The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) has implemented dolphin mitigation strategies in the Small Pelagic Fishery (SPF) and the Gillnet Hook and Trap sector (GHAT) of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery (SESSF). The one month public comment period opened on 15 March 2017 and closed on 12 April 2017. The submissions raised by the public included the following key issues:
- The strategies, where possible, should be made consistent.
- The proposed interaction rate and caps do not provide enough protection to dolphins and do not consider cumulative impacts.
- The proposed interaction rate and caps are too complex and only a rate should be used.
- The management responses, for when interactions do occur, should be stronger.
- More research is needed on dolphin population and abundance estimates.
AFMA has considered all submissions and the strategies have addressed the comments consistent with AFMA pursuing minimising interactions with protected species and the Commonwealth commercial fishing industry taking all reasonable steps to avoid interactions with protected species. Key changes include:
- Where possible, the strategies have been made more consistent, but differences do exist with arrangements tailored to suit the specific circumstances in the two fisheries.
- In addition to the number of interactions, the strategies have also incorporated management responses in relation to the frequency of interactions because this is more indicative of an operator using poor mitigation methods.
- Management responses are included that ensure an output based approach, consistent with best-practice fisheries management, where operators are individually responsible for their fishing practices. The individual responsibility approach provides incentives for individual operators to minimise dolphin interactions and implement and develop mitigation measures best suited to their circumstances and location.
- The strategies have been amended to clarify they will be reviewed every 12 months, with input from the Commonwealth Marine Mammal Working Group, to take into account any new information on dolphin populations, on-the-water experience and cumulative mortality rates.