Road to recovery

Road to recovery

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Fish stocks we need to work on

Even though around 90 per cent of the fish stocks assessed in the Status of Australian Fish Stocks reports 2016 were found to not be overfished (either sustainable, transitional or environmentally limited), there are still some stocks (six per cent) that are overfished and need our attention.

We put some of these stocks in the spotlight:

Orange Roughy (South Tasman Rise, Southern Zone and Western Zone)

Half of the six Orange Roughy stocks in Australia are classified as overfished and have been since the early 2000s, with little to no measurable improvement in levels of biomass.

A survey of the South Tasman Rise zone in 2002–03 found that biomass had declined to around eight per cent over the past 5 years. The fishery closed in 2007–08, without any detected improvement in the stock since then. In 2000 the biomass of the Southern zone was estimated to be only seven per cent of unfished levels and has since had a recommended catch of zero, although there is allowance for incidental catches. The Western zone was last assessed in 2002, found to be overfished (30 per cent unfished biomass) and has since had a recommended catch of zero, although there is allowance for incidental catches.

Orange Roughy from the Cascade Plateau and Eastern zone are however, classified as sustainable. Likewise Orange Roughy in New Zealand just across the ditch were certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council on 8 December 2016.

School Shark (all jurisdictions)

There is a single stock of School Shark in Australia (in southern and south-eastern Australia). This stock has been considered overfished since the early 1990s and the most recent stock assessment in 2008 estimated biomass was only 12 per cent of unfished levels.

School Shark is not currently a targeted species; instead, it is caught incidentally by fishers targeting Gummy Shark.

There is some anecdotal evidence from fishers that numbers of School Shark are increasing, but this is yet to be supported by measurable improvements in biomass.

Southern Bluefin Tuna (global)

This highly migratory species has a global distribution (constituting a single biological stock), which presents challenges for both assessment of the Australian component of the stock, and management of the species. It was severely over fished in the 1960's and by the mid 1980s it became apparent that the SBT stock was at a level where management and conservation was required. On 20 May 1994 the then existing voluntary management arrangement between Australia, Japan and New Zealand was formalised when the Convention for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna, which had been signed by the three countries in May 1993, came into force. The Convention created the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna.

The good new is that the management procedure that is in place has seen global stocks increase steadily over the past ten years towards it stock’s biomass target of 20 per cent of unfished biomass by 2035.

Other overfished stocks to watch out for: