Program 1.4: Fishing Industry

​​Program objective

  • foster and enable productive, profitable, internationally competitive and sustainable Australian fishing and aquaculture industries.

Program description

We worked closely with the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) on issues relating to the management of Australia’s Commonwealth fisheries and collaborated with ABARES in obtaining scientific advice. We also engaged state and territory agencies and consulted a range of stakeholders on national approaches to sustainable management of the fishing industry across jurisdictions.

DAFF represented Australia’s interests overseas to promote responsible fishing practices and combat illegal fishing.

More information is available at fisheries.

Key performance indicators

Table 5 Program 1.4—Fishing industry—key performance indicators
Key performance indicator 2012–13 target Performance
2012–13 2011–12 2010–11
Timely review of the Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy Policy Report published Met Met
Timely review of the Commonwealth Fisheries Bycatch Policy Report published a Met
Develop effective and timely advice on licence cancellation provisions Advice provided a Met
Develop effective and timely advice on fisheries accreditations and product labelling Advice provided a Met
Develop effective and timely advice on Commonwealth fisheries legislative frameworks Consult stakeholders a Met
Develop and implement policy and legislative frameworks that support a National Recreational Fishing Strategy 10 projects completed a Partially met (see page 51)
Briefing papers for international negotiations on fisheries trade and marine conservation prepared in a timely manner 100% a Met
Engage with domestic and international stakeholders on fisheries resource sharing issues Three meetings a Met
All levy funds paid to the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) 100% a Met
Engage with FRDC and the Australian Fisheries Management Authority to ensure compliance with statutory funding agreement and relevant legislation and to discuss industry activities Two meetings a Met
Scientific and economic research
Underpinning research, advice, forecasts, projects, products and data services are delivered on time, within budget and are of high quality 85% a Met

a New performance indicator.

Achievements

Reforming fisheries management

The Fisheries Management Review, released in March 2013, was the first review of its kind since the introduction of the Fisheries Administration Act 1991 and the Fisheries Management Act 1991. The review, led by Mr David Borthwick AO PSM, included consultation with commercial fishing, recreational fishing, environmental and government stakeholders, as well as a public submissions process. The department provided secretariat support.

The review found that the management of Australia’s Commonwealth fisheries is in good shape but that improvements could be made in policy coverage, transparency and communication with the broader stakeholder base. The minister announced the government’s broad agreement with the review’s recommendations.

Reviewing the Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy Policy and Guidelines

We completed a review of the Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy Policy and Guidelines. The review sought to improve the management of commercial species in Commonwealth fisheries, by developing an integrated policy and implementation framework that links with the Commonwealth Policy on Fisheries Bycatch, while supporting fisheries and environmental legislation.

The review considered matters such as target and limit reference points, managing byproduct and data-poor species, rebuilding overfished stocks, optimising economic yield and reporting and transparency. It was informed by a stakeholder advisory committee and government steering committee, ABARES research and a public consultation process.

Reviewing the Commonwealth Policy on Fisheries Bycatch

We completed a revie​w of the Commonwealth Policy on Fisheries Bycatch, as part of the integrated policy and framework with the review of the Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy Policy and Guidelines. The review was undertaken with support from the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, AFMA, the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) and stakeholders representing commercial fishing, recreational fishing, research, scientific and environmental non-government organisations.

Strengthening fisheries laws​

Parliament passed legislation to support the ongoing implementation of electronic monitoring (e-monitoring) on Commonwealth fishing boats. The new provisions mean AFMA can direct fishers to carry and operate equipment such as video cameras, sensors and global positioning systems. The data from e-monitoring will produce a more comprehensive and accurate picture of fishing activities and the impact of fishing on other species and the marine environment. The system is expected to generate significant savings for fishers in areas where monitoring requirements are high.

The legislation also strengthens AFMA’s ability to ensure fishing concession holders are responsible for offences committed by the master of the fishing boat or a member of the crew. The changes encourage all fishing concession holders to continue ensuring their crew is well-trained in appropriate fishing practices. The legislation also made minor amendments to make provisions clear, consistent and simpler to administer.

Protecting seabirds

An FRDC funded assessment of seabird interactions in trawl, gillnet and purse seine fisheries was completed in June 2013. We commissioned the assessment in response to the International Plan of Action for Reducing Incidental Catch of Seabirds in Longline Fisheries, which the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations extended to include trawl and gillnet fisheries.

The assessment, which builds on work in 2008 to reduce the incidental catch of seabirds in longline fisheries, identified the nature of the incidental catch of seabirds and the next steps required to develop a national plan of action for seabirds.

Supporting recreational fishers

All 10 of the projects that support the National Recreational Fishing Strategy were contracted out and are being undertaken with varying completion dates; six have been completed and the remaining four are due for completion between October 2013 and mid-2014. This is because of delayed start dates, revised milestones, availability of stakeholders for workshops and issues with the granting of local government permits for the placement of ‘angel rings’ (safety buoys) in fishing blackspots. The department’s target for this key performance indicator was ‘partially met’ in 2012–13.

Strengthening international fisheries management

We were the lead agency for negotiations on a multilateral treaty to strengthen fisheries management in the Pacific region. In November 2012, Australia and the other 16 members of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency adopted the ‘Agreement on Strengthening Implementation of the Niue Treaty on Cooperation in Fisheries Surveillance and Law Enforcement in the South Pacific Region’.

The agreement will play a valuable role in reducing illegal unreported and unregulated fishing, increasing the capacity for sharing intelligence and data to monitor and control the large number of fishing boats in Pacific waters.

Work commenced to enable Australia to sign and ratify the agreement. Australia provided capacity building assistance to a number of Pacific Island countries, to help them prepare for activities under the agreement. Australia is also funding a legal officer position in the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency to help implement the agreement.

Engaging our region

In January 2013, we led Australia’s delegation to the first meeting of the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation. The Australian delegation successfully negotiated adoption of a proposal to prohibit the use of deepwater gillnets and large-scale pelagic driftnets in the high seas areas of the South Pacific Ocean. This was a significant achievement and a clear sign that Australia is serious about promoting sustainable fishing methods and conserving the marine environment.

In the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, Australia and other Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency members successfully advocated an increase in fish aggregating device closures from three to four months of the year, to reduce fishing mortality rates on key tuna species. The commission also accepted an Australian proposal to protect whale sharks from purse seine fishing operations, as well as a stronger measure to protect seabirds affected by fishing operations.

Supporting fisheries management in the Indian Ocean

We continued to lead Australia’s efforts to engage more closely with neighbouring countries to improve the capacity of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission to manage Indian Ocean fisheries resources. The Australian Government supported a commission workshop to assist coastal states to build skills in fisheries management systems. We also supported and facilitated the Second Indian Ocean Coastal State meeting in Mauritius.

Conserving the southern bluefin tuna

In October 2012, we secured funding from the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna for the 2013 scientific aerial survey. The survey, undertaken in the Great Australian Bight, provides independent data for monitoring the global southern bluefin tuna stock. This data informs decisions on total allowable catches through the commission’s management procedure, which aims to rebuild the stock to an interim target of 20 per cent of unfished levels by 2035.

Scientific and economic research

We continued to provide research, analysis and advice to support policy development and inform the fishing industry and stakeholders. This research focused on domestic issues and included technical reports that contributed to the reviews of the Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy policy and the Commonwealth Policy on Fisheries Bycatch, and a review of cost-recovery in Commonwealth fisheries. ABARES also led our scientific engagement in regional and international fisheries issues.

The annual ABARES fisheries status reports provided an independent evaluation of the biological status of commercial fish stocks and the economic status of fisheries managed or jointly managed by the Australian Government.

In December 2012, ABARES released the Status of key Australian fish stocks report, providing the first national assessment of the status of 49 key fish species or species groups across their full distribution ranges, including areas fished by state, territory and Commonwealth fisheries.

The report provides scientific national stock status assessments for species that contribute more than 80 per cent of the value and 70 per cent of the catch volume from Australian fisheries. It is available at fisheries research and development corporation.

Challenges

Large mid-water trawl freezer vessels

The proposed introduction of the large mid-water trawl freezer vessel FV Margiris into the Commonwealth Small Pelagic Fishery attracted significant public attention in the second half of 2012. The debate highlighted changing community expectations of fisheries management.

Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement

We played an important role in the establishment of the Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement, which came into force in June 2012 following Australia’s ratification. While progress of this agreement remains slow, with members yet to finalise the date and location of their first meeting, Australia continued to work cooperatively with other members to ensure the long-term conservation and sustainable use of fisheries resources in the Southern Indian Ocean. We are working toward the first meeting and an increase in membership as other interested countries join the agreement.

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Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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