Australia State of the Environment Report 2001 (Theme Report)
Australian State of the Environment Committee, Authors
Published by CSIRO on behalf of the Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2001
ISBN 0 643 06751 5
Recreational fishing in Australia is an activity enjoyed by some five million fishers, who catch an estimated 30 000 tonnes per year (FRDC 2000). Recreational fishing in saltwater accounts for some 73 per cent of recreational fishing. The recreational sector is large and widely dispersed around Australia, and its management is generally the responsibility of State and Territory governments.
Recreational fishing is not controlled to the same extent as commercial fishing. It is limited by a variety of methods, including size limit, bag limit (number of fish per person), boat limit, seasonal closures of areas, and limits on equipment allowed.
Some States have introduced a general angling licence to include marine recreational fishing because of the pressure that recreational fishing is placing on fishery resources (for example, Victoria and New South Wales). Fisheries Western Australia has outlined a new framework for managing recreational fisheries in Western Australia (Fisheries Western Australia 2000b), given that an estimated 600 000 people target and catch a great variety and quantity of finfish and shellfish in that State.
There is little information available on a national scale on the total recreational catch or the catch and effort of recreational fishers. A study conducted for AQIS (McIlgorm and Pepperell 1999) reviewed existing literature in Australia on the structure, activity, expenditure and regional importance of recreational fishing. The study concluded that there is some information available relating to participation rates, fishing effort and catch. Some large-scale studies have provided estimates of the recreational catch for various fisheries. Recreational fishers catch large numbers of many species, but often only a few species constitute the bulk of the total catch. Information on hook-and-line fishing for finfish is reasonable, but information on recreational harvesting of invertebrates is poor. In one of the few studies on fishing for invertebrates that is available, it was found, for example, that the recreational catch of prawns in Lake Illawara was 50% of the total catch during the period 1992-1994.
To fill this gap, a National Recreational and Indigenous Fishing Survey commenced in May 2000 to gather data on fisher participation, catch and fishing effort, economic activity and the attitudes and awareness of fishers to fisheries regulations. Some 19 000 fishers will be interviewed as part of the survey, which will continue for 12 months.
In addition to landing fish, recreational fishers often return fish to the water. This may be in response to prevailing size and bag limits, or because of the popularity of catch-and-release fishing (e.g. for Barramundi in the Northern Territory and big game fishing).
The major issue of recreational fishing is bringing the recreational sector within a fisheries management system. This would of course deal with allocation of total allowable catch to recreational and commercial fishers; but more importantly, both groups would be then required to abide by the same rules with respect to setting of the total allowable catch, environmental impacts of fishing, closed seasons and areas, and compliance. There is also the issue that some people claim to be amateur fishers, yet take large numbers of fish without paying for a licence, and sell the fish.
In the late 1990s a Patagonian Toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides) fishery was established around Heard Island, some 4000 kilometres south-west of Perth. This species is widely distributed in the Southern Ocean. It is large (over two metres long), long-lived (over 40 years) and takes 10-12 years to reach maturity, thus rendering it vulnerable to overfishing.
This and most other toothfish fisheries occur within the area of application of the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Living Marine Resources (CCAMLR). The objective of CCAMLR is the conservation of Antarctic marine living resources where conservation is defined to include rational use. The Commission established under the Convention comprises 24 members and takes an ecosystem approach to management of harvesting; i.e. it considers the effects of fishing on the dependent and related species in the ecosystem, not just on the target species. Total allowable catches and other management conditions are set annually by the Commission.
The Heard Island fishery is one of the few examples where research on the abundance and distribution of fish stocks was conducted before commercial fishing commenced. Further research using commercial fishing vessels has been conducted every year. Unlike other toothfish fisheries where longlines are used, fishing in Australian waters is limited to trawling to prevent the bycatch of seabirds, including endangered species such as albatrosses.
Management of the fishery is reviewed each year by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) to take account CCAMLR's decisions on the total allowable catch and other aspects. In addition to CCAMLR's requirements, AFMA has adopted other measures to minimise the environmental impacts of fishing, such as zero discharge of fishing offal and restrictions on waste disposal.
Within Australia's EEZ, the waters surrounding Heard Island are managed principally by the Australian Antarctic Division (territorial waters) and AFMA (waters between 12 nm and 200 nm). All of the Heard Island fishing grounds are within the CCAMLR Area.
A Notice of Intent was gazetted in January 2001 regarding the Government's intention to establish a Marine Reserve, with ' no-take' zones, in the EEZ.
Illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing for toothfish throughout the Southern Ocean, including in the EEZ around Heard Island, has been a serious problem in recent years. IUU fishing has caused the commercial extinction of some toothfish stocks and significantly affected toothfish catches in other areas. Tens of thousands of seabirds, including endangered albatrosses, have been killed by IUU longline fishing which does not use mitigation measures.
The question of IUU fishing in the CCAMLR area is complex and involves the nationals and vessels of both parties to CCAMLR and non-parties. Generally, the latter are also not parties to other international fisheries agreements.
Enforcement activities by the AFMA and the Australian Defence Force are difficult in this vast expanse of ocean. Australia has been a leading advocate for strong international action to combat IUU fishing and has initiated many of the measures adopted by CCAMLR. These measures include stronger controls by flag States and port States and, more recently, an international scheme to prevent trade in IUU-caught toothfish.
Source: Australian Antarctic Division (2000).
Source: Australian Antarctic Division