Sustainability

Seafish Tasmania is committed to sustainable fishing.

The Small Pelagics Fishery is managed by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) under a Statutory Management Plan (link to AFMA website on the right of page).

The fish species that are included under the Management Plan are redbait, jack mackerel, blue mackerel and sardine.  An individual quota system was implemented under the Management Plan on 1 May 2012.

The Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for each species in each zone of the fishery is set annually by AFMA in accordance with the Small Pelagic Fishery Harvest Strategy. This is a set of rules developed by the Small Pelagic Fishery Resource Assessment Group, which includes scientists, the AFMA fishery manager, and representatives of the fishing industry, the conservation movement and the recreational fishing sector.

The Harvest Strategy explicitly recognises that the target species in the fishery are important components of the wider ecosystem, providing food for a range of predators including larger fish species, marine mammals and seabirds.

Dr. Keith Sainsbury of the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies, recipient of the prestigious Japan Prize, considered to be the highest honour in the world for ecology and sustainability research, recently wrote an article entitled “Scientific Opinion on matters related to the management and sustainability of the Commonwealth Small Pelagic Fishery”. In this article he states that “I have no doubt that this fishery is an example of world’s best practice and it meets or exceeds the most rigorous scientific requirements for an ecologically sustainable fishery on forage fish. These requirements are designed to be ecologically safe, especially in relation to dependent predators in the food web, for all the known food webs in the world. This includes food webs that are much more fragile than those in SE Australia and so these scientific requirements provide additional precaution when applied here”.

Bob Kearney, Emeritus Professor of Fisheries Management at Canberra University, commenting on ABC radio on sustainability of Australian fisheries.

“I’ve written numerous papers on this subject. The one that recently was out, the one I wrote with Ray Hilborn, who is the Professor of Fisheries at the University of Washington, where we pointed out the problems of Australian public being misled about the state of Australia’s fisheries. You know, the public needs to be aware that sustainable fisheries management represents the most ecologically sustainable source of food. Now fishing takes the surplus production from species that are well-managed in the ocean. It does not do what agriculture does. Fishing does not start by clear felling the land and ploughing it. And then introducing species that are not native and then using herbicides and pesticides to make sure that the native species don’t make a comeback. Australians for some reason tolerate this because we need food. They don’t seem to tolerate sustainable fishing from the oceans. And well-managed fishing represents by far the most ecologically sustainable and environmentally responsible form of food production that Australia can do. And the public need to be aware of that.”

By-catch

Previous mid-water trawl fishing operations by Seafish Tasmania over a number of years recorded a total by-catch of less than 1% of the total catch. This result was obtained from data collected by onboard observers from the Australian Fisheries Management Authority and the Tasmanian Aquaculture and Fisheries Institute. By-catch of non-target fish species is very low because the fishing method is highly targeted.

The fish by-catch was mainly barracouta and spotted warehou, a quota managed species in the Southeast Fishery.

A seal and dolphin excluder device is fitted inside the mid-water trawl net. This forms a barrier that prevents large animals from becoming trapped in the codend of the trawl and, instead, guides them to an escape hatch on the upper panel of the net from which they can exit safely.  The design of the excluder device is based on the results of a one year study by the Tasmanian Aquaculture and Fisheries Institute which placed underwater video cameras in the mid-water trawl net to observe the behaviour of seals and dolphins inside the net.