The only national estimate of bycatch and discarding for Australia’s fisheries suggests that our fisheries discard more than they retain (ie. 55.3% is discarded - FAO, 2005). This figure may surprise many people including environmental groups, those concerned with "sea"-food security and protein-poor countries. This figure also has the potential to adversely affect Australia’s well-earned brand as a responsible fisheries management nation. However - this figure is probably very wrong and much too high. This project aims to correct this.
In 2012, Australia completed its first national report describing the status of Australia’s fish stocks (“Status of Key Australian Fish Stocks Reports”). An issue that arose during its preparation (from AFMF, DAFF, DoE and others) was that there exists no national system for reporting on bycatches or discards. That is, there exists no mechanism by which the public, governments, NGOs, ecolabels, other stakeholders or international agencies can assess Australia’s performance in dealing with bycatch, discards, TEPs interactions, etc.
A recent study (extension to FRDC 2013/233) summarized the recently completed US National Bycatch Report and other similar international reports (FAO’s 1994 and 2005 global reports), investigated future FAO initiatives in this area (FAO are currently planning a decadal repeat of the global report), benchmarked the current Australian situation against these, and recommended a pathway towards an appropriate national bycatch reporting system. That pathway recommended a comprehensive synthesis of available bycatch information available in Australia and the development of a repeatable reporting system, running as an adjunct to the current SAFS system, against which Australia’s record in bycatch management can be assessed against agreed best-practice benchmarks. This project aims to deliver such a system.
Whilst fisheries jurisdictions have recognised the need to report to the public and other stakeholders regarding the status of exploited stocks, there is growing acceptance and international, regional and national agreements that encourage (or require) governments to also report on the status of bycatches and discards. There have been several efforts to do such reporting including FAO’s decadal global reports and the United States’ very comprehensive National Bycatch Reporting process. But Australia currently does not have a process for reporting on bycatch, and this current project is aimed at developing such a methodology for commercial fisheries. We do this by examining how one could most effectively report on bycatches in 4 of Australia’s 8 fisheries jurisdictions, selected to represent the diversity and size of commercial fisheries in Australia: New South Wales, Tasmania, Queensland and the Northern Territory.