25 September 2023

AFMA throws back overfishing claims

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The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) has rejected reports by researchers that populations of fish in Commonwealth-managed fisheries have been falling.

Acting Chief Executive of AFMA, Nick Rayns rejected the claims by researchers Graham Edgar, Trevor Ward and Rick Stuart-Smith that rapid declines across Australian fishery stocks indicated global sustainability targets would not be achieved without an expanded network of “no-fishing” reserves.

Mr Rayns said claims of overfishing by the researchers were not supported by the weight of evidence.

“A lot has happened in fisheries management since 2005, which is frequently used in the research paper as the baseline year,” Mr Rayns said.

“Since 2006–07, the Commonwealth Government and AFMA have implemented robust and extensive fisheries management measures, including a buyback of commercial fishing licences, reductions to the total allowable catches and the introduction of harvest strategies.”

He said this work was supported by years of research and science-based decision-making by the independent AFMA Commission to ensure Australia’s fisheries remained sustainable.

Mr Rayns said the researchers’ paper generally confined its data collection to finfish surveys in shallow waters in temperate reef areas, when almost all Commonwealth fisheries worked in waters deeper than 100m or outside temperate waters.

“The researchers’ methodology failed to include the majority of the environments that are home to Commonwealth commercial fisheries,” he said.

“It’s questionable whether the analysis and conclusions drawn by these researchers could be applied to Commonwealth fisheries at all, despite the suggestions by the researchers that they do,” Mr Rayns sad.

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