Previous newsletter articles have explained how CSIRO’s acoustic optical system (AOS) surveys have found 30-48,000 tonnes of orange roughy on two hills east of Tasmania. Based on this, and within the context of the fishery’s harvest strategy, the AFMA Commission has now set the eastern roughy total allowable catch (TAC) at 465 tonnes and the southern roughy TAC at 66 tonnes.
The challenge of working in this fishery is how to catch a small amount of fish when there are literally tens of millions of individual fish present in a small area.
Industry and AFMA have met several times to discuss rules to ensure that the TAC is not exceeded. Industry proposals include:
• 100% observer coverage, paid for by the operator, when a vessel is fishing in season on these hills
• A minimum quota holding to be able to fish the hills in season
• To close the fishery 100 tonnes before the TAC is caught. Operators will be able to carry uncaught quota into the next year.
Fishermen are currently organising themselves by leasing quota to each other so that some are meet the minimum quota requirements; only a few vessels are expected to fish the hills this year. Agents from Melbourne and Sydney fish markets are negotiating with fishermen, their processors and domestic and international buyers.
The return of Australian caught roughy is a testament to modern fisheries science, to tough management over the last 20 years and to all those involved in CSIRO’s AOS surveys.