Category Archives: Management

2016 Roughy Survey Shows Continued Recovery

7th December 2016

Under contract to SETFIA, Tasmania’s CSIRO has completed another survey on two features known as St Patrick’s and St Helen’s off eastern Tasmania where roughy aggregate to spawn. St Helen’s Hill is typical of a roughy hill being a conical seamount rising from a depth of 1,100m to 600m.  This is the 5th acoustic survey in the Eastern Zone since 2006.

CSIRO use an acoustic optical system or AOS that they have designed in Hobart.  The AOS emits multiple frequency signals to accurately calculate the amount of fish present. The AOS is towed 200-300m above schools of aggregating roughy.  By using multiple frequencies it can distinguish between roughy and other gas bladdered fish.  AOS is particularly effective in assessing aggregations of deep-sea fish and has also been used in Australasia to assess blue grenadier (known as hoki in New Zealand).

The survey encountered the strongest and warmest surface currents to date with fish at St Patrick’s being very disrupted and not settling on the hill as it did in previous years.  As is normal the largest aggregations were found at St Helen’s hill.  The video below shows images of live orange roughy captured by the AOS on St Helen’s hill at 800m.

This year the survey team loaded the AOS onto a small vessel using a modified boat trailer before it was taken out to the trawler contracted to complete the survey.  This reduced costs to move CSIRO’s scientists and their equipment to the mainland where the survey vessel was domiciled.

The other change in the survey this year was that the cost of the survey will be charged directly to quota owners through their levies.   This meant that there was no need to catch and then sell fish to finance the survey which reduced sales risks to the project.

Results are still being analysed but populations appear to be stronger than in previous years and provide more data about the recovery of Australia’s orange roughy stocks.  A stock assessment will consider this data in 2017 the Commission will use to set a total allowable catch from the 2018/19 fishing year.

SETFIA online course for fishers

25th November 2016

SETFIA believes that training and development is of critical importance in achieving our strategic goals. The Association has run two courses called Implement and Monitor Environmentally Sustainable Work Practices (SFIEMS301A) and Manage and Control Fishing Operations (SFIFISH402c). 121 qualifications were issued to trawl fishermen and 160 fishers from other fisheries. Both courses were TAFE accredited and contribute to a Certificate III in Fishing Operations. The courses produced immediate results with significant increases in the quality of reporting and set the cultural groundwork for initiatives like the program to reduce seabird interactions, the transition to online logbooks and the
co-management of eastern pink ling and snapper.

SETFIA is currently offering two free on-line courses. Both are TAFE accredited and, like the previous units, contribute to the achievement of a Certificate III in Fishing Operations.

1. Understanding Marine Reserves (SFISHIP201C Comply with organisational and legislative requirements).

This course would be of benefit to all State and Commonwealth licensed fishermen fishing in or around the South East Marine Reserve Network. It covers:

– the South-East marine reserve network,

– the role of marine reserves and who manages them

the difference between marine reserves and other fishery closures

the different types of marine reserves

– Zoning (where vessels can fish)

– Class approval

– Compliance and penalties

2.  Act to Prevent Interaction with Protected Species (SFIEMS302B Act to Prevent Interaction with Protected Species).

This course is applicable for all senior crew, managers and office staff in the South East Trawl Fishery. It covers:

– Methods to protect and identify seabirds, fur seals, sharks and rays

– Rebuilding species and individual species management arrangements

– Reporting

– Relevant Acts

– Handling practices

– Social licence

Both on-line courses are free of charge because they are funded by AFMA and Parks Australia. If fishermen want to compete Understanding Marine Reserves and or Act to Prevent Interaction with Protected Species, they can contact:

Danait on 0427 138 167 or via email

Simon Boag 0428 141 591 or via email

Send us a message on social media: Twitter @SETFIA or Facebook/southeasttrawl

$100,000 Reason to Complete OnLine Learning

7th November 2016

SETFIA is offering all south east commercial fishermen the opportunity to undertake an online course on “Understanding Commonwealth Marine Reserves”.  The course is funded by Parks Australia and is specific to the South East Network of Protected Areas and it could potentially save you $100,000!

The Brisbane Times reported that two years ago, a commercial fisherman caught what might be the most expensive rock lobsters ever netted in Australia.   The fisherman will pay close to $100,000 for the three lobsters – when he could have sold each lobster for $200 at market.

The Federal Court found that he set his lobster traps in part of the South East Commonwealth Marine Reserve Network – a 388,000km2 protected marine area that stretches from the far south coast of New South Wales, around Tasmania and Victoria and west to Kangaroo Island off South Australia.  The video below introduces the South East network.

In April 2014, a surveillance aircraft photographed the fishing boat in a Commonwealth marine protected area off Hobart whose zoning did not allow potting.  Alarmed at being seen, the vessel steamed out of the protected area before returning a few hours later to haul its pots and was apprehended by Tasmania Police on the wharf.

The Australian Government pursued the fisherman through the courts in a two-year case that has racked up tens of thousands of dollars in legal costs.

Justice Robert Bromwich​ said he was going easy on the fisherman and imposed a “somewhat lenient” $28,000 fine.  After he pays the legal costs of the federal Environment Department and his own lawyers, the fisherman will be liable for close to $100,000.

The maximum civil penalty fine for a breach of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 is $90,000, Justice Bromwich said, and the fisherman was lucky he hadn’t been hit with criminal charges as well.

The SETFIA course on “Understanding Commonwealth Marine Reserves” is specific to the South East Network of Protected Areas.  It covers where the reserves are, which fishing methods are allowed in which reserves and the reasoning behind the reserves.  Notwithstanding the examples above, SETFIA believes that most fishermen want to do the right thing and that by increasing their knowledge fishermen and owners reduce their personal and company risk.  This is important because the penalties are severe. The course is TAFE accredited and is free of charge for eligible fishermen.  It can be completed anywhere with an internet connection; home, office or even from a fishing vessel.

Any fishermen wanting to undertake the short course should contact SETFIA at or by Facebook or Twitter.

Why is the East Australian Current Behaving so Badly?

18th October 2016

The East Australian Current (EAC) is a flow of water that is formed from the South Equatorial Current crossing the Coral Sea and reaching the eastern coast of Australia off Queensland. As the South Equatorial Current hits the Australian coast it divides forming the southward flow of the EAC. eacThe EAC is the largest ocean current close to the shores of Australia reaching a maximum velocity at about Coffs Harbour in NSW where its flow can reach a speed of 3 km per hour.

In the animated film Finding Nemo Marlin and Dory use the EAC as a superhighway travelling with fish and sea turtles to Sydney Harbour. The EAC is dominated by eddies which are circular currents of water that form whirlpools of up to 100km in diameter.

Their swirling motion is one of the forces that make nutrients found in cold, deep waters to come up to the surface of the ocean where phytoplankton (microscopic plants) feed on them.

Eddies do occur off the coast of Tasmania but a change in their behaviour over the last 24 years is concerning. These eddies are generated in the EAC and most of them do not go south of Bass Strait. When they do, they bring warm water with them and the bigger they are the more heat they can bring.


Scientists have noted a trend in eddies off Tasmania becoming larger, stronger and more frequent. Following the 1990s, eddy kinetic energy (EKE) increased gradually both north (red line in graph below) and south (blue line in graph below) of Bass Strait,  with a huge spike in eddy activity  off Tasmania (8 times the average EKE of the 1990s) in 2014 (see animation below). This trend is in agreement with climate modelling but there has been a dramatic increase over the last couple of years.

The presence of eddies south of Bass Strait is believed to be responsible for the atypically warm sea surface temperatures experienced off the east coast of Tasmania in 2015. If the eddy encountered off north east Tasmania in July this year is anything to go by (see image below), this heating trend is expected to continue into 2016.

A team of CSIRO scientists, AFMA observer and commercial fishermen from the South East Trawl Fishery came upon the eddy while conducting acoustic surveys of orange roughy off the north east coast of Tasmania in July 2016 as part of an ongoing monitoring program. eacIt was fast and hot and gave the team a bit of a hard time by making the deployment and retrieval of their sampling gear very challenging.

The eddy had current speeds of more than 2 knots and temperatures at its centre were more than 2 degrees warmer than the year round average between 100-400m depth and almost 1 degree warmer at 1200m depth. The eddy’s outer edge was close to the continental slope.

The implications of increased eddy activity on adult orange roughy spawning, orange roughy larvae, aquaculture, other fisheries and Tasmanian coastal waters in general are unknown. However, hot eddies warm up all the water around them and the bigger they are the deeper and wider their impact so if this trend continues there is no doubt that the Tasmanian offshore environment will change – the ‘how’ is anyone’s guess!

For up to date ocean information around Australia visit the IMOS Ocean Current website.


Marine Mammal Report Released

18th October 2016

All primary production has environmental impacts and most have some impact on native mammal populations.  On land, farmers can apply for permits to destroy kangaroos while no rules exist for vehicle road kill.  However, in the marine environment the rules are much tougher.  All marine mammals are afforded protection under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act which requires that all reasonable steps be taken to reduce interactions.  Fishery by-catch is considered within the Fisheries Management Act.

AFMA already run a process called an Ecological Risk Assessment (ERA) that considers the effects of commercial fishing on all species including marine mammals.  The ERA is a tiered hierarchical framework that assigns species a low, medium or high risk so management actions can be prioritised.  Management actions are tracked in each fishery’s by-catch and discard work plan.

Rules are already in place to protect Australian sea lions in the Gillnet, Hook and Trap Fishery (GHAT).  Trigger limits have been set considering population structure and the number and location of breeding colonies.

Dolphin interactions sometimes occur in the Small Pelagic Fishery (SPF) and GHAT Fisheries and AFMA have implemented spatial management measures aimed to reduce the impact on dolphins.  If an accidental dolphin mortality occurs in the SPF a vessel cannot return to one of seven management zones for six months.  Similar rules exist in the GHAT.  The precautionary principle states that if effects are unknown that management should be very conservative and to some extent this is why the limits on dolphins are so low.  The method by which trigger limits for dolphins in particular are set have been questioned and the FRDC have released a report that aims to increase knowledge that can be used to set sensible limits for dolphins but also for other marine mammals.

The FRDC report calculates something called Potential Biological Removals (PBR) for several groups of marine mammals.  PBR is the maximum number of animals, not including natural mortalities, that can be removed from a marine mammal stock while allowing that stock to reach or maintain its optimum sustainable population.  In no way is it a target or quota.  PBR is widely used in the US where fisheries are classed as “strategic” if they cause mortality greater than 50% of the PBR and “non-strategic” if it is less than 50%.  Management measures are prioritised accordingly.

Thankfully, the trawl sector does not have sea lion interactions and dolphin interactions are very rare (less than one per year) so the Association’s marine mammal focus is on both species of fur seals; Australian and New Zealand.

Using the lowest population estimate available of 87,000 seals the Australian fur seal PBR, or safe level of removal, is 2,623 to 4,721 individuals per annum.  One third of fur seal interactions in the trawl fishery result in the seal being released and swimming away.  The PBR calculation uses conservative population modelling estimates, the lowest estimate of stocks and does not consider the population of New Zealand fur seals – all of which make the PBR lower than it is likely in reality.  Even with this level of precaution built into the numbers the PBR is thousands more than the trawl industry take.  This outcome would make the trawl fishery classed as “non-strategic” or low priority in the US context.

The Association welcomes the report but continues to be committed to taking reasonable steps to reduce our environmental impacts.  A long term project that aimed to reduce seal interactions by shortening trawl nets was unsuccessful.  Growing seal populations make reducing interactions difficult.  SETFIA members operate under a code of conduct that has reduced seal interactions and this code continues to be taught in training run by the Association.   Training programs have already significantly increased our sector’s non-observed reporting of seals and are ongoing.

The report’s focus was mammals so did not consider seabirds but the Association’s target of reducing seabird interactions (versus bare warps) by more than 90% by May 2017 remains on track.

Searching for school shark pups in South Australia

20th July 2016

Matt McMillan is a PhD candidate working on school shark (Galeorhinus galeus) at the University of Adelaide. He needs your help to find school shark pupping grounds that may exist in South Australian waters.

School shark numbers declined in the 1990s and conservative total allowable catches (TACs) have been set to help them recover. School shark are no longer targeted by commercial fishers and are only caught incidentally while targeting gummy shark and other species. Anecdotal evidence suggests that school shark numbers are on the increase and their abundance is currently underestimated. However, before TACs can be raised science must support and increase in the school shark stock.

School shark are ovoviviparous meaning that they lay eggs which are hatched within the body of the parent. A lot of research has been done on the pupping grounds in Victoria and Tasmania but calculations have shown that the number of pups produced in these sites are too low to sustain the whole stock.

Matt’s hypothesis is that school shark may also be pupping in South Australia, and not just in Tasmania and Victoria. To test this theory, Matt plans to deploy underwater cameras at locations that school shark may use as nursery areas. He is calling on commercial fishers with knowledge and experience about school shark movements and behaviours to help him find locations in South Australia where sub 40 cm school shark have been caught.

Matt’s work will help address an important knowledge gap that the Commonwealth school shark stock rebuilding strategy (2008) acknowledges. Doing so could have strong benefits for the management of school shark.

If you have any information about school shark pupping grounds in South Australian waters or know someone who does call Matt on 0405-024344 or .

AFMA Commission chair Norman Moore honoured with AM

15th April 2016

Congratulations to AFMA Commission Chair, The Honourable Norman Moore, who was recently honoured with induction into the Order of Australia.

His citation reads: “For significant service to the Parliament of Western Australia through a range of portfolio responsibilities, to education, and to the community.” 

Norman is a member and chair of a number of boards including:

  • Chair, Cannings Purple Strategic Communications
  • Deputy Chair Sir Charles Court Foundation (Chair, Education Trust sub-committee)
  • Chair, Patrons Group of Western Australian School of Mines Graduates Association.

He was previously Western Australian Minister for Mines and Petroleum; Fisheries, Electoral Affairs (Minister for Justice – June 2012) and Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council.

AFMA CEO James Findlay, reappointed for three years

16th March 2016

Media release from the Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources:

Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, The Hon. Senator Anne Ruston, today announced the reappointment of Dr James Findlay as CEO of the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) for a 3 year term.

Senator Ruston said effective leadership at AFMA played an essential role in the management of Australia’s Commonwealth-managed fisheries.

“I am very pleased to announce Dr Findlay’s reappointment as CEO,” Minister Ruston said.

“Dr Findlay’s extensive experience at the helm of AFMA and across the sector will serve the best interests of our valuable fisheries resources at a time of unprecedented opportunity for Australia’s primary industries.

“Dr Findlay’s ongoing leadership will ensure strong governance and effective regulation across all Commonwealth-managed fisheries.”

As AFMA CEO, Dr Findlay will continue as a member on the AFMA Commission, joining current chairman, the Hon. Norman Moore and Commissioners Ian Cartwright, Catherine Cooper, David Hall, Professor Keith Sainsbury and Richard Stevens OAM.

AFMA is the Australian Government agency responsible for the efficient management and sustainable use of Commonwealth fish resources on behalf of the Australian community.

Productivity Commission Inquiry Announced

11th January 2016

Just prior to Christmas, the Treasurer, the Honorable Scott Morrison, announced a Productivity Commission inquiry into the regulatory burden imposed on the Australian marine fisheries and aquaculture sectors.  The Association is highly supportive of this announcement given it coincided with AFMA’s proposal to increase cost recovered levies in the trawl fishery under a new system to the highest ever: an expected $80,000+ per vessel per annum in 2016/17.

The Treasurer has explained that as a result of Australia’s fisheries being governed by eight jurisdictions (the Commonwealth, states and the Northern Territory) there are 59 separate arrangements under the Offshore Constitutional Settlement that determine how cross-jurisdictional stocks are managed.

This regulatory environment oversees an industry that has a gross value of production of $1.3 billion per annum. It is also an industry that has been the subject of a large number of recent inquiries and reviews at many levels.

The Treasurer acknowledged that Australia’s fisheries are sustainable but sees scope to improve the management of fisheries through effective and coordinated regulatory and management arrangements which might include:

  • the streamlining of regulations,
  • improved cross jurisdiction and multi-jurisdictional regulatory regimes,
  • information and service sharing, and harmonisation of environmental, management and compliance arrangements,
  • regulatory simplification,
  • streamlining and consistency of arrangements across multiple jurisdictions,
  • alternative more efficient regulatory models,
  • the practices of the various regulators,
  • removing unnecessary restrictions on competition

The inquiry will identify opportunities to increase productivity and cut unnecessary and costly regulation, including where regulations are poorly coordinated between jurisdictions.

The primary focus of this review will be on Commonwealth, state and territory regulation of wild capture marine fisheries.

The Commission will undertake an appropriate consultation process including holding hearings, taking public submissions and releasing a draft report.

Votes versus food security

27th November 2015

In 2010, under a Labor Government, Fisheries Victoria engaged celebrity chef Neil Perry from the Rockpool Bar and Grill in Melbourne to narrate a video (screen shots to the left) called “SUSTAINABLE SEAFOOD”.  The video explained the sustainability, science and cultural importance of the 150 year old commercial net fishery in Port Phillip Bay as well as demonstrating Chef Perry’s cooking suggestions for King George Whiting and Calamari.

However, by November this year the Liberal Party, Labor Party and even the National Party voted in Victorian State parliament to ban all commercial net fishing in Port Phillip Bay.  Perversely only the Greens, headed by Greg Barber, opposed the ban.  The Victorian Government’s plan is to close the small commercial fishery and create a recreational fishing haven.  This has nothing to do with sustainability, nor is the decision based on science.

Mum and Dads want to feed their kids fresh, sustainable, seafood – and the Port Phillip Bay decision has seen the Government remove this choice, to discontinue the supply of seafood to consumers.  Who will now provide the seafood we all want to buy?  Governments are forcing out those willing to work the long and hard hours to provide us food.  It becomes difficult to see how investment can be encouraged when Governments create such uncertainty for the Australian seafood industry.

The Port Phillip Bay decision contributes to Australia’s increasing country risk and discourages investment in the fishing industry.  Country risk refers to the degree to which political unrest and uncertainty affects business in a particular country.

In July the Australian newspaper reported that a survey of 301 major companies, each turning over more than US$1b, found that 97% had experienced issues with the rule of law (country risk) in the past five years.  The article sighted the Victorian Government’s decision to cancel East-West link.  The companies surveyed reported more problems with the rule of law in Australia than anywhere else except China.

At the same time other countries are investing in food security.  The Wall Street Journal reports that in 2014 China was importing A$7.3b of food from Australia.  The Journal goes on to report that China invested A$632m into the Australian agriculture sector in 2014, double the investment in 2013.

Australian fisheries are world renowned for their management but Tom Bibby, SETFIA’s Chairman explained, “Commonwealth Fisheries Minister Ruston has challenged industry to instil community pride in the Australian fishing industry.  We accept her challenge and will continue to work hard on reducing our environmental impact and on getting the message about the health benefits, taste, sustainability and source of food that commercial fishing provides”.

SETFIA is calling on both sides of politics to not use fisheries as a political football to buy votes, to instead to find a balance between recreational and commercial catch, to consider food security and to be consistent in their policies.   Mr Bibby concluded that he hoped the Victorian Government, “picks a balanced policy that considers all Australia’s interests and sticks to it”.