Benchmarking Australia's small pelagic fisheries science against world's best practice
South Australian Aquatic Sciences Institute
Tim M. Ward
This project is needed to address concerns expressed by stakeholder groups and the broader Australian community during the recent "super-trawler debate" that the current assessment and management framework for the SPF may have technical deficiencies and not be consistent with world's best practice. This project is also needed because these concerns have the potential to undermine stakeholder and community confidence in other Australian fisheries for small pelagic fishes, such as the SASF. A technical workshop is needed because it will provide an efficient and transparent process by which to benchmark the research and management frameworks of Australia's fisheries for small pelagic species against world's best practice and to identify opportunities for improving current approaches. A stakeholder forum is needed to provide key stakeholders and the broader community with the opportunity and information required to objectively assess how Australia's fisheries for small pelagic species compare to other fisheries worldwide. This forum is a critical first step towards re-establishing stakeholder and public confidence in the assessment and management framework for the SPF. It is also needed to help maintain a social license to operate for other Australian fisheries for small pelagic species, such as the SASF. Issues that have been identified as matters of particular stakeholder and public concern and that need to be addressed in both the technical workshop and stakeholder forum include: 1) options for increasing the reliability of estimates of spawning biomass obtained using the Daily Egg Production Method (DEPM); 2) opportunities to further reduce operational interactions with threatened, endangered and protected species; 3) potential for improving current approaches to assessment and mitigation of potential trophic effects on other components of the ecosystem; 4) innovative methods for reducing possible impacts of localised depletion on predatory species and other (especially recreational) fisheries that target small pelagic fishes.
1. Benchmark the research and management frameworks for Australia's fisheries for small pelagic fishes against world's best practice and identify opportunities for improvement
2. Provide the Australian community with the opportunity and information required to objectively assess how Australia's fisheries for small pelagic species compare to other fisheries worldwide
Principal Investigator: Tim Ward
Key Words: Small pelagic fishes, South Australian Sardine Fishery, Commonwealth Small Pelagic Fishery, Daily Egg Production Method, egg production, spawning fraction, batch fecundity, harvest strategies
Summary: Discussions at the technical workshop suggested that the assessment and management frameworks for Australia’s fisheries for small pelagic species, especially the South Australian Sardine Fishery (SASF), are consistent with world’s best practice with respect to:
Participants in the technical workshop also considered that it was appropriate that the Commonwealth Small Pelagic Fishery (SPF) is building on the approaches that have supported the successful development of the SASF. It was generally agreed that concerns regarding the risks of localised depletion in the SPF may be best addressed by establishing precautionary harvest guidelines based on existing knowledge.
Participants in the stakeholder forum considered that the assessment and management framework for the SASF compared well to other fisheries worldwide. Most concerns related to the introduction of a large freezer-trawler into the SPF. Industry expressed concerns about political intervention into fisheries management related to introduction of this vessel and “unrealistic” expectations regarding the level of scientific information required prior to the commencement of the fishery. Other stakeholders expressed concerns that non-industry views were not given adequate consideration by fisheries management agencies or scientists and that more research was needed before the SPF is developed. It was widely agreed that effective communication among stakeholders and a genuine co-management approach should be re-established in the SPF.
The workshop identified several areas of research that should be undertaken to improve the assessment and management frameworks of Australia’s fisheries for small pelagic fisheries, including: 1) comparing estimates of adult parameters obtained using gill-nets, purse-seine nets and trawl nets; 2) reviewing approaches taken to estimating spawning fraction; and 3) examining the benefits and limitations of using a population model and/or DEPM estimates of spawning biomass to sets TACs.
Presentations from the technical workshop and stakeholder forum on small pelagic fisheries can be found here.