Marine Disturbance in Parts of the Australian Exclusive Economic Zone
Australia: State of the Environment Second Technical Paper Series (Coasts and Oceans), Series 2
David Barratt, John Garvey and Jean Chesson
Bureau of Resource Sciences, Australia
Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2001
ISBN 0 6425 4745 9
"The number of fisheries management plans that have effective indicators for monitoring the level of, and the reduction in, impacts on non-target organisms, and their habitat where applicable"
(see indicator 7.8; Ward et al. 1998, p61)
The Management Plans indicator is one of a diverse group of 17 indicators on Integrated Management (Class 7: Ward et al. 1998, p58), which measure the degree of integration into natural resource management of the various factors that affect marine and estuarine ecosystems. This group contains indicators on beach stabilisation, catchment management programs, coastal care community groups, coastal tourism, and marine protected areas amongst others.
The Consultants Brief for this project states that this indicator is intended to track progress towards comprehensive reporting on the unintended consequences of fishing activities, and the implementation of corrective measures where needed in individual fisheries. It will be necessary to determine:
- whether appropriate indicators of the biodiversity of non-target organisms are included and monitored in and near fishing grounds; and
- the extent to which these data are used, where necessary, to revise management plans and actions to reduce the impact of fishing on non-target biodiversity.
Data Quality and Availability
The sources of data for this indicator are the relevant fisheries legislation, regulations, rules, management plans and policy documents. Other documents such as research plans and bycatch action plans can also be important. Most of the legislation are available at the Australasian Legal Information Institute's web site at http://www.austlii.edu.au/ . Other documents are available from either the appropriate State or Commonwealth government web site and fisheries management site. Other documents are only available as hard-copy from the relevant authority.
While copies of the various fisheries Acts are readily available from the world-wide-web, other documents are less accessible. Important policy documents were sometimes only identified after speaking to fisheries managers.
The most recent fisheries Acts for the Commonwealth, States and the Northern Territory were obtained, together with relevant Regulations and Rules. Copies of management plans, draft plans or policy documents were obtained from the relevant agency or off web-sites. Unfortunately, BRS was unable to access copies of Western Australian management plans within the time frame of this project. The general manager of commercial fisheries (or equivalent) of each fisheries management agency was contacted by phone and interviewed regarding the various instruments used for fisheries management by their relevant jurisdiction.
A management plan for a fishery is defined as a single document that gives details on the rules and regulations and other management issues for a specific fishery. Management plans and other legislation and policy documents that were in operation or released for public comment as of 30th June 1999 were reviewed.
Other documents examined were the National Policy on Fisheries Bycatch (AFFA, 1999), which was released in August 1999, and the Northern Prawn Fishery Bycatch Action Plan 1998 (NORMAC, 1998).
Each document was examined for;
- objectives consistent with the monitoring of non-target species and habitat disturbance,
- measures and strategies used to monitor non-target species and habitat disturbance
- criteria and performance measures for the effectiveness of those measures and strategies
Critical questions for each jurisdiction were;
i) does the fisheries management legislation allow for management plans?
ii) how do these plans intend to monitor bycatch and the impacts of fishing?
iii) are the results of the monitoring fed back into the management regime?
The number of fisheries management plans in effect on the 30th of June 1999 was calculated, as was the number of plans with non-target species monitoring strategies.
Of the 144 managed marine and estuarine fisheries in Australia (see Appendix I), 60 have been identified as being covered by management plans (Table 5.1). The rest of the fisheries are managed under the appropriate Commonwealth, State or Territory legislation through general regulations or other statutory methods. Most of this legislation has been introduced over the last decade. Of the 27 management plans which were available for analysis, 5 plans have indicators for monitoring non-target species. Western Australia's 33 management plans were unavailable and were not analysed, however WA Fisheries management staff reported only one plan contained references to non-target species. The distribution by State is shown in Figure 5.1. The sections of the management plans and legislation relevant to monitoring impacts on non-target organisms are identified by state in Appendix V.
National Policy on Fisheries Bycatch
The National Policy on Fisheries Bycatch (AFFA, 1999) was endorsed by Ministerial Council on Forestry, Fisheries and Aquaculture in April 1999 and released by the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry in August 1999.
The National Policy on Fisheries Bycatch does not specifically mention the issue of monitoring the impacts of fishing on non-target species or the marine environment; rather it concentrates on the aim of reducing bycatch through various means. The Policy defines bycatch as the non-target components of the catch (B, D and F of Table 4.1), but focuses on the non-retained components (D and F)
|Jurisdiction||Name of Act||Year introduced||Act provides for management plans?||No. of fisheries||No. with management plans||No. of plans that deal with impacts on non-target species|
|Commonwealth||Fisheries Management Act||1991||Yes||23||4||3|
|New South Wales||Fisheries Management Act||1994||Yes||8||0||--|
|Tasmania||Living Marine Resources Management Act||1995||Yes||9||5||1b|
|South Australia||Fisheries Act||1982||Yesc||13||13||0|
|Western Australia||Fish Resources Management Act||1994||Yes||48||33||1d|
|Northern Territory||Fisheries Act||1988||Yes||17||3||0|
a The draft trawl fishery plan makes specific mention of bycatch targets
b The policy document for Scalefish makes specific mention of bycatch targets
c The South Australian legislation deals with a "scheme of management" which is similar to the management plan requirements of other legislatures
d Not analysed, however one is reported to contain references to non-target species
Figure 5.1. The proportion of fisheries in each state that have management plans and bycatch monitoring indicators.
The three objectives of the policy are:
- To reduce bycatch;
- To improve protection for vulnerable/threatened species;
- To minimise adverse impacts of fishing on the aquatic environment.
A range of strategies are included as examples of approaches that could be adopted to manage bycatch. These include:
- Development of instruments such as management plans and bycatch action plans that address bycatch in fisheries;
- Encouragement of research into impacts of fishing and other aspects of bycatch (mitigation, product development);
- Enhancement of the quality and quantity of fisheries data, including data on bycatch.
The Commonwealth's fisheries legislation allows for management plans with objectives and measurement criteria. These management plans must have provisions to keep the impact of fishing on non-target organisms and the environment to a minimum. The legislation also ensures that data can be gathered through industry-based sources (logbooks) or by on-board observers.
Of the four Commonwealth fisheries managed under management plans, three have specific regard to non-target species, and include the monitoring of non-target species as an important measure. The specific details of this monitoring is not given in the plan, although the NPF Bycatch Action Plan (NORMAC 1998) stresses the need for cost-effective monitoring and refers to current research to investigate efficient monitoring techniques.
How the results of the monitoring are fed back into the management system is less clear, with most of the management plans having very general criteria for measuring the success of the management measures.
One of the key items in Commonwealth bycatch policy is the development of Bycatch Action Plans. Bycatch Action Plans are seen as important management measures in both the NPF and SETF Management Plans. So far only one Bycatch Action Plan has been adopted.
Queensland's Fisheries Act allows for the making of management plans, which must detail the objectives of those plans, how the objectives are to be achieved, and the criteria necessary to measure the achievement. These plans can consider non-target species and habitat. Currently the Regulations have a number of methods such as size and catch limits, gear restrictions, closed areas and bycatch reduction/exclusion devices as tools for bycatch reduction and habitat protection. As of 30th June 1999, two Management Plans were finalised, but Queensland has set out a timetable for all of its fisheries to be under a Management Plan by the end of 2000.
Only the Gulf of Carpentaria Inshore Finfish Management Plans specifically discusses the monitoring of non-target species in the form of protected wildlife, although the draft East Coast Trawl Management Plan does regulate the use of BRDs and has the catch of non-target species and benthos as a review trigger. The draft East Coast Trawl Management Plan also mentions the use of data from surveys. The details of these surveys, such as funding, frequency or sampling strategy are not discussed.
Neither the Spanner Crabs nor the draft Coral Reef Finfish Species Management Plans mention the issue of non-target species, though it may be that these fisheries are expected to have very little in the way of non-target catch. Both use very selective gears, and most of what is caught would be retained. In the case of the Coral Reef Finfish Fishery, the issue is not one of discarding, but of the ability of the fishery to affect the populations of a great many desirable reef-species.
New South Wales Fisheries
The Fisheries Management Act of New South Wales allows for the making of management plans, which must have objectives, performance indicators to monitor the success of the management measures and criteria to trigger the review of the plan if those measures are unsuccessful. The management plans can consider target catch, non-target species and the protection of habitat. The legislation also allows the monitoring of catches.
So far NSW has no management plans in operation, although two are very close to completion. Even so, NSW has a strong background in non-target species monitoring, research, and bycatch remediation (Kennelly 1993 and Liggins 1996), and was one of the first Australian fisheries authorities to put into place an effective bycatch reduction strategy into one of its fisheries. This was done using a consultative approach involving the fishing industry in all steps of the process and has been highly successful (Kennelly and Broadhurst 1998). However the monitoring strategy is not routine and is highly dependent on external funding.
The Victorian Fisheries Act allows for the making of management plans, which must have objectives, measures to meet those objectives and performance indicators and targets. If relevant, the management plans must identify measures to minimise the impact of fishing on non-target species and habitat. The legislation also allows the monitoring of catches.
Currently there are no management plans in operation for marine or estuarine fisheries in Victoria.
The Tasmanian Living Marine Resources Management Act allows for the making of management plans. There is no requirement that the plan contains objectives or details of how these objectives are to be met. A management plan only consists of rules relating to a specified fishery. The Tasmanian legislation allows for the collection of catch data through logbooks and returns, but also though on-board observers.
Policy documents are also released concurrently with the management plans, although not all plans have policy documents. Of the three policy documents available on the 30th June 1999, only the Scalefish document has discussion on issues of non-target catch. However the other two fisheries (Abalone and Rock Lobster) use gears that are highly selective and it is reasonable to assume that they have very little non-target catch.
The Scalefish policy document has a specified objective to minimise the impact of fishing on non-target species. A number of strategies are given to this end, and trigger points specified for a review of those strategies. Those trigger points are qualitative in nature, and the monitoring strategies for collecting the data necessary for the triggers is not discussed in the document.
South Australian Fisheries
The South Australian Fisheries Act allows for the making of lists of Regulations called "Scheme of Management". These are very similar to the management plans in the Tasmanian legislation. There is no provision to explicitly state the objectives of the plan or the provisions to meet those objectives. The legislation also allows the monitoring of catches through logbooks.
None of the Schemes of Managements reviewed have sections regarding the monitoring of non-target species, however South Australia has done research on the issue of bycatch mitigation (Broadhurst et al. 1999).
Western Australian Fisheries
The Western Australian Fish Resources Management Act allows for the making of management plans. There is no requirement that the plan contains objectives or details of how these objectives are to be met, the plan only consisting of rules relating to a specified fishery. The legislation does allow the plan to monitor bycatch by requiring fishers to participate in research programs and carry observers on their vessels.
Western Australia is currently in the preliminary stages of making Bycatch Action Plans for their high priority trawl fisheries as part of their adoption of the National Policy on Fisheries Bycatch. One aspect of this is the monitoring of bycatch in these trawl fisheries.
Northern Territory Fisheries
The Northern Territory Fisheries Act allows for the making of management plans. While policy and objectives of the plan may be included when the plan is being prepared and released for public consultation, they are not to 'form part of the plan'. None of the plans reviewed included this information. The legislation allows for bycatch monitoring through logbooks.
The Commonwealth and all States and Territories regulate fishing activity in their respective jurisdictions through legislation (see Table 5.1). Many of these Acts make specific references to the protection and conservation of the aquatic environment or living resources. These objectives are all expressed in different ways, with different emphasis on the issues involved in the management of living marine resources.
It is very difficult to obtain an integrated view of a fishery's approach to impacts on non-target species since the information is often contained in many different documents. While the policy and monitoring strategies might exist, it is difficult to identify them without an intimate knowledge of the management methods in that jurisdiction. There are two confounding issues. The first is the separation of management policy and bycatch policy through Bycatch Action Plans. Bycatch policy is often coordinated through a separate "Environmental" area of a management body, rather than through the mainstream management officers. The second is the separation of fisheries management and fisheries research. Bycatch is often seen to be a research issue.
Very few management plans or other documents make provision to monitor the effects of fishing, other than that of target species. Often monitoring is implied, such as in the Queensland draft Trawl Plan or the Tasmanian Scalefish policy document. Most Commonwealth management documents state that the impact of fishing on ecologically related species will be monitored, but do not state how. This lack of detail makes it difficult to access the potential effectiveness of the monitoring.
Many management plans and draft plans are under review as a result of the development of the National Policy on Fisheries Bycatch (AFFA 1999). The Commonwealth, States and Territories are proceeding to develop their own non-target biodiversity management policies based on the National Policy and these should be completed by the end of 2000. Also, proposed revisions to the Wildlife Protection (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1982 are likely to focus more attention on non-target species. We would therefore anticipate a substantial increase in the number of fisheries management plans that deal with non-target species.
There is some confusion as to the intention of this indicator. Both Ward et al. (1998) and the Consultants Brief state that information should be gathered for this indicator on the feedback mechanisms in the management plans for non-target species monitoring to trigger management action. While we have looked at this issue in our review (for example the Queensland draft East Coast Trawl Management Plan and the Tasmanian Scalefish policy document), the present wording of the indicator only deals with the monitoring of the level of impacts on non-target species and of monitoring the reduction in those impacts. There is a significant difference between monitoring impacts and actively reducing those impacts.
The question of whether a management plan has effective indicators requires further elaboration. Indicators are only effective in the long term if they result in management actions that achieve clearly stated objectives. A rigorous and practical approach to testing indicators has been developed. It is known under various names including "Management Strategy Evaluation" and uses computer simulation to evaluate indicator performance within a complete management system (Sainsbury et al., 2000). So far it has been used primarily in fisheries management for harvesting of target species, but there are proposals to extend its application to non-target species. Until more work is carried out in this area, there is little to guide fisheries managers in the selection of effective indicators for non-target species.
- There are 144 managed marine and estuarine fisheries in Australia of which 60 have management plans. Of the 27 management plans which were available for analysis, 5 plans have indicators for monitoring non-target species. Western Australia's 33 management plans were unavailable and were not analysed, however WA Fisheries management staff reported only one plan contained references to non-target species.
- This indicator is relatively easy to implement, but it needs to be clarified if it is to provide a useful measure of the anticipated increase in monitoring of fishery impacts on non-target species. "Management plan" has to be interpreted in a generic sense to refer to any publicly stated plan, not just the formal management plan referred to in the legislation of many jurisdictions. Since more than one document may be involved, the indicator should be expressed in terms of fisheries rather than management plans.
- Further clarification is needed to determine wether the intention of the indicator is to measure the level of monitoring of fisheries impacts on non-target species, or to measure the effectiveness of fisheries management to reduce the impact of fisheries on non-target species. In its present form it does the former, but would need to be re-worded to achieve the latter.
- Measuring the effectiveness of non-target species monitoring indicators within management plans is more problematical. At present there is little to guide fisheries managers in the selection of effective indicators for non-target species. This is an active research area.
Based on our investigation of this indicator we recommend that:
- The indicator is reworded to read "The number of fisheries with publicly available plans that have effective indicators . . etc."
- The work carried out in this project should be repeated before the 2006 State of the Environment Report to document the expected increase in monitoring of impacts on non-target species.
- Fisheries management authorities should implement a system of "metadata" recording for their fisheries, where all the documents relevant to each fishery are identified at a single access point.