12 February 2020

The Commission met for its 69th meeting in Canberra on 21 November 2019.

This document provides a summary of the key discussions and decisions by the Commission. It is not a record of discussions and does not cover agenda items and discussions that are either routine or confidential.

Heard Island and McDonald Islands (HIMI) Fishery Total Allowable Catch (TAC)

The HIMI Toothfish Fishery is AFMA’s second most valuable fishery. The Commission noted the discussions that had been held at the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) in deciding a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for the HIMI Fishery. As the TAC for HIMI agreed by CCAMLR was consistent with the stock assessment by the Australian Antarctic Division (of the Department of Environment), the Commission agreed on catch and bycatch limits for the HIMI Fishery for the 2019-20 season.

Southern Bluefin Tuna (SBT) Fishery – Determination of Undercatch/Overcatch and Transfer Weight

No changes to current arrangements were recommended by AFMA Management. The Commission agreed to determine the undercatch (20 per cent) and overcatch (five per cent) percentages for SBT in accordance with the Southern Bluefin Tuna Fishery Management Plan 1995 (the Plan).

The Commission also determined that the 100 fish sample based transfer weighing procedure to estimate the transfer weight of SBT would continue for the upcoming season.

Southern Squid Jig Fishery (SSJF) – Total Allowable Effort (TAE) for the 2020 fishing season

Commissioners noted that the proposed TAE did not raise concerns that fishing will result in any significant risks to the sustainability of the stock or the broader marine environment. The TAE also maintains capacity in the SSJF fleet to respond to increases in squid abundance, availability and/or market changes. While squid catch has previously been small, increasing market demand, including for use as bait, may trigger latent effort in the fishery. Accordingly, the Commission agreed to determine the TAE for the SSJF 2020 fishing season.

Appointment of a Recreational and AFMA Member to the South East Management Advisory Committee (SEMAC)

The Commission agreed to appoint a Recreational and an AFMA Member to SEMAC for the period to 30 June 2022 in line with the rest of the MAC member terms of appointment.

Other issues

The Commission considered proposed amendments to Fisheries Administration Paper 12 – Resource Assessment Groups (FAP 12), which is AFMA’s key policy document on the operation of Resource Assessment Groups (RAGs). Revisions had been proposed to account for the Commission’s decision to revert the Small Pelagic Fishery Scientific Panel back to a RAG structure, while maintaining the benefits of a broader Stakeholder Forum. While Commissioners agreed, in principle, to the proposed changes to FAP12, some further clarification of wording was required and would be finalised out of session.

Commissioners also received updates and discussed progress on the proposed transition of the NSW Southern Fish Trawl Fishery into the Commonwealth’s Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery (SESSF) via an Offshore Constitutional Settlement arrangement; the continuing increased pressure for access to broodstock for prawn aquaculture in northern Australia; and challenges currently facing industry in the SESSF including the costs of increased scientific confidence in fisheries assessments, undercatch of TACs and the implications for the catch/cost/risk trade-off, and costs in addressing bycatch protection requirements and high public perceptions.

During the course of the meeting, Commissioners also had discussions with Seafood Industry Australia (SIA), on the SIA’s development and application of its seafood industry promotional program ‘Our Pledge’.

Helen Kroger

Chairman