75th AFMA Commission meeting - Chairman's summary

The Commission met for its 75th meeting via video conference on 12 and 13 November 2020.

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.

The Commission heard from industry representatives from the Great Australian Bight Industry Association and the Commonwealth Fisheries Association on current challenges and opportunities for commercial operators, as well as from the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment on fisheries policy priorities.

1. Fisheries management

Based on consideration of agenda papers and presentations, the Commission agreed to set the following:

  • Southern Squid Jig Fishery total allowable effort (TAE) for the 2021 fishing season
    • Commissioners noted that while there is no immediate risk to squid stocks, further AFMA consideration of the fishery’s harvest strategy, particularly around triggers and data planning, should be progressed.
  • Southern Bluefin Tuna Australian National Catch Allocation, the season date, conversion factor and other associated management measures for the fishing season commencing 1 December 2020;
  • Heard Island and McDonald Islands Fishery catch and bycatch limits for the 2020-21 fishing season as well as extending the three trawler limit;
  • The 2021 total allowable commercial catches, the Undercatch and Overcatch provisions and the Determined Weight for the quota species in the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery
    • A particular issue for consideration was the TACC for Albacore Tuna. Commissioners noted the negotiations underway in the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission and agreed that given the stock status (not overfished and not subject to overfishing), maintaining the previous catch level represents a balance in the risk-catch-cost trade-off.
    • Commissioners also did not support an industry request to increase the current undercatch allowance for swordfish.  Commissioners agreed to write to the applicant (Tuna Australia) to set out the reasons for this decision;
  • Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery TACCs
    • Commissioners noted that there was an international allocation negotiation underway, and that while some IOTC stocks are overfished and/or subject to overfishing there are no scientifically endorsed alternative catch limits proposed for the 2021-22 season; and
  • Harvest control rule for the Northern Prawn Fishery Redleg Banana Prawn sub-fishery.
    • Commissioners noted that the agreement by all stakeholders to implement the most conservative harvest control rule reflected a mature approach to sustainably managing the fishery and Commissioners wished to thank all stakeholders involved in the project.

2. Electronic monitoring – future direction

The Commission received an update on the progress of the electronic monitoring (EM) and was pleased to hear that stakeholders’ views of EM are more positive, with industry recognising the financial benefits of EM. The Commission heard that AFMA considers EM as one of a suite of measures to manage and monitor Commonwealth fisheries.  The Commission approved a proposal for AFMA Management to evaluate several potential future options through a market-based request for information.

3. National compliance and enforcement policy

The Commission unanimously endorsed the National Compliance and Enforcement Policy and noted it will be posted on AFMA’s Website.

4. Economic Working Group (EWG)

In considering an overview of EWG’s work, Commissioners noted that is an opportunity for collaboration between AFMA Management, the EWG and ABARES. Such work could provide more targeted economic assessments and indicators that AFMA can use to demonstrate its economic performance.

The Commission agreed to develop a policy position setting out AFMA’s understanding of its “Maximising Net Economic Return” objective to better inform efforts to develop economic indicators and better account for the objective in decision making.

5. Strategic positioning

Commissioners considered the strategic positioning and communications for Commonwealth fisheries, with a view to providing more readily available information and facts about fisheries management in Australia. It was agreed to progress this paper with a small subset of stakeholders prior to the first Commission meeting in 2021.  Commissioners also agreed that there should be a facilitated discussion with a larger group of stakeholders in March 2021.

6. Other matters

The Commission acknowledged the impact COVID-19 continues to have on AFMA and the fishing industry but remained confident and complimentary of AFMAs effort to deliver outcomes across Commonwealth fisheries under the circumstances.

Helen Kroger


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