Every five years the Australian Government conducts a comprehensive review of the state of the Australian environment. This national SoE Report provides information about environmental and heritage conditions, trends and pressures for the Australian continent, surrounding seas and Australia’s external territories
The report found that, “In the past 5 years (2011-16), environmental policies and management practices in Australia have achieved improvements in the state and trends of parts of the Australian environment. Australia’s built environment, natural and cultural heritage, and marine and Antarctic environments are generally in good condition.”
However, it cautioned, “there are areas where the condition of the environment is poor and/or deteriorating. These include the more populated coastal areas and some of the growth areas within urban environments, where human pressure is greatest (particularly in south-eastern Australia); and the extensive land-use zone of Australia, where grazing is considered a major threat to biodiversity.
Pleasingly on the subject of commercial fishing it stated, “Evidence shows that some individual pressures on the environment have decreased since 2011, such as those associated with commercial fishing.”
Drilling down into the state and trend of the marine environment it made some the following findings about south-east Australia and commercial fishing in general:
1. Fisheries management measures have stooped the overfishing of some species groups, for some species, such as eastern gemfish, blue warehou and redfish signs of recovery have not yet been seen. The reasons for this are unclear but changing environmental conditions associated with climate change might be partly responsible.
2. Of 170 stocks assessed they found that only 11 are overfished (presumably without evidence of recovery) and seven as being overfished but recovering – neither are currently still being overfished.
3. The national trawl footprint averaged 94,000 km² which is 3.2% of Australia’s continental shelf. The most trawled regions are the Temperate East and South-East regions (parts of both of which are within the South East Trawl Fishery). The impact of this in the South East is that some groups of invertebrates have been reduced by 10-20% with most reduced by 5-10% and all are assessed as recovering. At the height of trawling activity in Australia only 10-15% of the continental shelf was trawled meaning that 85-90% of the seabed has never been trawled.
A copy of the marine chapter of the SOE report can be found here.