68th AFMA commission meeting - Chairman's summary
The Commission met for its 68th meeting in Mooloolaba on 11-12 September 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.
Update on Heard Island and McDonald Islands (HIMI) Fishery and Macquarie Island Toothfish Fishery (MITF)
The Commission noted the role of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) in deciding a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for the HIMI Fishery. Commissioners also noted that, for the coming CCAMLR meeting in October 2019, there is some risk that CCAMLR may not be able to agree to a TAC. This would impact on the Commission’s TAC setting. For the MITF, the latest stock assessment data indicate less stock depletion than previous assessments.
Management Advisory Committees – AFMA member appointments to SBTMAC, GABMAC, SEMAC, SouthMAC and ScallopMAC
The Commission agreed to the appointment of proposed AFMA members to these Management Advisory Committees (MACs). All were Senior Managers/Managers in the respective fisheries and as a result, well understood management issues. Commissioners noted that these decisions rounded out the MAC appointments process with past Commission meetings having already appointed Chairs and other members.
Eastern School Whiting – 2020 and 2021 TACs and NSW catches
The Commission considered the issues, noting that the current harvest strategy approach for the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery (SESSF) fishery would require significant Commonwealth TAC reductions (some 500 tonnes – about 65 per cent) following recent increases in NSW catches of school whiting. The Commission Chair noted that she had received numerous representations from the South East Trawl Fishery Industry Association, individual Statutory Fishing Rights holders, fishing cooperatives and financial institutions, all raising consistent concerns about the potential for negative impacts from substantial reduction in the Commonwealth TAC.
Commissioners noted that the economic impacts of reducing the TAC would appear to be significant on the fleet and the Lakes Entrance Cooperative. This reflected industry advice that such a substantial reduction would have significant and long-lasting negative impacts on the SESSF, particularly the Danish seine fleet and, consequently, the Lakes Entrance Co-op and the Lakes Entrance community. Commissioners also noted that the most recent whiting stock assessment had rated the stock well above any limit reference points. The Commission agreed in-principle to maintain the 2019-20 school whiting TAC of 788t for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 SESSF fishing years, subject to the Commission’s final SESSF TAC decision in March 2020. This decision would be informed by the South East Resource Assessment Group and the South East Management Advisory Committee consideration and advice on the risks associated with maintaining the school whiting TAC at current levels.
The Commission also agreed to AFMA urgently pursuing formal catch and cost sharing arrangements between the Commonwealth and NSW Department of Primary Industries to ensure fair and equitable allocation of shared resources.
Management of Northern Prawn Fishery (NPF) broodstock collection
Commissioners noted that there was continuing pressure from the aquaculture sector for access to live black tiger prawns (P. monodon) from the NPF for broodstock.
While there were three collection permits available, there were overlaps in the timing of commercial prawn operations and requests for broodstock collection. Two out of three of these broodstock collection permits available have been utilised in 2019 and aquaculture businesses have also entered into commercial arrangements with NPF operators to collect broodstock.
Commissioners recognised the important economic role that prawn farms play, which is likely to continue, as well as the high level support for farm expansion from various governments. However, the need to ensure that P. monodonis managed sustainably, and to minimise undermining the integrity of the wider fishery management regime or the value of Statutory Fishing Rights was also supported.
Commissioners agreed to review the collection limit for broodstock permits when the results from a P. monodonstock assessment are available. This is expected for the start of broodstock collection in March 2020
During the course of the meeting, Commissioners had discussions with the CEO of the Northern Prawn Fishing Industry; the Executive Director of Fisheries Queensland; and the CEO of Tuna Australia and visited the handling and processing facilities of Walker Seafoods and 4Seas.