Project number: 2014-203
Project Status:
Budget expenditure: $266,838.76
Principal Investigator: Ian Knuckey
Organisation: Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA)
Project start/end date: 17 Jul 2014 - 30 Jun 2016


There is increased awareness of the need for ecosystem-based fisheries management, with increased public expectations for sustainable management of fished stocks. However, reduced catch levels and increasing costs have stimulated industry calls for reductions in management costs, or for more effective use of the existing cost-recovered funds. Budget limitations have already led to annual fishery independent surveys (FIS) carried out less frequently, reduced observer monitoring (ISMP) to fund other projects, alternation of FIS and ISMP from year to year, use of Crew Member Observers (CMOs) to collect on-board length frequencies, retaining species at lower tier assessments instead of Tier 1 assessments, ad-hoc implementation of more multiyear TACs combined with adhoc implementation of break-out rules, reduction of the frequency of Tier1 stock assessments, and the postponement of critical Tier 1 stock assessments. Whilst all of these approaches are feasible and practical responses, their combined influence on the effectiveness of the monitoring and assessment at achieving desired management objectives has not been tested or demonstrated.

Current budget restrictions on AFMA have resulted in a departure from scheduled monitoring and assessment work, with increasing ad-hoc decisions about which components of that work undertaken each year. There is growing concern by stakeholders that the present monitoring and assessment program is incapable of addressing these developments. SETFIA and other industry associations are particularly concerned that fishing concession levies funding current arrangements will become unaffordable.

Given AFMA's legislative objectives to ensure ecologically sustainable development, to maximise net economic returns and to ensure cost-effective fisheries management, AFMA has proposed this project to develop proposals for a structured and cost-effective research, monitoring and assessment program to respond to requirements and emerging issues in the SESSF over the next 5 years. It may be possible to extend this horizon should a fully quantitative project follow this proposal.


1. In consultation with the project Reference Group, SESSFRAG and SEMAC, identify priorities, key concerns, perceived shortcomings and opportunities for improvement in monitoring and assessment arrangements for the SESSF fishery.
2. Review the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of current monitoring, assessment and management arrangements for the SESSF, and the extent to which they meet the requirements of fisheries policies, including implications of recommendations arising from the reviews of the Commonwealth Fisheries: Legislation, Policy and Management, Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy Policy and Guidelines and Commonwealth Policy on Fisheries Bycatch.
3. Conduct a qualitative assessment and initiate design of the suite of rationalised monitoring and assessment options currently being trialled against reference points implied under the revised fishery policies for target, byproduct, bycatch and TEP species groups.
4. Review recent relevant regional and international fishery developments to identify future options for improvement in the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of monitoring, assessment and management arrangements for the SESSF.
5. Provide a report using the results of the reviews to support recommendations for revised, implementable and cost-effective monitoring, assessment and management arrangements for the SESSF. These recommendations will seek to optimise the outcomes for the fishery in terms of monitoring and assessment efficiency, while meeting the objectives of the Fisheries Management Act and government policy. The report may recommend further quantitative ‘next step’ analyses as part of the implementation process.

Final report

ISBN: 978-0-9954122-4-8
Authors: Ian Knuckey Andrew Penney Malcolm Haddon Sean Pascoe Simon Boag Matthew Koopman Daniel Corrie George Day Nick Rayns and Trevor Hutton
Final Report • 2019-01-17 • 9.84 MB


The Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery (SESSF) is a multi-species, multi-gear, multijurisdictional Commonwealth fishery. It is a fishery of substantial economic and social importance to Australia, as a key provider of high quality fish products to Australian markets. More than 600 species are caught or interacted with, including bycatch (discards) and byproduct (minor commercial) species. Commercially-important species targeted in the SESSF include 34 species which are managed under Total Allowable Catches (TACs). TACs are periodically adjusted by the management agency, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA), in response to biomass estimates, or proxies thereof, derived from monitoring and assessment activities. These include the collection of data (principally catch and effort) from fisher records (log books and catch disposal records).  Additional management requirements reflecting the Commonwealth Harvest Strategy Policy 2007, the Commonwealth Policy on Fisheries Bycatch 2000, and the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999 require additional information from monitoring and assessment activity. It is now a requirement to record any impacts on bycatch; byproduct; and threatened, endangered and protected species (e.g. seals, seabirds, dolphins). Most monitoring and assessment costs are borne by the Industry (those licencees holding statutory fishing rights to participate in the SESSF). Recently, expanding monitoring and assessment activity has coincided with decreasing commercial returns (primarily as a result of falling prices for some commercial species and the failure to fully catch TACs). It is important that future monitoring and assessment activity applicable to the SESSF is cost-effective for all sectors. This review evaluates existing monitoring and assessment arrangements and provides recommendations on future monitoring and assessment to cost-effectively meet management and legislative requirements.

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