The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) says it is encouraged by the announcement of Federal Government funding for ‘e-monitoring’ technology on fishing fleets, and says it is vital the system is extended to all sections of Commonwealth fisheries.
E-monitoring involves the installation of video cameras on fishing boats, providing fisheries officials and scientists with data on the numbers of endangered species caught as bycatch, as well as any saleable fish that are thrown back into the sea (legally or otherwise).
AMCS Sustainable Seafood Program Manager Adrian Meder said no new fisheries are getting e-monitoring in the announcement, with funding allocated to upgrade existing equipment and monitoring systems.
“Government investment in collecting better data on the catches of our fishing fleet is always welcome. Cameras on boats help to rectify major under-reporting of endangered wildlife caught as bycatch in Commonwealth waters,” said Mr Meder.
“The scheme must be extended to the trawl and Danish seine sectors of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery (SESSF). This multi-sector, multi-species fishery covers almost half of the Australian Fishing Zone.
“The failure to extend e-monitoring through the whole SESSF is a serious lapse and avoids dealing with some of the most pressing problems Australian Commonwealth-managed fisheries are facing.”
In the SESSF, more than 60% of the fish stocks caught are continuing to decline or failing to recover . The fishery has pushed several overfished species (some of which once provided substantial sustainable catches over many decades) onto Australia’s Endangered Species List. Most of these listed threatened species – like school shark, blue warehou, and eastern gemfish – have shown no verified signs of recovery.
“This is also a fishery that operates in south east Australia – a global ocean warming hotspot, warming at four times the global average. So it is important to have up-to-date data on catches so fisheries management plans can be adjusted to improve and maintain sustainability,” added Mr Meder.
“Human observer scrutiny of the trawl sector of the SESSF has also been woefully inadequate, at only around a third of the level that is applied in the Commonwealth fisheries that have e-monitoring.”
Mr Meder said in the Commonwealth fisheries where e-monitoring has already been established, such as Australian tuna longline fisheries and shark net fisheries, fisher reporting of what they catch has become far more reliable .
In those fisheries, reporting by fishers of protected species bycatch including turtles, whales, and sea lions skyrocketed after e-monitoring cameras were installed on fishing boats, highlighting historic and systemic under-reporting of impacts on endangered species.
 29 of 43 fish stocks are declining, as identified in Knuckey, I.,et al (2018). Understanding factors influencing under-caught TACs, declining catch rates and failure to recover for many quota species in the SESSF. FRDC Project No 2016/146. Fishwell Consulting, 2018. [CC BY 3.0]164pp.
 Emery, T. J., Noriega, R., Williams, A. J., & Larcombe, J. (2019). Changes in logbook reporting by commercial fishers following the implementation of electronic monitoring in Australian Commonwealth fisheries. Marine Policy, 104, 135-145. https://www.ccsbt.org/ja/system/files/ESC24_BGD02_AU_Emery%20et%20al.%202019.pdf