Fisheries management

Fisheries management

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In general, fisheries are managed to ensure the ongoing sustainability of harvest from the fish stocks in that fishery. Management of fisheries is undertaken at the jurisdiction level, and aims to optimise resource allocation (balancing social and economic considerations) and to minimise adverse impacts of fishing on the marine ecosystem and environment. Australian fisheries are managed in line with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the supporting United Nations Fish Stocks Implementation Agreement, which are reflected in the legislation and policy of the Commonwealth, states and territories.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries provides guidelines for the implementation of UNCLOS and UNFSIA, with the high-level requirement that:

States should prevent overfishing and excess fishing capacity and should implement management measures to ensure that fishing effort is commensurate with the productive capacity of the fishery resources and their sustainable utilization. States should take measures to rehabilitate populations as far as possible and when appropriate.

Generally, fisheries managers set limits on either the amount of fishing effort (including when, where and with what gear catches can be taken—referred to as input controls) or the level of catch that can be taken from a stock (referred to as output controls). These decisions are usually based on the best available science at the time of the decision, but may also take into account other factors, such as economics or ecosystem requirements.

Fisheries management is generally an adaptive process, because fish stocks can be influenced not only by the fishery's harvest but also by environmental effects and natural variation. Fisheries also change in response to changes in market demands, fuel prices and other factors. One of the key factors that managers and fishers need to respond to is the state of fish stocks and how this can change over time, in response to fishing, environmental effects and potentially other factors (such as other human impacts, climate change or extreme natural events). These reports focus on this key element: the state of fish stocks.

Keeping in mind that the Status of Australian fish stocks reports 2016 is just a snapshot in time you can see that some stocks will take a long time to rebuild and other like those in transition need to be monitored and pro-actively managed.   

In the context of ecologically sustainable development, fisheries management performance can also be assessed against economic, social and broader ecological or environmental aspects of a fishery. The effectiveness and efficiency of the governance system itself can also be considered. The jurisdictional fishery status reports cover these broader elements of fisheries management to varying extents.

The Status of Australian fish stocks reports 2016 focuses primarily on fish stock status. In the future the FRDC will build on the base of stocks status and extend into broader areas of assessments including bycatch, environmental impacts, management—aw well examining ways to include coverage for aquaculture production. It is important to note while some of the broader ecological effects of fishing, such as bycatch (the incidental catch of non-commercial species), are discussed briefly for each species they are not formally assessed as part of this edition. The broader ecological effects tend to be at the fishery scale, rather than the fish stock scale.