5 December 2018

The Commission met for its 64th meeting in Sydney on 31 October – 1 November 2018.

Key decisions and discussions by the Commission at its meeting included:

  • Southern Bluefin Tuna (SBT) – Total Allowable Catches (TACs)

The Commission agreed to:

  1. determine the next two fishing seasons in the Southern Bluefin Tuna Fishery to be the period commencing 1 December 2018 and ending on 30 November 2019 and the following season to commence on 1 December 2019 and end on 30 November 2020;
  2. set the Australian National Catch Allocation at 6,165 tonnes, subject to SBT quota holders voluntarily committing to not catch a total of 250 tonnes;
  3. determine the actual live weight of a statutory fishing right for the fishing seasons commencing on 1 December 2018 and 1 December 2019;
  4. determine undercatch/overcatch percentages for the season commencing on 1 December 2018; and
  5. continue the 100 fish sample based transfer weighing procedure to estimate the transfer weight of SBT.

In taking these decisions, Commissioners recalled the Australian Government’s commitment to settle agreement with relevant states on resource sharing and management, implement a program to educate recreational fishers on SBT and fish handling practices, and commence a national survey of recreational catch in 2018.

While also acknowledging the Government’s policy that stereo video technology would not be applied until it was cost effective, Commissioners considered it important that research and development work should continue.

In addition, Commissioners recognised that the SBT Fishery Management Plan provides the scope, before the commencement of a season for which AFMA has determined the national catch allocation, for AFMA to vary the national catch allocation for that season should circumstances in the fishery change such as evidence of a change in stock trajectory based on updated science. Similarly, in considering the SBT overcatch arrangements, Commissioners recognised that if significant overcatches above agreed levels occurred, over multiple years, the Commission has the capability to review the overcatch arrangements and decide the appropriate course of action.

  • Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery (ETBF) Total Allowable Commercial Catches (TACC)

The Commission agreed to determine the 2019 and 2020 TACCs, the undercatch and overcatch provisions and the Determined Weight for the quota species in the ETBF.

In taking these decisions, Commissioners noted the research that was underway through the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) including on stock movement of swordfish and that this will provide important data for future assessments. Commissioners also recalled the work underway across jurisdictions on resource sharing with striped marlin one of the case-study species.

While Commissioners also considered the industry suggestion to set the swordfish TACC at a higher level to account for problems with the previous harvest strategy and/or quota trading viscosity impeding maximum landings, they did not agree.

  • Southern Squid Jig Fishery (SSJF) Total Allowable Effort (TAE) for 2019

The Commission set the TAE for 2019, noting that there were no sustainability concerns for either the target species or bycatch at the level set. Commissioners also noted that a research project on improving catch rates in the fishery was being considered by the Squid Resource Assessment Group.

  • Social Aspects of Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD)

The Commission approved the draft statement on Social Aspects of ESD and its public release. Commissioners recognised that the draft statement had benefitted from wide ranging consultations, including with the public. A number of comments had been received, some of which had been reflected in the final statement that was to be published shortly.

During the course of their meeting, Commissioners also held discussions with Ms Jane Lovell, CEO, Seafood Industry Australia; Dr Geoff Allan, Deputy Director General, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Fisheries, Forestry and Gaming; Ms Jo-anne McCrae, Australian Fisheries and Seafood Manager, WWF Australia (accompanied by Mr Simon Miller); and Mr Simon Boag and Mr Anthony Ciconte from Atlantis Fisheries Consulting. The schedule of Commission meetings for 2019 was also agreed.

In closing the meeting, the Chairman highlighted that this was the final Commission meeting that Dr Findlay (AFMA CEO) and Dr Rayns would be attending given their imminent departures from AFMA. On behalf of the Commission she thanked them for their tireless work not only as AFMA executives, and in Dr Findlay’s case as a fellow Commissioner, but also in contributing so significantly to the successful position in which Commonwealth fisheries now found themselves.

Helen Kroger