65th AFMA Commission Meeting – Chairman’s summary

The Commission met for its 65th meeting in Canberra on 4-5 March 2019.

Key decisions and discussions by the Commission at its meeting included:

  • Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery (SESSF) – Total Allowable Catches (TACs)

In considering the proposed TACs, the Commission NOTED:

a) Recommended Biological Catches (RBCs), TACs, percentages for overcatch and undercatch and determined amounts recommended as applicable by fishery Resource Assessment Groups (RAGs), the Great Australian Bight Management Advisory Committee (GABMAC), the South East Management Advisory Committee (SEMAC) and AFMA Management for the 2019-20 fishing year;

b) advice from the Great Australian Bight Resource Assessment Group (GABRAG), South East Resource Assessment Group (SERAG) and Shark Resource Assessment Group (SharkRAG), including sustainable Recommended Biological Catches (RBCs); and

c) Great Australian Bight Fishing Industry Association (GABIA) recommended TACs for the 2019-20 fishing year for the Great Australian Bight Trawl Sector (GABTS).

The Commission then AGREED to:

a) determine the TACs for SESSF quota species for the 2019-20 fishing year in accordance with Section 11 of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery Management Plan 2003 (the Plan);

b) determine the TAC limits for non-quota species for the 2019-20 fishing year in accordance with Section 15 of the Plan;

c) determine amounts and percentages for overcatch and undercatch for SESSF quota species in accordance with Section 22, 22A and 23 of the Plan; and

d) accept the AFMA Research Committee’s recommendations in relation to setting research catch allowances for orange roughy.

  • Small Pelagic Fishery (SPF) – Total Allowable Catches (TACs)

In considering the proposed TACs, the Commission NOTED that:

a) recommended TACs were derived from the Recommended Biological Catches agreed by the Scientific Panel and from which all other available sources of mortality are deducted ie. state catch, SPF discards and catch (retained and discarded) from other Commonwealth fisheries; and

b) AFMA had undertaken a teleconference with recreational fishers in which no concerns about the proposed catch levels had been raised as they reflected scientific advice.

Consequently, the Commission AGREED to:

a) determine the TACs for SPF quota species for the 2019-20 season in accordance with Section 17 of the Small Pelagic Fishery Management Plan 2009 (the Plan); and

b) determine the amounts and percentages for overcatch, undercatch and determined weight for SPF quota species for the 2019-20 season in accordance with Section 29 and 30 of the Plan.

  • AFMA Statement on the Social Aspects of Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD)

As part of articulating and broadening its incorporation of ESD into fisheries management in line with its legislated objectives, AFMA undertook consultations during the second half of 2018 with industry and public stakeholders on social aspects of ESD. Drawing on this material, AFMA has finalised a position statement – How AFMA considers the social aspects of the ecologically sustainable development principles in the management of Commonwealth Fisheries. Commissioners agreed that this should now be published, along with proposed actions by AFMA and responses to the broad themes identified by stakeholders through the consultation process.

In the longer term, Commissioners considered that AFMA will need to consider the future nature of fisheries including the implications of quota aggregation for social equity.

  • Delegation

The Commission AGREED to delegation of some Commission powers under the Fisheries Administration Act 1991 to the AFMA CEO. This was intended to facilitate more efficient and effective day-to-day operations by AFMA. For operational purposes it was subsequently intended that the CEO would sub-delegate this power to AFMA staff.

  • Other issues

Commissioners also discussed a number of fisheries management issues including:

  • AFMA’s preparation of Fisheries Management Strategies (FMS), which would bring together all the elements of the management framework for each fishery. The first trial document covers the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery (ETBF);
  • The outcomes for the Northern Prawn Fishery (NPF) of possible altered river flows and high water extraction, drawing on modelling undertaken by CSIRO in its Northern Australia Water Resources Assessment. Commissioners noted that this modelling suggests that altered river flows and high water extraction in catchments relevant to the NPF are predicted to reduce prawn catches, particularly for white banana prawns. These banana prawns are very profitable and catch reductions could impact significantly on the industry’s bottom line. The NPF industry will need to engage directly in government development processes to ensure that impacts on prawn productivity are considered when assessing development requirements; and
  • The recent increased interest in the collection of black tiger prawns for broodstock for use in northern aquaculture and on the Queensland east coast to support restocking. Commissioners supported a precautionary approach including additional monitoring and mitigation measures for sawfish bycatch, undertaking a priority assessment of black tiger prawns during the first half of 2019, and maintaining the existing live collection limit of 9,000 individuals subject to review following the stock assessment and the impacts of broodstock collection on sawfish.

In closing, the Commissioners commented on the continuing opportunity for stakeholder engagement that the AFMA annual public forum provides, whilst noting that the public/stakeholders had chosen not to participate at this meeting.

Helen Kroger


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