AFMA is considering how it incorporates the social aspects of ecological sustainable development (ESD) into its decision making and has developed a position statement to assist stakeholder understanding.

This statement reflects current thinking on how AFMA incorporates the social aspects of ESD into fisheries management, and also brings in consideration of recreational and Indigenous interests. The statement presents AFMA’s approach to the social aspects of ESD under four themes.

View AFMA position statement: How AFMA considers the social aspects of the ecologically sustainable development principles inthe management of Commonwealth Fisheries (March 2019) (PDF).

A list of actions to contribute to these themes has been developed. AFMA expects the statement and actions to evolve over time to reflect changing stakeholder and government expectations along with emerging market and consumer requirements.

View the Actions for the statement (March 2019) (PDF)

Public consultation and AFMA's response

Results of consultation on the social statement (March 2019)

Public consultation on the draft statement occurred for a four week period from 30 July to 24 August 2018. AFMA received 11 submissions of which 6 agreed to be made public. In addition to public consultation, AFMA also sought comments from AFMA’s management advisory committees (MACs) and resource assessment groups (RAGs), the Commonwealth Fisheries Association (CFA), the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources and the Department of the Environment and Energy.

View the Public consultation submissions on the social aspects of ESD (PDF).

AFMA considered all comments received when finalising the statement. The table below shows the broad themes raised though consultation on the draft statement and AFMA responses.

Table 1: Broad themes raised by stakeholders and AFMA responses

Theme

AFMA response

Context for the statement

There needs to be more context including why the position statement has been developed, its relationship to the National Strategy on Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD), and how the statement will be used.

A revised introduction includes information on why AFMA has developed the position statement, its purpose and how it will be used.

The introduction also notes that AFMA has developed a list of actions to contribute to the themes in the statement, and that these actions will be monitored and reported on. A new paragraph on the National Strategy on Ecologically Sustainable Development and the definition of ESD has been added.

 

Scope of the statement

Stakeholders had a range of views on the scope of the statement. Some stakeholders supported the scope and themes of the statement, while others considered that the focus was too narrow in terms of social considerations. The key issues raised were:

  1. the focus of the statement is mainly on process (participative management and good governance) rather than outcomes. There is a lack of explicit social targets/objectives;
  2. the detail of the themes appears to be effectively about environmental sustainability and economic returns and does not substantially address social issues; and
  3. AFMA needs to develop evidence-based decision-making using social data, monitoring and modelling.

 

The statement reflects AFMA’s current thinking on how the agency incorporates the social aspects of ESD into fisheries management, and also brings in consideration of recreational and Indigenous interests consistent with the Government legislation and policies under which AFMA operates.

Initially, AFMA will be focussing on actions to contribute to the themes in the statement. Over the longer term, AFMA will regularly review the statement, themes and actions and may be in a position to work with the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources on these matters.

 

 

Ecological sustainability underpins short and long term societal interests

It needs to be clearly understood that ecological sustainability underpins short and long term societal interests and this is paramount.

 

The Australian Government is committed to ensuring that Commonwealth fisheries are sustainably managed for the benefit of all Australians—now and into the future.

AFMA aims to continually improve our fishery management systems to help ensure the long-term ecological sustainability of both commercial species and the broader marine environment. AFMA will be implementing the new Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy Policy and the new Commonwealth Fisheries Bycatch Policy, and updating the environmental risk assessments for AFMA’s major fisheries.

Benefits to Australians from Commonwealth fisheries

The statement should expand on the broader values derived from sustainable fisheries besides the supply of seafood - such as maintaining biodiversity and the marine ecosystem, resource access for other sectors and fishing experience.

Theme one now expands on the benefits to Australians from Commonwealth fisheries beyond the supply of seafood. It notes a range of benefits derived from maintaining healthy marine ecosystems including resource access for recreational fishing and Indigenous cultural fishing, tourism, amenity and community satisfaction that fisheries are sustainable.

Transparency

There needs to be transparency about how stakeholder views are incorporated into decision-making. It is not clarified how the views of stakeholders are taken into account and the results are communicated back to stakeholders.

AFMA incorporates a wide range of stakeholder views in its decision-making through public consultation, management advisory committees (MACs), resource assessment groups (RAGs), expert groups and other stakeholder forums.

AFMA publishes minutes from MAC, RAG and expert group meetings on the AFMA website as well as a summary of the key decisions made by the AFMA Commission at each of its meetings.

AFMA’s communications have evolved considerably in 2018 with the use of more videos, photos and simple language on the AFMA website and Facebook page. By doing this, AFMA is able to reach a broader audience.

The statement now includes the following additional wording:

“Stakeholder feedback is taken into consideration in the Commission’s decision-making process”. (Theme 2)

“A summary of the key decisions made by the AFMA Commission at each of its meetings is reported on the AFMA website. AFMA intends to continually improve the information about the Commission’s decisions to assist stakeholders' understanding of those decisions”. (Theme 4)

Social considerations in harvest strategies

A key consideration for AFMA is how social objectives will factor into the development and principles underpinning fishery specific harvest strategies.

 

The revised Commonwealth Harvest Strategy Policy (CHSP) articulates a requirement for the interests of the recreational and Indigenous sectors to be considered when developing harvest strategies for commercial fisheries. Consistent with the role of the CHSP guidelines, the interest to be considered is confined to the economic benefit to the Australian community.

AFMA will be reviewing its fishery harvest strategies to ensure consistency with the revised CHSP and Guidelines.

AFMA’s stakeholders

AFMA should clarify who are AFMA’s stakeholders. AFMA does not take account of the socio-economic importance of the fishing industry to communities.

 

AFMA manages Commonwealth fisheries for the benefit of the Australian community, and not at the local/regional community or operator level consistent with Australian Government policy and previous judicial decisions.

 

The Commonwealth Harvest Strategy Policy sets out how AFMA pursues its objective to maximise net economic returns to the Australian community.

Who are AFMA’s stakeholders?

AFMA manages Commonwealth fisheries consistent with legislation and relevant government policy. Generally AFMA’s stakeholders are the relevant Ministers, Commonwealth commercial fishers, recreational fishers, Indigenous fishers, researchers, environment and conservation organisations and other government agencies. AFMA’s stakeholders can vary depending on the issue being considered and in some cases will include specific groups or communities (eg regional and Indigenous communities). As such, AFMA engages stakeholders through a range of forums including management advisory committees, resource assessment groups, multi-stakeholder workshops, the AFMA website, social media and public consultation. AFMA considers all stakeholder comments it receives noting that not all the decisions it makes are subject to consultation with stakeholders, e.g. matters surrounding compliance action or that are regarded as minor in nature.

Stakeholder engagement

A number of submissions included comments on stakeholder engagement. The key issues raised were:

  1. the need to strengthen Indigenous and recreational representation on management advisory committees (MACs) and resource assessment groups (RAGs);
  2. recreational and Indigenous interests could form part of all relevant MAC and RAG agenda items and clearly show how these interests have been considered;
  3. the need to ensure AFMA’s processes and engagement tools are culturally relevant;
  4. AFMA could consider including social scientists on MACs and RAGs following the recent legislative amendments;
  5. the need to engage more effectively with low literacy stakeholders; and
  6. the need to engage more with industry when developing news stories and social media stories that highlight the industry.

 

AFMA will be strengthening engagement strategies with commercial, recreational and Indigenous fishing stakeholders including through MAC and RAG representation and other stakeholder forums. AFMA will be supporting the development of projects to build capacity in the recreational and Indigenous fishing sectors to help engagement in AFMA’s fisheries management. Ongoing training is provided to members of AFMA’s advisory committees.

AFMA will take commercial, recreational and Indigenous fishing interests into account when AFMA harvest strategies and other key documents are reviewed.

AFMA’s communications have evolved considerably in 2018 with the use of videos, photos and simple language on the AFMA website and Facebook page. By doing this, AFMA is able to reach a broader audience.

Where appropriate, AFMA works with industry to develop stories about the Commonwealth commercial fishing industry in line with the agency’s Corporate Goals.

Social impacts of maximum economic yield (MEY) targets and individual transferable quotas (ITQs)

A number of submissions raised concerns about the social impacts of MEY targets and ITQs. The key issues raised were:

  1. ITQs result in consolidation of the fishing fleet and higher entry costs;
  2. MEY targets and ITQs may result in reduced total allowable catches (TACs), reduced seafood supply to consumers, higher prices and reduced employment in fisheries. Seafood supply to consumers could be increased sustainably by targeting maximum sustainable yield (MSY) instead of MEY; and
  3. The flow on social benefits from maximising economic returns are not always clear.

 

The statement reflects AFMA’s current thinking on how the agency incorporates the social aspects of ESD into fisheries management, and also brings in our consideration of recreational and Indigenous interests and government legislation and policies.

Initially, AFMA will be focussing on actions to contribute to the themes in the statement. Over the longer term, AFMA will regularly review the statement, themes and actions and may seek to work with the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources on these matters.

 

Recreational fishing

AFMA should pro-actively engage with recreational fishing management.

AFMA will be working with the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources to develop a Commonwealth resource sharing policy for the commercial, recreational, and Indigenous sectors.

Impacts of Climate change

AFMA should monitor the effects of climate change on the social aspects of Commonwealth-managed fisheries, and manage those fisheries in a way that assists affected communities to adapt to changes. This should take into consideration the fact that climate change will not have the same effects on all people, but will affect different groups differently, and management should be tailored accordingly.

Through the project Adaptation of Commonwealth Fisheries Management to Climate Change (FRDC 2016-059), AFMA, CSIRO and others are working together to better understand the anticipated climate driven pressures on fisheries and how they may affect fisheries over the next decade or two. The project aims to develop a risk assessment framework and methodology to help identify the ecological, economic and social aspects of the potential risks that may arise in fisheries as a result of climate change. It also aims to identify strategies to support climate change adaptation in Commonwealth fisheries.