Media Release Fisheries

Recovering fish stocks era over in Commonwealth fisheries

November 24, 2022
  • Numbers of overfished fish stocks increasing for first time since 2000s
  • Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery falling into crisis
  • 15% of SESSF trawl grounds need closing this year at cost of $24 million

The era of recovering fish stocks in Commonwealth-managed fisheries is over, said the Australian Marine Conservation Society in response to the annual Fishery Status Report released today by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES).

Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) Sustainable Seafood Program Manager Adrian Meder said: “The ABARES Fishery Status Reports 2022 shows that the era of rebuilding and recovery in Australia’s Commonwealth-managed fisheries is over, as poorly managed overfishing and climate change impacts show the numbers of overfished fish stocks increasing for the first time since the bad old days of the 2000s.

“One of the major failings of the Australian Government’s management approach is it considers a fishery as sustainable right up to the point where 80% of fish stock is gone. This is the point where the rules say targeted fishing must stop altogether. If we manage our fisheries with conservation of the marine environment as the main priority, we can look forward to more sustainable locally caught seafood in the future.

“The Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery (SESSF), which should be the most important source of locally caught finfish for the eastern states seafood markets, is falling into crisis.

“For instance, in last year’s report, jackass morwong, mostly caught by trawlers in the SESSF, was sitting at 30% of its pre-fishing population and reported as ‘sustainable’ and ‘not subject to overfishing’. This year it is so overfished that 15% of the SESSF trawl grounds will need to be closed and $24 million of Australian taxpayer’s money will be used to bail out the fishery.1 This comes on the back of $50 million worth of taxpayer funds used to bail out the fishery back in 2006 on the condition that we would not be in this position again.2

“The SESSF has put more former target and secondary species onto Australia’s endangered species lists than any other fishery in Australia, and is failing to recover and rebuild any of those species in line with the regulatory targets that permit fishing to continue. AMCS expects more species to be placed on the endangered species list – such as redfish, already nominated for listing – than will recover and be taken off the list in the foreseeable future.

“The SESSF fishery operates in south-eastern Australia, which is known as a global ocean warming hotspot, warming at almost four times the global average. The Australian Fisheries Management Authority has already attributed fishery declines in the order of thousands of tons of foregone catch each year to climate impacts in the SESSF, and has done so for a decade; but still does not directly consider the recent and future impacts of a rapidly changing climate in setting catch limits for the fishery.”