1 March 2015

On 28 April 2014 the Australian Fisheries Management Authority Commission set the total allowable catch (TAC) limits in the Small Pelagic Fishery (SPF). Table 1 shows the total allowable catches for the 2014-15 season.  The new TACs are similar to those set for 2013-14 season, with the exception of Australian Sardine that increased from 270 tonnes to 560 tonnes. In making this decision the Commission took into account the following considerations:

Sustainability of catches

  • The recommended total catch limit from all sources of mortality is currently less than 7.5 per cent of the spawning biomass estimates consistent with the Tier 2 guidelines in the SPF Harvest Strategy. This means that 92.5% of the estimated spawning biomass is left in the water. This is consistent with international guidance contained in the Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force (2012) report.
  • The TACs are consistent with AFMA’s legislative objectives. In the context of the objective of ecologically sustainable development, the Commission noted the TACs were consistent with the precautionary principle and integrated social and equity considerations, noting the varied uses of Small Pelagic Fish including their importance in the marine food chain, for recreational fishing bait, aquaculture and human consumption.
  • The TACs are based on the best available science. The recommended total catch limits from all sources of mortality were supported by all scientific members on the Small Pelagic Fishery Resource Assessment Group (SPFRAG). The Commission noted two objections from other members of the SPFRAG, however, the Commission considered the scientific members’ recommendations were sound. The Commission decision differed from the TAC recommendation from the South East Management Advisory Committee (SEMAC) because it took into account new information relating to the take of small pelagic species by state government managed fisheries.
  • The Commission considered both the age and availability of data and agreed with scientific members on the RAG that there were sufficient data to set the TACs in-line with Tier 2 of the SPF Harvest Strategy.

State catches

  • The SPF TACs are calculated by deducting other forms of mortality (primarily catches from other jurisdictions) from the recommended total catch from all sources of mortality. The Commission noted the possible development of a new sardine fishery in Tasmanian waters and that may result in a level of harvesting greater than the recommended biological catch for the eastern stock in the short term.  The Commission directed AFMA Management to write to the Tasmanian Government to work collaboratively to ensure total catches remain sustainable.
  • In setting the eastern Australian Sardine TAC the Commission noted that state catches in the coming year would be taken into account in the next season’s TACs providing for sustainable catches over time.

Ecosystem impacts

In setting the SPF TACs the Commission considered the issues of bycatch and localised depletion.  In doing so the Commission noted:

  • the SPF is highly selective and has low rates of bycatch;
  • the SPF has best practice management measures in place to ensure that there is minimal risk of bycatch of threatened, endangered and protected species, including seal excluder devices and Vessel Management Plans to minimise the risk of interactions with seals, seabirds and dolphins;
  • the scientific members on SPFRAG have previously advised that there is a low risk of localised depletion occurring in the SPF at the current low harvest levels;
  • the SPF Harvest Strategy provides for a reduction in TACs or other measures such as spatial management if there is evidence of localised depletion or a concerning trend in age / size structure of the catch; and
  • should localised depletion be detected AFMA will introduce management arrangements in response.
Small Pelagic Fishery total allowable catches for 2014-15 season
Species Eastern Zone TAC (tonnes) Western Zone TAC (tonnes)
Blue Mackerel (Scomber australasicus) 2,660 6,500
Redbait (Emmelichthys nitidus) 5,000 5,000
Jack Mackerel (Trachurus declivis, T. murphyi) 10,230 5,000
Australian Sardine (Sardinops sagax) 560 n/a