12 December 2018

A Commonwealth concession holder has been banned from gillnet fishing for six months after failing to take sufficient action to reduce dolphin deaths.

The concession holder failed to avoid dolphin bycatch as required by the Gillnet Dolphin Mitigation Strategy, which was introduced by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) in May 2017.

The concession holder fishes in the gillnet, hook and trap (GHAT) sector of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery (SESSF).

AFMA’s Acting Executive Manager of Fisheries, George Day, said the strategy was put in place to reduce and minimise dolphin interactions, using an individual responsibility approach.

“This fishery is among only a handful worldwide that is required to have on-board electronic monitoring (cameras) on all vessels.

“This allows AFMA to make individuals responsible, so that the fishers who avoid dolphin interactions can keep fishing, and those who continue to have bycatch issues will have to adapt or will be stopped from fishing.

“AFMA requires fishers, crews and concession holders to use their on-the-water knowledge and experience to innovate and adopt practices that best suit their individual operations, to reduce dolphin interactions,” Mr Day said.

“However, a concession holder has failed to do this and has been banned from fishing with gillnets for six months, at a significant cost.

“AFMA is working with the concession holder, and other industry and marine mammal experts, to identify risk factors and to update the vessel’s individual Dolphin Mitigation Plan.

“Any dolphin death is regrettable and AFMA is looking to fishers and concession holders to do more to improve the outcomes for dolphins and other bycatch.

“AFMA expects dolphin interactions to reduce over time, as operators innovate and adopt best practices, under the guidance of the strategy.

“When AFMA introduced the Gillnet Dolphin Mitigation Strategy and the Small Pelagic Fishery Dolphin Mitigation Strategy in May 2017, we committed to review both to ensure they were achieving their intended outcomes.

“These reviews will be open for comment on the AFMA website, afma.gov.au.”

The consultation period is open from 14 December 2018 to 23 January 2019.

For more information on how AFMA is minimising interactions with bycatch species, including threatened and protected species, visit afma.gov.au.