Australia’s managed fisheries improving

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 7th October 2010

The Fishery status reports 2009, released last week, shows a substantial improvement in the number of Commonwealth-managed stocks classified as “not overfished” and “not subject to overfishing”, with only 15 species still at risk.

The seven stocks that are both overfished and subject to overfishing are: blue warehou, gulper sharks and school shark in the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery, sandfish in the Torres Strait Sea Cucumber Fishery, bigeye tuna in the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery, toothfish in the Antarctic Waters Fishery and southern bluefin tuna.

“Overfished” refers to a reduced population of the fish in question, and “subject to overfishing” means that the stock is experiencing too much fishing. For example, a diminished fish population may remain “overfished” for some time after better fishing practices are implemented and takes reduced.

The report, by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics – Bureau of Rural Sciences (ABARE–BRS), assesses the status of 101 fish stocks managed by the Australian Government.

“The number of stocks classified as ‘uncertain’ has been increasing since the inception of the Fishery status reports in 1992. However, in 2008 and again in 2009 this trend was strongly reversed with 15 stocks being removed from an uncertain ‘overfished’ status and 21 stocks from an uncertain ‘overfishing’ status in 2009,” said ABARE–BRS Deputy Executive Director Paul Morris.

“Most of the previously ‘uncertain status’ stocks that have now been assessed were found to be not overfished or not subject to overfishing.”

Across all assessed stocks, the report shows that 59 stocks are classified ‘not overfished’, compared with 44 in 2008 and that stocks classified as ‘not subject to overfishing’ also increased substantially from 57 in 2008 to 73 in 2009. 30 stocks are classified ‘uncertain’ in terms of their overfished status, compared with 41 in 2008 and 18 stocks are classified ‘uncertain’ in terms of their overfishing status, compared with 33 in 2008. Reducing uncertainty in Commonwealth-managed fisheries helps to aid the sustainable management of fish stocks.

Of the 15 stocks classified as ‘overfished’ and/or ‘subject to overfishing’ in 2009 (compared with 18 in 2008), 7 are classified as both overfished and subject to overfishing. Of the remaining 8 stocks, 5 are classified as overfished only and 3 are classified as subject to overfishing only.

The report also includes information on the economic position of Commonwealth fishers. Since 2000–01, the real value of Commonwealth fisheries production has declined sharply, falling by 48 per cent from a peak of $600.2 million in 2000–01. However, most of this decline occurred from 2000–01 to 2005–06, after which the value of Commonwealth fisheries production stabilised.

In 2008–09, production earnings of Commonwealth fisheries increased by 5 per cent to $314 million, contributing 14 per cent of the total $2.2 billion value of Australian fisheries production.