Response to Humane Society International and Australian Marine Conservation Society

17 December 2018


​​​Ms Erica Martin
Chief Executive Officer
Humane Society International
PO Box 439
AVALON NSW 2107

Mr Darren Kindleysides   
Chief Executive Officer
Australian Marine Conservation Society Inc.
PO Box 5815
WEST END QLD 4101

Dear Ms Martin and Mr Kindleysides

I understand that Humane Society International (HSI) and Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) recently instigated a nationwide campaign advocating for the closure of areas in the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery (SESSF) to avoid dolphin bycatch.

While any dolphin death is regrettable, it should be recognised that all food production activities have some level of impact on the environment. For commercial fishing, one of the most direct and visible impacts from the harvest of commercial species is the incidental catch (or take) of species that are not retained - bycatch. Although bycatch is often difficult to avoid, the Australian Government continues to apply best-practice fisheries management measures to minimise interactions with non-target species.

On 21 November 2018, I released an updated version of the Commonwealth Fisheries Bycatch Policy. The Bycatch Policy provides guidance to fisheries managers on minimising and reducing interactions with protected species including dolphins in all Commonwealth managed fisheries. Importantly the policy is aligned with the Commonwealth’s requirements under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). I thank both HSI and AMCS for their contributions to the development of this important document and for their public support of its release.

As the independent regulator, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) manages fisheries bycatch in accordance with the Bycatch Policy. Operational guidance is provided through the Commonwealth Marine Mammal Working Group of which HSI is the conservation member.

There are a number of actions that can reduce the risk of fisher interactions with dolphins including using fishing gear and techniques that increase net tension so that dolphins can avoid and not become entangled in nets. These are outlined in AFMA’s Gillnet Dolphin Mitigation Strategy which has an overarching objective of minimising dolphin interactions through individual fisher accountability while creating incentives for fishers to pursue innovations in bycatch mitigation tailored to their particular fishing operations. The strategy implements escalating management responses for dolphin interactions, including fishing restrictions that are designed to minimise future interactions. AFMA is currently reviewing the Gillnet Dolphin Mitigation Strategy. For further information and to make submissions please see: www.afma.gov.au/news-media/news/review-gillnet-dolphin-mitigation-strategy-and-small-pelagic-fishery-dolphin

The gillnet sector of the SESSF is among only a handful of fisheries worldwide that is required to have on-board electronic monitoring cameras on all full-time fishing vessels. This assists in the monitoring and reporting of bycatch interactions. For more information on how AFMA is minimising interactions with bycatch species, including threatened and protected species, visit afma.gov.au.

The Australian Government remains committed to protecting the environment and to sustainably managing our Commonwealth fisheries for the enjoyment of all Australians into the future. I am confident that AFMA’s robust management framework, which includes measures to minimise and reduce bycatch of protected species such as dolphins in the SESSF, means that our Commonwealth fisheries are managed in an ecological sustainable manner consistent with international best practice.

This letter will be made available on the Department of A​griculture and Water Resources’ website. The government will not be responding directly to campaign correspondence arising from the Australian Marine Conservation Society or affiliated websites.

Yours sincerely

Richard Colbeck