AFMA’s 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, that a 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.
In May 2017 AFMA implemented the Small Pelagic Fishery (SPF) and Gillnet Dolphin Mitigation strategies to minimise dolphin interactions in these fisheries. A key part of the strategies is periodic review of their performance to ensure that they meet their objectives. AFMA recently completed the first review, which was informed by consultation with the Commonwealth Fisheries Marine Mammal Working Group, the South East Management Advisory Committee and the public. Comments received during this process centered on five key areas:
- Data collection – the need to ensure adequate data collection to support the ongoing assessment of factors contributing to interactions, assist in identifying mitigation options and inform the development of best practice guidelines.
- Incentives and penalties for non-compliance – the need to ensure the right balance between incentives to avoid interactions and support innovation, and penalties for non-compliance.
- Exclusions from areas/fishery – spatial management should be implemented in areas considered to be high risk areas for dolphin interactions while also ensuring that this does not result in increased interactions in other parts of the fishery.
- Dolphin Mitigation Plans – the need to strengthen the approval and review process of these plans.
- Consistency between fisheries – the need to ensure greater consistency in dolphin management rules between fisheries.
In addition to stakeholder comments, the decreasing number of dolphin interactions and AFMA Management’s experience administering the strategies were also considered as part of the review. The review resulted in the following changes to the SPF and Gillnet Dolphin Mitigation strategies, which were approved by the AFMA Commission at its May 2019 meeting.
- For more detail regarding the AFMA 66th Commission’s meeting decision.
Summary of changes made to the Gillnet Dolphin Strategy
- Establishment of South Australian (SA) Dolphin Zone.
- Single Review Period Management responses to apply to two different areas; the SA Dolphin Zone, and everywhere else. This means that if an operator exceeds the Maximum Interaction Rate in the SA Dolphin Zone after a six-month review period and has caught three or more dolphins in that area, they must not fish in the SA Dolphin Zone in the next six-month review period. An operator is still eligible to fish outside the SA Dolphin Zone.
- Addition of requirement to return e-monitoring hard drives to AFMA within 48 hours of landing for review.
- Management responses to interactions have been amended to provide for greater use of electronic monitoring footage to review interaction factors.
Summary of changes made to the SPF Dolphin Strategy
- Minor editorial changes.
- Revised Gillnet Dolphin Mitigation Strategy.
- Revised Small Pelagic Fishery Dolphin Mitigation Strategy.
- For more detail on the performance of the strategies for the first 18 months of implementation (number of dolphin interactions by fishery), please see AFMA’s Protected Species Interactions reports, which are published quarterly on the Interaction Report page on the AFMA website.
- South East Management Advisory Committee meeting 36 minutes
- Commonwealth Fisheries Marine Mammal Working Group meeting minutes