26 February 2018

Last month, fisheries officers from the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) and Primary Industry & Regions South Australia (PIRSA), undertook a joint patrol to inspect Commonwealth fishing operators involved in the harvest and farming of Southern Bluefin Tuna (SBT). The patrol is also an opportunity for fisheries officers to inspect boats in the Commonwealth Gillnet, Hook and Trap (GHT) sector of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery (SESSF).

Joint annual patrols are designed to inspect Commonwealth catcher and tow vessels fishing for juvenile southern bluefin tuna (SBT) off the coast of South Australia.

In Australia, commercial fishers use the purse seine fishing method to catch SBT and after being caught, fish are transferred to tow boat cages and slowly brought to farms located in the waters adjacent to Port Lincoln. After several months in the farms the fish are harvested.

AFMA officers took advantage of PIRSA’s patrol vessel Southern Ranger to complete ten at-sea vessel boarding’s before the SBT were transferred to pontoons. During the boarding’s fisheries officers inspected:

  • Permits
  • Catch Monitoring and Catch Tagging forms
  • Catch disposal scheme (CDS) documentation
  • Logbooks
  • Vessel monitoring systems (VMS)
  • Freezer holds

Throughout the patrol AFMA fisheries officers also assisted operators by providing advice and instruction on responsibilities in line with their fishing concessions.

Only one minor breach was detected during the patrol, showing that AFMA’s general deterrence program, which involves a presence by fisheries officers in the field and on the water, helps ensure operators continue to comply with Commonwealth fisheries rules and regulations.

This approach, should also reassure the commercial fishers who already do the right thing and comply with the rules, that non-compliant activity will be detected.

Information regarding the responsibilities for operators holding an SBT concession can be found in the AFMA’s Pre-season Briefing Guide 2017-2018.