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2018-19 saw a continuation of projects and arrangements to support AFMA's ongoing sustainable fisheries management. These strong arrangements have resulted in a continuation of no stocks managed solely by AFMA being classified as subject to overfishing (see Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences Fishery Status Reports 2019). This is a great result and reflects the hard work of all of our stakeholders. A key focus for the agency for this period has been understanding potential climate impacts on our fisheries and preparing fisheries to be adaptable to change.

AFMA, in collaboration with a variety of organisations, is working towards the adaptation of fisheries governance to predicted changes in the climate and oceanography through a series of projects which aim to add resilience to the management of Commonwealth fisheries. A key component of this work was a workshop in November 2018, where workshop attendees were introduced to: climate change, impacts of climate change on fisheries and their implications on fishery management. Stakeholders helped develop impact pathways to understand the various ways in which climate change may impact a fishery and its management. These impact pathways are currently being used to develop a risk assessment methodology, which is being applied to two test case fisheries.

Protected species interactions continue to remain a focus for AFMA. We worked with the South East trawl industry to develop new arrangements to minimize interactions between trawl gear and seabirds. Changes to discarding of biological material in high risk zones of the fishery will commence in late 2019, coupled with an exemption process that incentivises fishers to develop other ways to reduce interactions. In addition we completed a review of dolphin mitigation strategies in the small pelagic and gillnet hook and trap fishery to continue to minimise, avoid and respond to interactions with dolphins in those fisheries.

The reviews of the Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy Policy and Bycatch Policy were completed in November 2018 and we are continuing to work with its research and development partners to progress several key components including multispecies harvest strategies, cumulative impacts and reducing unwanted bycatch.

AFMA continued to monitor and develop its Ecological Risk Assessment and Ecological Risk Management framework for Commonwealth fisheries. The Ecological Risk Management Steering Committee met during the period updating the methodology to take account of the changes to the Commonwealth harvest strategy and bycatch policies and to develop a priority assessment schedule for fisheries.

In March 2019 we released a statement, including actions detailing how we will incorporate social aspects of ecological sustainable development into our decision making, this included:

  • strengthening its engagement with commercial, recreational and Indigenous fishing stakeholders through Management Advisory Committees and Resource Assessment Groups representation, taking commercial, recreational and Indigenous fishing interests into account when AFMA harvest strategies and other key documents are reviewed and supporting the development of projects to build capacity in the recreational and Indigenous fishing sectors
  • providing greater transparency about Commission decisions, rolling out fisheries management strategies across key fisheries to provide a single public and easily accessible source of information on how each fisheries is managed
  • continuing to improve access to AFMA fisheries information through data.gov.au.

We are continuing to work with the Department of Agriculture to develop resource sharing arrangements across the commercial, recreational and Indigenous sectors including developing a national framework for resource sharing to support the development of best practice catch sharing arrangements and common harvest strategies.

We also progressed new co-management opportunities with the Commonwealth fishing industry with an agreement recently being entered into with the south-east trawl industry. This includes a new Seine and Trawl Advisory Group to provide expert advice to AFMA on operational aspects of the Commonwealth Trawl Sector to better inform fisheries management advice to and from the Management Advisory Committee and decisions made by AFMA and the AFMA Commission. Successful co-management may reduce regulatory burden on fishers, build industry capacity and contribute to efficient and cost-effective management for the fishery.

We introduced a Transhipping Policy and Guidelines to support consistent decision making and create greater certainty for the fishing industry regarding transhipping. The Transhipping Policy and Transhipping Guidelines apply to catch taken in the Australian Fishing Zone by boats nominated to a Commonwealth fishing concession and to be landed to an Australian port. In preparing the documents, AFMA considered comments and feedback received from a broad range of stakeholders including its fishery Management Advisory Committees, commercial fishing industry associations including the Commonwealth Fisheries Association, recreational fishing groups, conservation groups, the Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation and the general public.