Industry manage eastern gemfish

4th March 2013

Prior to management under the Harvest Strategy, eastern gemfish were depleted in southern NSW when in the 70’s and 80’s when catches were as high as 7,000 tonnes a year. Eastern gemfish spawn in June, July and August and most by-catch is taken in winter as the fish undertake their spawning run on NSW’s south coast. Eastern Gemfish was listed as conservation dependant in 1999 and the Harvest Strategy now allows no targeting.
It is therefore important that they are actively avoided as much as possible to allow them to continue to rebuild. The code of conduct agreed by fishermen from Sydney, Wollongong, Ulladulla and Eden included measures such as:
1. Communicating each day with other vessels within 20 miles in gemfish season
2. Steaming away deeper or shallower if more than a third of the catch in a shot is gemfish
3. Contacting the Association if they catch more than 20 boxes in a single shot. A warning with co-ordinates is then sent to the fleet
4. Using special gear including larger meshes to allow juvenile gemfish to escape
5. Leasing quota out to other vessels (who need to cover unavoidable by-catch), rather than targeting any quota remaining at the end of the season
The Association is pleased to announce now that the fishing year is finished that the 2011/12 catch of eastern gemfish was 76 tonnes even though there is a 100 tonne by-catch quota allowed. These by-catches are much lower than those of the previous three years which have been 119 tonnes, 100 tonnes and 108 tonnes. This year’s lowered take will speed up the recovery of the species.
Mr Tony Lavalle, SETFIA Director and Ulladulla fishermen explained, “Fishermen have shown that they can avoid this species and the Commission have agreed to leave the by-catch quota at 100 tonnes. We may catch a little less or a little more this winter but will continue to work to the code of conduct to avoid gemfish. The current 100 tonne quota should be sufficient to see no dumping of unavoidable fish.” He added, “This success has shown that there are ways to manage fisheries without more closures”.