14 December 2018

The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) is reviewing the Gillnet Dolphin Mitigation Strategy and the Small Pelagic Fishery Dolphin Mitigation Strategy and is seeking your comments.

Submissions can be made online via AFMA's external public comment website and will close on 23 January 2019.

Interactions with protected species occur in many fisheries domestically and internationally. The overarching objective with respect to bycatch is to minimise fishing-related impacts on bycatch species, including protected species, consistent with the principles of ecologically sustainable development. Further, the fishery should not be detrimental to the survival or conservation status of any taxon and fishers are required to take all reasonable steps to ensure that protected species are not killed or injured.

The strategies have been in place for 18 months and AFMA is undertaking a review of the performance of the strategies against their objectives. To inform the review, AFMA is consulting with the Commonwealth Fisheries Marine Mammal Working Group, the South East Management Advisory Committee and the public. Any changes that arise from this review will be implemented in time for the start of the new fishing season on 1 May 2019.

Summary of the strategies’ performance

Gillnet Dolphin Mitigation Strategy

  • There was in increase in dolphin interactions reported in the gillnet sector of the SESSF from 2011 to 2017. Over that period, monitoring in this fishery has also been increasing with electronic monitoring mandatory on gillnet boats fishing 50 days or more since July 2015. The increase in reported interactions is likely to reflect more accurate reporting due to increased monitoring, rather than an increase in interactions.
  • While reported interactions have not reduced in the first 18 months of operation of the strategy, the strategy is having an increasing impact on individual boat operations and encouraging gear innovation. Operators are excluded from fishing if they exceed the maximum interaction rate for three consecutive six month periods (i.e. after 18 months). One operator has now been excluded.
  • During the first 18 months of the strategy there were 101 reported dolphin interactions in the Gillnet sector. Although this equates to approximately 2 dolphin interactions per boat per year, the interactions are not evenly spread across the fishery with some boats recording no interactions while others have exceeded the maximum interaction rate in one or more periods. The majority of interactions have been reported as common dolphins.
  • While the data are not conclusive in showing a spatial or temporal trend in dolphin interactions, some areas such as the Coorong Zone have seen a higher rate of interaction.
  • One operator exceeded the maximum interaction rate for three consecutive review periods and has been excluded from fishing with gillnets for six months.
  • AFMA is working closely on identifying best practice mitigation techniques through the review of dolphin mitigation plans, electronic monitoring and observer placements. The recommendations from this review are expected to lead to a reduction in interactions over the next 18 month period of implementation.

Small Pelagic Fishery (SPF) Dolphin Mitigation Strategy

  • The SPF is still considered a developing fishery with sporadic fishing effort. Despite this, the number of interactions in the SPF since the strategy was implemented is comparable to the interactions reported when midwater trawl fishing last occurred.
  • Since 2015 electronic monitoring has been mandatory on all midwater trawl boats fishing in the fishery, supplemented with onboard observer coverage of between 20 and 100 per cent of effort.
  • All midwater trawl boats are required to use an approved marine mammal excluder device.
  • Across the 18 months of the strategy, seven dolphin interactions (four bottlenose dolphins and three common dolphins) occurred over two gear sets. The three common dolphins were caught as the result of a gear malfunction.
  • The interactions resulted in the interaction cap being exceeded once and the interaction rate exceeded once, triggering a return to port and a review of the boats’ dolphin mitigation plan on both those occasions.
  • No further dolphin interactions have occurred in over six months of fishing.

For more detail on the performance of the strategies for the first 18 month period view the Performance Tables (PDF).

View the Gillnet Dolphin Mitigation Strategey (PDF).

View the SPF Dolphin Mitigation Strategy (PDF).

Make a submission on the review of the Dolphin Mitigations Strategies via AFMA's external public comment website.