What the ling happened in the 2016/17 fishing season?

Pink ling (Genypterus blacodes) is the second most important species in the South East Trawl Fishery by revenue behind tiger flathead.

Historically, pink ling was managed as one stock with a single annual total allowable catch (TAC).  However, recent science shows that it is two stocks so now two stock assessments are completed. Because there is only one quota management area the sum of both assessments is issued as a single TAC. This is 1,154 tonnes in the current fishing year.  The eastern assessment has determined that catches in the east should not exceed 500 tonnes.  Any more than this is considered unsustainable even though it would be technically legal provided the total TAC is not breached.

Up until the 2016-17 fishing season, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) had used measures such as daily catch limits to restrict catches of eastern pink ling. This arrangement was unpopular because it was driving discarding – fishermen were never sure of how much they would catch per day.

In early 2016, SETFIA proposed to trial an alternative management arrangement where vessels that were significant catchers of pink ling voluntary committed to catch a set amount of pink ling.  21 vessels from the trawl and autoline fisheries who were major catchers entered into this “Gentlemen’s Agreement” with SETFIA.

Allowances within the 500 tonne limit were made for vessels catching small amounts and for fish that was discarded because it was damaged or not fit for sale.

AFMA accepted the proposal in place of the daily catch limits and worked closely with SETFIA, subject to weekly monitoring of catches throughout the fishing season.

This work successfully constrained pink ling catches in the east below the 500 tonne limit.

Once an operator’s limit (pledge) had been reached they can fish in other areas and at other depths.  This simpler arrangement limited the amount of discarded pink ling.

In 2016 the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) classified eastern pink ling as not being overfished for the first time in many years.

Given the trial’s success for the sustainability of eastern pink ling and for operators, AFMA have agreed that SETFIA will continue this arrangement in the 2017-18 fishing season.

AFMA have indicated that at some stage in the future they will split the pink ling statutory fishing rights (quota) to east and west and set separate TACs as a more permanent solution.