Incidental catches of species whilst fishing includes the take of both quota and non-quota species. Generally these species are relatively data poor but the Harvest Strategy Policy still requires a determination of whether these species are at risk of overfishing.
In addition, bycatch TACs are set for seriously depleted species to allow for those catches taken when legitimately targeting associated species. The objective is to provide a mechanism that would prevent useless discarding while minimizing fishing mortality. However, current regulations do not prevent targeting the bycatch-only species given sufficient quota. This has been observed with School Sharks. It is currently unknown if taking the bycatch TACs for the species concerned will permit the required stock recovery. As a minimum, methods are needed for determining whether an observed level of bycatch and discarding, in any given fishery, is sustainable; these methods need to be able to be applied irrespective of the different life history characteristics of the wide array of bycatch species found across Commonwealth fisheries.
There is a need to explore the conditions under which severely depleted species may fail to recover. If it is the case that for some species even small incidental catches are sufficient to maintain a species in a depleted state then different management may be required. Management options include 1) status quo, 2) spatial and/or seasonal closures, 3) increased cooperation from Industry, 4) changing regulations about bycatch –only species, and 5) reducing the quotas for those species with which the depleted species make up a significant bycatch. The issue of incidental catches is present in all Australian fisheries; there is a need for general solutions that can be applied to a wide range of cases that minimize the impact on the fishery while minimizing the impact of the fishery on the bycatch-only species.