66th AFMA Commission meeting – Chairman’s summary

The Commission met for its 66th meeting in Hobart on 16-17 May 2019.

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

  • Review of the Small Pelagic Fishery (SPF) and Gillnet Dolphin Mitigation Strategies

In considering the proposed approach, Commissioners noted that AFMA had undertaken a review of the SPF and Gillnet Dolphin Mitigation strategies’ performance after the first 12 months of operation and that as part of that review, AFMA had consulted the Marine Mammal Working Group, the South East Management Advisory Committee (SEMAC) and the public between October 2018 and February 2019. In addition, based on reported interactions, the strategies appear to be having the desired effect of reducing the number of dolphin interactions in both fisheries. However, while dolphin interactions in the gillnet fishery have declined markedly, there is a disproportionate number of interactions that are occurring off South Australia relative to fishing effort.

As a result, the Commission agreed that while only minor changes were needed for the SPF Strategy, three major changes were required for the Gillnet Strategy. The Commission approved recommended changes to introduce spatial management (that will force operators to move out of the higher-risk area off South Australia after only one review period if they cannot stay under the interaction rate while still allowing them to fish elsewhere in the fishery); a two stage trigger to prevent random events penalising operators unduly; and provide recognition of the role of electronic monitoring (e-monitoring) (to better reflect current processes that utilise e-monitoring and remove some of the regulatory burden on operators).

  • Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery (ETBF) Management Strategy (FMS)

The purpose of an FMS is to combine a suite of currently separate management strategies and approaches (eg. fishery-specific harvest strategies, ecological risk management strategies, bycatch action plans, five-year research strategies and data strategies) into a single integrated fishery-specific strategy. The purpose is to streamline AFMA’s fishery-specific management and reporting processes to increase stakeholder understanding. Publication of FMS will also provide greater transparency and accountability of AFMA’s fishery-level performance against its legislative objectives.

The Commission endorsed the draft ETBF FMS, subject to some further minor revisions, and noted that the ETBF FMS is intended to serve as a template for the application of FMS across all Commonwealth-managed fisheries.

  • Structural Adjustment in the Northern Prawn Fishery (NPF)

The Commission had previously requested AFMA to work with the NPF Resource Assessment Group and the Management Advisory Committee to improve key areas of the NPF’s Individual Transferable Effort (ITE) management system, particularly in relation to the pursuit of maximum economic yield and measuring and accounting for increases in fishing power.

Commissioners noted that AFMA’s Economic Working Group had considered proposed structural adjustment indicators and supported their application. Commissioners agreed that it was not necessary to consider a minimum SFR holding for NPF operators at this time.

The Commission agreed with the NPF structural adjustment indicators and ongoing annual reporting against them, recognising that such annual reporting should provide early warning of emerging issues.

  • Appointment of Management Advisory Committee (MAC) Chairs

Following consideration of the recommendations from AFMA’s merit-based selection process, the Commission appointed Chairs for the Southern Bluefin Tuna MAC, SEMAC, and the Great Australian Bight MAC.

  • Other issues

Commissioners also discussed a number of fisheries management issues including:

  • Key elements of the transition of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery to a new harvest strategy including associated monitoring, assessment and harvest control rules; and
  • Development of a Fishery Management Paper on co-management to provide guidance on governance that would assist new entrants to co-management arrangements with AFMA. Amongst other aspects, the paper would clarify the nature of the industry partner and address social licence expectations. Consultation with stakeholders would also be a key element in finalising the paper.

During the meeting, Commissioners also had the opportunity to have discussions with industry representatives and the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment.

This Commission meeting was also the last for four of the Commissioners, all of whom had made outstanding contributions to the work of AFMA and helped to ensure that management of Commonwealth fisheries was world class.

Helen Kroger


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