by Jeni Bone
A world-first, comprehensive look at all Australia's fish stocks has found that almost 90 per cent of them are sustainable.
Australia’s fisheries are sustainable
More than 80 fisheries scientists from around the country contributed to the Status of Key Australian Fish Stocks report, which was launched in Mackay, Queensland last week.
In addition to assessing the status of the species, the Status of key Australian fish stocks reports provide key statistics and main features of the fisheries that target each species, the effects of fishing on the marine environment and environmental effects on fish stocks.
But the report also shows areas where improvement is needed, including where fish stocks are declining or are already overfished.
The Status of key Australian fish stocks reports aims to be 'a scientifically robust, simple tool to inform fishers, seafood consumers, managers, policy makers and the broader community, and allow ready comparisons between the status of the key wild-caught fish stocks around Australia'.
The results are meant to shed light on 'fisheries management, food security and setting aside parts of our marine environment for fishing and aquaculture activities'.
Forty-nine species chapters are presented, providing short summaries, based on scientific assessments, of stock status of species or species complexes. The species in these initial reports were selected on the basis of their contribution to Australian fisheries, in terms of both value and quantity of catch.
The report states: 'Fish are a valuable, limited, but renewable resource, which we must carefully manage for the benefit of all Australians, both present and future generations. Fish are not only a healthy and globally important food source, but also play an integral role in the fabric of our society, providing cultural and recreational opportunities for many.
'In recent years, the Australian community has become increasingly aware of the need to conserve our natural aquatic resources (ocean, estuary, river, wetland and other aquatic habitats) and to maintain biological diversity in ecosystems that support fisheries and aquaculture.'
It continues: 'We must remember that fish play an important role in Australia’s primary production landscape. For some time, Australians have recognised the need to manage our fish resources wisely, and Australia is a world leader in contemporary fisheries management. Australia also recognises the growing significance of food security as a global issue, and seafood production has a critical and increasing role to play.
'Just as we have allocated areas of land for farming, we must set aside parts of our marine environment for fishing and aquaculture activities. These areas and their resources must be managed for ecologically sustainable food production.'
The report was prepared by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, in collaboration with government fishery research agencies in all Australian jurisdictions with marine fisheries. Over 80 researchers contributed to this first edition.
The report illustrates the range of bycatch reduction devices that have been implemented in Australian fisheries to allow non-target species and other marine animals to escape from fishing gear without being brought on board.
Turtle excluder devices are compulsory in all Australian tropical prawn fisheries as an escape hatch for turtles and other species, such as sharks and rays; they also help to remove unwanted debris. If turtles cannot escape from a trawl net, they cannot reach the surface to breathe and may drown.
Turtle exclusion device
Turtle excluder devices are made of a metal grid across the codend of the net, which forces turtles and other large objects out of the net while allowing prawns and other target species to be captured.
More at http://www.fish.gov.au/Pages/SAFS_Report.aspx