reported in Australian waters. However thanks to strong international management, the sister species, southern bluefin tuna (Thunnus maccoyii), are becoming more abundant off the coast of Australia each year.
When caught in an Australian commercial fishery, every southern bluefin tuna (SBT) must be tagged with an official, individually numbered tag.

Strong East Australian current forecast – short term and long term consequences of climate change

The distribution of gamefish, particularly marlin, is dependent on oceanic features such as shelf breaks, cold water upwellings (the process of deep water rising to the surface and replacing surface water often caused by wind blowing parallel to a coastline) and eddies (circular currents formed by nutrient-rich deep water that can rise to the surface). Upwellings and eddies can be unpredictable meaning the distribution of gamefish varies from week to week and year to year. Gamefishers have long known about the connection between oceanographic features and gamefish catch rates.

Video transforms fisheries management

The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) introduced electronic monitoring (also known as e-monitoring) in a number of fisheries from July 2015. E-monitoring comprises a series of digital video cameras and sensors on fishing boats designed to monitor fishing activities. In both the Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery (WTBF) and the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery (ETBF), most boats have four cameras and sensors on hydraulic lines and line-drums.

Thwarting the high seas tuna plunderers

Bluewater Magazine Issue 124

Many of the tuna and billfish species important to Australia’s anglers occur over large areas of ocean and are targeted by the commercial fleets of many nations. This makes international cooperation between these countries vital.