Go to top of page

Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery

Map of Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery

Estimated catch: 5,239 tonnes

Stock Status of Target Species

Common name (scientific name)

Latest available status assessment

2019

2020

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Striped marlin (Tetrapturus audax)

Not subject to overfishing

Overfished

Not subject to overfishing

Overfished

Albacore (Thunnus alalunga)

Not subject to overfishing

Not overfished

Not subject to overfishing

Not overfished

Yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares)

Not subject to overfishing

Not overfished

Not subject to overfishing

Not overfished

Bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus)

Not subject to overfishing

Not overfished

Not subject to overfishing

Not overfished

Swordfish (Xiphias gladius)

Not subject to overfishing

Not overfished

Not subject to overfishing

Not overfished

Source: Patterson, H, Bromhead, D, Galeano, D, Larcombe, J, Woodhams, J and Curtotti, R 2021, Fishery status reports 2021, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra. CC BY 4.0.

Management Plans/Arrangements

The fishery continues to be managed in accordance with the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery Management Plan 2010, and conservation and management measures mandated by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) of which Australia is a member. The fishery is managed through output controls (total allowable commercial catches and individually transferable quotas) and input controls (e.g. limited entry and gear restrictions).

During the period 2020-21 AFMA finalised a harvest strategy for broadbill swordfish. Work continued to develop a harvest strategy for striped marlin. The revised swordfish harvest strategy was used to inform the AFMA Commission when setting the 2021 swordfish total allowable commercial catch. Performance criteria detailed in the fishery management plan were met in 2020-21.

Analysis of Performance

Status of stocks

Overall, ETBF catches of key commercial species decreased from 3,838 tonnes in 2019 compared to 3,778 tonnes in 2020. A relatively high proportion of the total allowable commercial catches were caught for yellowfin tuna and striped marlin but less so for swordfish and less than half the catch limits set for albacore tuna and bigeye tuna were caught. Domestically, the total allowable commercial catches of all the key commercial species are considered to be appropriate and of no concern to the status of these regional stocks.

There are two major research projects underway in the fishery. The first aims to use genetic information to assess connectivity between target species in ETBF and the broader Pacific Ocean. The second project aims to investigate oceanographic impacts on the fishery to better understand inter-annual variations in catches, interactions between fishery sectors, connectivity and longer-term potential climate change impacts.

During 2020-21 a research project to develop a harvest strategy for broadbill swordfish was completed. The new harvest strategy was adopted and implemented during 2020-21 and the AFMA Commission used the harvest strategy results to set the Total Allowable Commercial Catch for Swordfish in 2021.

The ETBF is part of the broader Western and Central Pacific tuna fishery managed under the WCPFC. The most recent WCPFC assessments for each of the five target stocks indicate that none of these stocks are overfished or subject to overfishing.

An ERA for the fishery was completed in mid-2019 and indicates that the ETBF longline fishery as a whole does not pose a high risk to the ecological sustainability of general bycatch, protected species or by-product species.

Fishery management arrangements

Since July 2015 all boats fishing more than 30 days a year in the ETBF have been required to have a system of cameras and sensors installed to monitor all fishing operations. During 2020-21 it was made compulsory for all longliners. Footage is recorded when fishing operations are occurring to verify the logbook records. 10 per cent of all longline shots (minimum of one shot per boat, per month) are reviewed and compared to the logbook reports. Regular feedback reports are provided to ETBF operators to inform them of their reporting performance. Since the implementation of e-monitoring, analyses conducted by ABARES has indicated an improvement in logbook reporting. The improved logbook reporting will enable AFMA to make better risk assessments and better focus resources to minimise the impact of fishing on the marine environment.

Between May and November each year a southern bluefin tuna (SBT) zone is implemented in the fishery to help ensure that any SBT caught is covered by quota and to minimise discarding. To enter the zone, ETBF operators are required to hold a minimum amount of SBT quota and maintain an operational electronic monitoring system on board. The SBT zone location is reviewed weekly using sea surface temperature maps and industry catch information.

External Reviews

Compliance by the ETBF with Conservation and Management Measures of the WCPFC is reviewed on an annual basis under the WCPFC Compliance Monitoring Scheme. In
2020-21, as in previous years, ETBF management arrangements were consistent with WCPFC measures. The ETBF has certification from the Marine Stewardship Council for catches of yellowfin tuna, bigeye tuna, swordfish and albacore.