Source: Patterson, H, Larcombe, J, Woodhams, J and Curtotti, R 2020, Fishery status reports 2020, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra. CC BY 4.0.
The fishery continued to be managed in accordance with the Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery Management Plan 2005 and resolutions mandated by the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) of which Australia is a member.
The performance criteria detailed in the fishery management plan were all met in 2019–20.
Analysis of Performance
Status of fish stocks
The Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery has continued to operate at low levels of effort, largely due to economic conditions. In 2019–20, catch levels for the main target species were slightly lower than 2018–19 due to a reduction in vessel numbers for part of the year. Domestically, the total allowable commercial catches for all the key commercial species are currently considered to be appropriate and of no concern to the regional stock status. However, the Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery target species are managed internationally and there are concerns regarding the stock status of striped marlin and yellowfin tuna. Both are considered to be overfished and subject to overfishing within the wider Indian Ocean. Updated stock assessments for both striped marlin and yellowfin tuna were completed in 2018.
AFMA cooperates with the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment to encourage IOTC to implement robust catch controls and country-specific allocations to rebuild overfished stocks and manage all stocks into the future.
Fishery management arrangements
Since July 2015 active boats in the Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery have been required to have electronic monitoring – a system of cameras and sensors installed to monitor all fishing operations. Footage is recorded when fishing operations are occurring to verify logbook records. All fishing operations on active boats are now monitored, with 10 per cent of all longline shots (minimum of one shot per boat, per month) reviewed and compared to the logbook reports. Regular feedback reports are provided to Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery operators to inform them of their reporting performance. Since the implementation of electronic monitoring, preliminary analysis has indicated an improvement in logbook reporting. Improved logbook reporting in fisheries with electronic monitoring has enabled us to make better risk assessments and better focus resources to minimise the impact of fishing on the marine environment. AFMA continues to monitor protected species interactions in the fishery but these occur at a very low level, in part due to the low level of fishing effort.
No external reviews were completed during 2019-20.