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Assessment Summary

 

Commonwealth Northern Prawn Fishery

Unit/s of Assessment:

Product
Name/s:

Moreton Bay
Bug

Species:
 

Moreton Bay Bugs (28 821903), Thenus spp.

Stock:

Northern
Prawn Fishery

Gear
type:

Demersal
trawl

Year
of Assessment:

2017

 

 

Fishery Overview

The following summary of the fishery is
adapted from Larcombe et al (2016):

The Northern Prawn Fishery (NPF) uses otter
trawl gear to target a range of tropical prawn species. Banana Prawn and two
species of Tiger Prawn (brown and grooved) account for around 80 per cent of
the landed catch. Byproduct species include Endeavour Prawns, scampi (Metanephrops
spp.), bugs (Thenus spp.) and saucer scallops (Amusium spp.). In
recent years, many vessels have transitioned from using twin gear to mostly
using a quad rig comprising four trawl nets. 

Banana Prawn (Penaeus merguiensis)
is mainly caught during the day on the eastern side of the Gulf of
Carpentaria, whereas Redleg Banana Prawn (F. indicus) is mainly
caught in Joseph Bonaparte Gulf (Figure
1
).  Tiger Prawns (Penaeus
esculentus
and P. semisulcatus) are primarily taken at night
(daytime trawling has been prohibited in some areas during the Tiger Prawn
season). Most catches come from the southern and western Gulf of Carpentaria,
and along the Arnhem Land coast. Tiger Prawn fishing grounds may be close to
those of Banana Prawns, but the highest catches come from areas near coastal
seagrass beds, the nursery habitat for Tiger Prawns. Endeavour Prawns (Metapenaeus
endeavouri
and M. ensis) are mainly a byproduct, caught when
fishing for Tiger Prawns.

Figure 1: Relative fishing intensity in the Northern Prawn Fishery in 2015
(Source: Larcombe et al, 2016).

The NPF developed rapidly in the 1970s,
with effort peaking in 1981 at more than 40 000 fishing days and more than 250
vessels. During the next three decades, fishing effort and participation were
reduced to the current levels of around 7 500 days of effort and 52
vessels.  Total NPF catch in 2015 was 7
825 t, comprising 7 696 t of prawns and 129 t of byproduct species
(predominantly bugs, squid and scampi). Annual catches tend to be quite
variable from year to year because of natural variability in the Banana Prawn
component of the fishery.

Under an Offshore Constitutional Settlement
(OCS) agreement between the Commonwealth, Western Australia, Northern Territory
and Queensland governments, originally signed in 1988, prawn trawling in the
area of the NPF to low water mark, is the responsibility of the Commonwealth
through the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA).

The
fishery has been certified against the Marine Stewardship Council standard for
the main prawn species since 2012[1].

 

Scoring

 

Performance Indicator

Moreton Bay Bug

COMPONENT 1

MEDIUM RISK

1A: Stock Status

MEDIUM RISK

1B: Harvest Strategy

MEDIUM RISK

1C: Information and Assessment

MEDIUM RISK

COMPONENT 2

LOW RISK

2A: Other Species

LOW RISK

2B: ETP Species

LOW RISK

2C: Habitats

LOW RISK

2D: Ecosystems

LOW RISK

COMPONENT 3

LOW RISK

3A: Governance and Policy

LOW RISK

3B: Fishery-specific Management
System

LOW RISK

 

 

Summary of main issues

·       
The NPF
has been certified against the Marine Stewardship Council’s Fishery Standard
for the main target prawn species since 2012. 

·       
Moreton
Bay Bugs are taken as a byproduct species in the NPF.  No formal assessment of the stock has been
undertaken, although quantitative estimates of acceptable biological catch
(ABC) have been developed using independent trawl survey data.  Catches in the last decade have remained well
below the ABC estimate.  

·       
There are
currently no well-defined HCRs in place for Moreton Bay Bugs in the NPF,
although the stock is subject to a minimum legal size and a precautionary trigger
catch limit of 100t which triggers a review of available data to identify any
sustainability issues if reached.       

·       
The
fishery is well placed against Component 2 and 3 PIs.    

 

Outlook

Moreton Bay Bugs

Component

Outlook

Comments

Target fish stocks

Stable

Catches have remained well below
estimates of acceptable biological catch (ABC) for the past decade.  Given Moreton Bay Bugs are taken as a
byproduct and catch has remained well below ABC, there is little incentive to
undertake formal stock assessments of develop well-defined HCRs.     

Environmental impact of fishing

Stable

No major changes
are expected to Component 2 arrangements.       

Management system

Stable

No major changes
are expected to Component 3 arrangements.  

 

 

 

Disclaimer

This assessment has been
undertaken in a limited timeframe based on publicly available
information.  Although all reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the
quality of the report, neither this company nor the assessment’ s authors
warrant that the information contained in this assessment is free from errors
or omissions.  To the maximum extent permitted by law, equity or statute,
neither this company nor the authors accept any form of liability, it
contractual, tortious or otherwise, for the contents of this report or for any
consequences arising from misuse or any reliance placed on it.

Background

This report sets
out the results of an assessment against a seafood risk assessment procedure,
originally developed for Coles Supermarkets Australia by MRAG Asia
Pacific.  The aim of the procedure is to
allow for the rapid screening of uncertified source fisheries to identify major
sustainability problems, and to assist seafood buyers in procuring seafood from
fisheries that are relatively well-managed and have lower relative risk to the
aquatic environment. While it is based on elements from the GSSI benchmarked
MSC Standard version 2.0, the framework is not a duplicate of it nor a
substitute for it. The methodology used to apply the framework differs
substantially from an MSC Certification. 
Consequently, any claim made about the rating of the fishery based on
this assessment should not make any reference to the MSC or any other third
party scheme.

This
report is a “live” document that will be reviewed and updated on an annual
basis. 

Methods

Risk Assessment

Detailed methodology for the risk
assessment procedure is found in MRAG AP (2015). The following provides a brief
summary of the method as it relates to the information provided in this report.

Assessments are undertaken according to a
unit of assessment’ (UoA).  The UoA is a
combination of three main components: (i) the target species and stock; (ii)
the gear type used by the fishery; and (iii) the management system under which
the UoA operates.

Each UoA is assessed against three
components, consistent with the MSC principles:

1.       Target fish stocks;

2.       Environmental impact of fishing; and

3.       Management system.

Each component has a number of performance
indicators (PIs).  In turn, each PI has
associated criteria, scoring issues (SIs) and scoring guideposts (SGs).  For each UoA, each PI is assigned one of the
following scores, according to how well the fishery performs against the SGs:

·     
Low risk;

·     
Medium
risk;

·     
Precautionary
high risk; or

·     
High risk

Scores at the PI level are determined by
the aggregate of the SI scores.  For
example, if there are five SIs in a PI and three of them are scored low risk
with two medium risk, the overall PI score is low risk.  If three are medium risk and two are low
risk, the overall PI score is medium risk. 
If there are an equal number of low risk and medium risk SI scores, the
PI is scored medium risk.  If any SI
scores precautionary high risk, the PI scores precautionary high risk.  If any SI scores high risk, the PI scores
high risk.

For this assessment, each component has
also been given an overall risk score based on the scores of the PIs.  Overall risk scores are either low, medium or
high.  The overall component risk score
is low where the majority of PI risk scores are low.  The overall risk score is high where any one
PI is scored high risk, or two or more PIs score precautionary high risk.  The overall risk score is medium for all
other combinations (e.g. equal number of medium/low risk PI scores; majority
medium PI scores; one PHR score, others low/medium).

Outlook

For each UoA, an assessment of the future
‘outlook’ is provided against each component.  
Assessments are essentially a qualitative judgement of the assessor
based on the likely future performance of the fishery against the relevant risk
assessment criteria over the short to medium term (0-3 years).  Assessments are based on the available
information for the UoA and take into account any known management changes.

Outlook scores are provided for information
only and do not influence current or future risk scoring.

Table 1:
Outlook scoring categories.

Outlook
score

Guidance

Improving

The
performance of the UoA is expected to improve against the relevant risk
assessment criteria.

Stable

The
performance of the UoA is expected to remain generally stable against the
relevant risk assessment criteria.

Uncertain

The
likely performance of the UoA against the relevant risk assessment criteria
is uncertain.

Declining

The
performance of the UoA is expected to decline against the relevant risk
assessment criteria.

 

Information sources

Information to support scoring is obtained
from publicly available sources, unless otherwise specified. Scores will be
assigned on the basis of the objective evidence available to the assessor. A
brief justification is provided to accompany the score for each PI.

Assessors will gather publicly
available information as necessary to complete or update a PI. Information
sources may include information gathered from the internet, fishery management
agencies, scientific organisations or other sources.
   

 



Assessment Results

COMPONENT 1: Target fish stocks



1A: Stock Status

CRITERIA: (i)The stock is at a
level which maintains high productivity and has a low probability of
recruitment overfishing.

(a) Stock Status

MEDIUM RISK

No studies have
been carried out on the biological stock structure of Australian Moreton Bay
Bugs (Zeller et al, 2016).  Given the
uncertainty in stock structure, assessment of stock status is presented here
at the management unit level.

Zeller
et al (2016) report that “Northern
Prawn Fishery (Commonwealth) trawl surveys were used to estimate the biomass
of Moreton Bay Bugs in the Gulf of Carpentaria, from which an estimate of
acceptable biological catch was derived. This assessment estimated the annual
acceptable biological catch for Moreton Bay Bugs in the fishery at 1887 tonnes (t)
(95 per cent confidence interval 1716–2057 t). Annual
commercial catches have remained well below this (catch peaked at 120 t
in 1998). Catches were 59 t in 2014 and 77 t in 2015
.” 
On the basis of the above, they conclude that the stock
is not overfished. 

Given
annual catches remain well below estimates of acceptable biological catch, it
is probably highly likely that the stock is above the point of recruitment
impairment.  However, there is limited
evidence to demonstrate that the stock meets the second part of the low risk
scoring guideline, namely that the stock is fluctuating at or around BMSY.  Accordingly, we have scored this SI medium
risk. 

PI SCORE

MEDIUM RISK

 


1B: Harvest Strategy

CRITERIA:
(i)
There is
a robust and precautionary harvest strategy in place.

(a) Harvest Strategy

LOW RISK

The harvest strategy for the NPF is
structured around the targeted prawn species and is described in detail by
MRAG Americas (2012). 

Fishing mortality is managed through a
combination of input controls (limited entry, seasonal closures, permanent
area closures, gear restrictions and operational controls), which are
implemented under the Northern Prawn Fishery Management Plan 1995. 

To fish in the NPF operators must hold
Statutory Fishing Rights (SFRs), which control fishing capacity by placing
limits on the numbers of trawlers and the amount of gear permitted in the
fishery. There are two types of SFRs: (i) a Class B SFR, which permits a boat
to fish in the NPF; and (ii) a gear SFR, which limits the amount of net a
fisher can use (Dichmont et al, 2014). 
The fishery is also subject to a range of spatial closures to protect
seagrass beds and other sensitive habitats, as well as seasonal closures
protect to small prawns, as well as to protect spawning individuals.

The Tiger Prawn fishery is the most
valuable component of the NPF and management of the NPF is primarily based
around this part of the fishery (Dichmont et al, 2014).  The Banana Prawn fishery is managed by a
fixed length season, with some in-season management aimed primarily at
allowing a maximum season length in highly productive years, and reducing the
season length in years of low production.

Levels of effort in the fishery are
adjusted according to a formal harvest strategy structured around the two
main ‘fisheries’: the ‘Tiger Prawn fishery’ and the ‘Banana Prawn fishery’
(Dichmont et al, 2014).  In the Tiger
Prawn fishery, the operational objective is to achieve maximum economic yield
(MEY) with adjustments made as necessary to spatial and temporal closures,
and/or gear to meet the MEY objective over a 7-year period.  The outputs from a bio-economic model
(which includes the biology of tiger and Endeavour Prawns, and key economic
variables) are used to set the level of standardised effort for the
fishery. 

In the Banana Prawn fishery, the
operational objective is to allow sufficient escapement from the fishery to
ensure an adequate spawning biomass of Banana Prawns (based on historical
data), and to achieve the maximum economic yield (MEY) from the fishery.  The length of the main fishing season for
Banana Prawns is adjusted according to a set of structured decision rules
designed to achieve MEY. 

In addition to the controls on effort for
the main target species, Moreton Bay Bugs are subject to a number of species
specific management measures.  These
include a 60 mm minimum carapace width and a prohibition on the take of
‘berried’ female bugs (Dichmont et al, 2014). 
In addition, a 100t trigger limit applies, which if breached triggers
a review of logbook and trawl survey data to establish that catches are
sustainable.      

The fishery is monitored through a
compulsory daily catch and effort logbook, as well as through an annual
fishery independent trawl survey undertaken in January/February and a
biennial trawl survey undertaken in June/July.   The fishery is also subject to a crew
member observer program and a scientific observer program.  In 2015, crew member observers undertook
1,058 monitoring days (12.9%) and scientific observers undertook 159
monitoring days (1.94%) (Larcombe et al, 2016).

Milton et al (2010) used independent
trawl survey data to estimate acceptable biological catch (ABC) levels for
the main byproduct species taken in the NPF. 
For Moreton Bay Bugs, they estimated a mean ABC of 1,887t (95% c.i.
1,716 – 2,057).  Since then, catches
have remained well below the ABC, with catch peaking in 2013 at 109t. 

Although the harvest strategy for the NPF
is designed around the main target species, estimates of sustainable catch
levels for bugs have been made and existing harvest controls have been
sufficient to consistently constrain catch well below those estimates.  Catches continue to be monitored against a
precautionary trigger point, which precipitates a review of available data if
breached.

To that end, the harvest strategy could
be expected to be responsive to the state of the stock (if reviews following
a breach of trigger limits identified a sustainability concern) and all of
the elements appear to work together to meet the stock management objectives
reflected in criterion 1A(i). 
Accordingly, we have scored this SI low risk.

Shark-finning

 

NA

CRITERIA: (ii) There are well defined and effective harvest control
rules (HCRs) and tools in place.

(a) HCR Design and application

MEDIUM RISK

There is
currently no well-defined harvest control rule for Moreton Bay Bugs, although
the stock is subject to a trigger limit under the NPF harvest strategy which
precipitates a review of available data if breached (Dichmont et al,
2014).  Given catches have remained
well below the estimated ABC for the stock, and the fact that HCRs have been
used extensively by AFMA in the NPF and other fisheries, there is a strong
argument that generally understood HCRs are in place and tools are available
(e.g. spatial/temporal closures, adjustments to MLS) which could be expected
to reduce exploitation if PRI was approached. 
Accordingly, we have scored this SI medium risk.   

PI SCORE

MEDIUM RISK

 

 


1C: Information and Assessment

CRITERIA: (i) Relevant information
is collected to support the harvest strategy.

(a) Range of information

LOW RISK

Moreton Bay Bugs are distributed along
the tropical and subtropical coast of Australia from northern New South Wales
to Shark Bay in Western Australia. No studies have been carried out on the
biological stock structure of Australian Moreton Bay Bugs. The two species (Thenus australiensis and T. parindicus) have overlapping
distributions, may be trawled together, are undifferentiated in the catch and
are thus typically assessed together (Zeller et al, 2016).

While the biological understanding of
these two species in northern Australia is incomplete, there is sufficient
information to inform the harvest strategy. For example, Milton et al (2010)
used independent trawl survey to estimate acceptable biological catch levels
for the stock within the NPF.   They
also used Bayesian methods to undertake preliminary evaluations of a range of
alternative management approaches including changes to the minimum legal size
and levels of compliance.  A number of
studies have characterised the biology of Moreton Bay Bugs including growth,
mortality and reproductive potential (e.g. Courtney, 1997; Stewart et al,
1997).

Fleet composition is well understood and
sufficient data are collected to support the harvest strategy (i.e. MLS and
trigger limits) including catch and effort levels (verified by scientific and
crew member observers), vessel details and spatial effort coverage through
VMS data.

(b) Monitoring and comprehensiveness

MEDIUM RISK

Moreton Bay Bugs are a byproduct species
in the NPF, so stock abundance is not monitored in the same way as the main
target species.  The main ‘HCR’ in the
fishery is the 100t catch trigger limit in the harvest strategy which
precipitates a review of available information if breached.  The trigger limit takes into account Milton
et al’s (2010) estimates of ABC and has been set at a precautionary level.  Removals from the UoA are very well
monitored through catch and effort logbooks, verified by crew and scientific
observer programs.  Given the nature of
the stock and absence of similar fisheries in the area, there are likely to
be few if any removals from other fisheries. 
To that end, UoA removals are monitored and at least one indicator
(catch) is monitored consistent with the ‘HCR’ for the stock.  Accordingly, we have scored this SI medium
risk.  Milton et al (2010) suggest that
the NPF prawn monitoring surveys may provide a reliable index of Moreton Bay
Bug abundance, although this stock is not regularly included in normal
analysis of surveys results.

CRITERIA: (ii) There is an adequate
assessment of the stock status.

(a) Stock assessment

MEDIUM RISK

No formal
quantitative assessment of the NPF Moreton Bay Bug stock exits, although
Milton et al (2010) produced estimates of biomass and a possible ‘acceptable
biological catch’ based on data from independent prawn surveys run between
2005 and 2007.  They noted that they
attempted to conduct a stock
assessment using biomass
dynamics models, however the models failed to produce reliable and reasonable
results.  The main difficulties
included the short data timeseries (1998 – 2007) in the commercial logbooks,
the fact that commercial logbook records are not a reliable proxy for species
occurrence because fishers may not always retain byproduct when they catch
them and as non-target species the catch and CPUE may not be a reliable index
for abundance.  Milton et al (2010)
concluded that because catch has been well below their estimates of ABC,
catches do not need close monitoring by managers unless fishing practices
change dramatically.  Accordingly,
estimates of ABC have not been updated since.

In addition to the monitoring of catch
against the trigger point in the harvest strategy, the stock is also subject
to regular ‘weight of evidence’ assessments as part of the FRDC Status of Key
Australian Fish Stocks report (e.g. Zeller et al, 2016).  These assessments classify status according
to generic categories (e.g. ‘sustainable’, ‘overfished’, etc).  Given that these assessments estimate
status relative to generic categories and status in the NPF Harvest Strategy
is assumed to be sustainable if catch remains below the 100t trigger level,
there is an argument that assessments are undertaken which estimate status
relative to generic ‘reference points’ which are appropriate to the species
category.  Accordingly, we have scored
this SI medium risk. 

(b) Uncertainty and Peer review

MEDIUM RISK

Milton et al (2010) note that theirs was the first
attempt to undertake some form of quantitative assessment of Moreton Bay Bugs
in the NPF and also used new methods. 
As a result, there are several uncertainties in the assessment.  Attempts were made to account for some
uncertainties (e.g. by using multiple values for natural mortality), although
other types of uncertainty may not yet be accounted for.  The ‘weight of evidence’ approach used for
the FRDC Status of Key Australian Fish Stocks report attempts to account for
uncertainty by drawing from multiple sources of available information.  The outcomes of these assessment are
subject to peer review. 

PI SCORE

MEDIUM RISK

 

Note: The NPF has been
certified against the Marine Stewardship Council standard for the main prawn
species since 2012.  The certification
covers the full geographic scope of the fishery.  Assessments against Components 2 and 3 of
this assessment are based on the information provided in the NPF’s MSC Public
Certification Report (MRAG Americas, 2012) and subsequent surveillance
audits.   Unless otherwise specified, the
Component 2 information is drawn from the assessment of the Tiger Prawn
sub-fishery assessment.

COMPONENT 2: Environmental impact of fishing

 


2A: Other Species

CRITERIA: (i) The UoA aims to
maintain other species above the point where recruitment would be impaired
(PRI) and does not hinder recovery of other species if they are below the
PRI.

(a) Main other species stock
status

LOW RISK

The NPF scored 90 and 80 for retained and
discarded species status respectively in its MSC assessment. 

For retained species the assessment
concluded that “all retained species
have been subject to a quantitative ecological risk assessment … These
assessments, based on a robust methodology, provide a comprehensive evaluation
of the retained species. Two mantis shrimps which were considered in theory
to be at high risk in the Level 2 ERA, are being continuously monitored by
observers but have never been recorded. Biologically-based limits, in the
form of Acceptable Biological Catch (ABC) values which are catch limit
reference values based on MSY exploitation rates and life history traits,
have been estimated for four main groups of retained species (bugs, scallops,
cuttlefishes and squids). Catches of the former three groups are well below
the ABCs. Therefore, there is a high degree of certainty that these three
groups are within biologically-based limits. Squid catches in the Tiger Prawn
sub-fishery tally to only ~10% of the ABC for the NPF as a whole. Thus there
is a high degree of certainty that squid catches in the Tiger Prawn
sub-fishery are also within biologically-based limits even if for the NPF as
a whole squid catches approached the ABC in 2007
.”  For discarded species, the assessment
reported that “the status of the main
bycatch species is considered to be well-known. A comprehensive assessment of
bycatch species determined that of 507 species assessed, only four (blotched
fantail ray, porcupine ray, dwarf lionfish and raggy scorpionfish) were at
risk from the fishery because they exceeded a biologically-based limit. These
four species were incorporated into the observer monitoring programme but no
interactions with these species have yet been recorded. Scientists suggest
that these four species may be hard bottom-associated, and thus outside the
trawlable fishing grounds or that interactions are otherwise mitigated
through TEDs. The risk assessment gave priority consideration to those
species whose median estimates (50
th percentile)
of fishing mortality exceeded the reference points. It is not clear whether
those species whose median estimate did not exceed, but whose 90% confidence
interval (i.e. 95
th percentile) did
exceed, the reference point were consistently carried through to the expert
override stage. However, given that none of the species with greater
exceedances of the reference points (i.e. exceedance at 50
th
percentile versus 95
th percentile) were ultimately found to be at risk, the probability
that these other lower risk species are within biologically based limit is
considered to be highly likely (80).

CRITERIA: (ii) There
is a strategy in place that is designed to maintain or to not hinder
rebuilding of other species; and the UoA regularly reviews and implements

(a) Management strategy in place

LOW RISK

The NPF scored 80 and 95 for retained and
discarded species management respectively in its MSC assessment. 

For retained species, the assessment
concluded that “there are formal
measures in place for two of four key byproduct species groups: squid and
bugs. Recent scientific evaluation has evaluated current catches and
estimated acceptable biological catches for squid, bugs, cuttlefishes and
scallops, and no instances of overfishing were identified. A more complete
Non-Key Commercial Species (Byproduct) Policy is also being developed. It can
therefore be concluded that there is a partial strategy currently in place
(80).
More recently, specific measures have been included in the NPF
Harvest Strategy for the main byproduct species, including scampi and squid
(Dichmont et al, 2014).

For discarded species, the assessment
noted “the Bycatch Action Plan (BAP),
in conjunction with mandatory use of TEDs/BRDs, use of risk assessments of
all species to identify high risks, and the observer monitoring programme for
priority species, constitutes a strategy for managing and minimizing bycatch.
Periodic updates of the Ecological Risk Management document assure that the
strategy remains up to date. The strategy is based directly on the NPF and
scientific testing has proven that substantial bycatch reduction will result
from proper use of the devices. These methods have been used successfully in
other similar fisheries
.”

The most recent MSC surveillance audit
noted that the Northern Prawn Fishing Industry (NPFI) has initiated its
Bycatch Management Strategy (NPFI, 2015), with a commitment to reduce bycatch
by 30% by July 2018 (MRAG Americas, 2017). This is based on AFMA’s Bycatch
and Discarding Workplans, which have replaced Bycatch Action Plans since
2008. Early indications are that the NPFI has responded positively in
implementing the strategy with the development of Kon’s Covered Fisheyes BRD,
where initial trials have led to the reduction in bycatch by 36.7% in the
Tiger Prawn fishery (NPFI, 2017). The current approved BRDs will remain in
legislation until 30 June 2018, then a review of BRDs will be undertaken and
less effective devices will be removed from the "approved" list.
 

(b) Management strategy evaluation

LOW RISK

MRAG Americas (2012) concluded for retained
species that “the partial strategy is
based on the ABCs (limit reference points), life history characteristics of
the main retained species, and ongoing monitoring of these species. The
results of the monitoring demonstrate that biologically-based limits are not
being exceeded for the species covered by the partial strategy, thus there
can be some confidence that the partial strategy is working (80) and is being
implemented successfully by NORMAC and AFMA (80)
.”  For discarded species they concluded that “the NPF claims to have reduced bycatch by
50% but since bycatch quantity and species composition is not routinely
monitored, there is only indirect evidence of successful implementation
(i.e., reductions in ETP species interactions, which presumably mean
TEDs/BRDs are working effectively and thus presumably having an effect on
non-ETP species as well). Therefore, there is some evidence that the strategy
is achieving its objective (100). However, some concerns have been expressed
about the positioning of BRDs for maximum effectiveness, and lacking further
evidence of the successful implementation of bycatch reduction for bycatch
species per se, and the lack of any recording of high priority bycatch
species by observers, the evidence for the success of the strategy for
bycatch species is not entirely clear (80).”
Since the original
assessment, subsequent surveillance audits have reported that species
identified as being at risk through the NPF Ecological Risk Assessment
process have been monitored through the crew member and scientific observer
programs, as well as through fishery independent trawl surveys (MRAG Americas
2017).  

(c) Shark-finning

 

NA

CRITERIA: (iii) Information on the
nature and amount of other species taken is adequate to determine the risk
posed by the UoA and the effectiveness of the strategy to manage other
species.

(a) Information

LOW RISK

The NPF scored 85 and 80 for retained and
discarded species information performance indicators respectively in its MSC
assessment. 

For retained species, MRAG Americas
(2012) reported that “quantitative data
on all retained species is required by the mandatory logbook format of the
NPF and the entire catch is represented in the logbook data. However, some
similar species are recorded in combined, non-species-specific reporting
categories because the species are not common and difficult to separate. This
level of detail is deemed adequate by the management system because level 2
risk assessment has been conducted for essentially all of the species
nordmally encountered. It is the case that recorded quantities in logbooks
may not reflect abundance since retention and reporting rates may vary based
on fishery operational costs, prawn and byproduct prices, prawn and byproduct
catch rates, and vessel crew behaviour.

Crew
member observers and scientific observers also collect information on all
retained species encountered.

Scientific
studies of actual catches versus acceptable biological catches have recently
been completed for four main groups of byproduct species: squids,
cuttlefishes, bugs and scampi. These concluded that recent annual catches of
each byproduct group are a small proportion of the estimated
biologically-sustainable total annual catch for those groups, except for
squid which was near, but below, the biologically-sustainable level. Squid
catches were found to be highly variable between years and the need for
further study was noted
”.

For discarded species, MRAG Americas
(2012) concluded that “several
comprehensive scientific surveys have been conducted to assess the bycatch in
the Tiger Prawn sub-fishery. Several quantitative ecological risk assessments
have been undertaken using state-of-the-art methods. However, bycatch data
collection from the fishery itself is not required by the logbook reporting
format. Crew member observers and scientific observers focus their efforts on
a list of four priority bycatch species defined through the ecological risk
assessment process and ETP species. As a result, there is no ongoing
operational data collection on total bycatch quantities or species
composition. Research has been conducted to investigate the sample sizes
required to detect statistically significant changes in the abundance of
rarer (and thus of greater concern) bycatch species, but this research
concluded that in most cases the sampling effort is beyond practically
achievable levels
”.

PI SCORE

LOW RISK

 

 


2B: Endangered Threatened and/or Protected
(ETP)
Species

CRITERIA: (i) The UoA meets
national and international requirements for protection of ETP species.

The UoA does
not hinder recovery of ETP species.

(a) Effects of the UoA on
populations/stocks

LOW RISK

The NPF scored 90 for the ETP species
status PI in its MSC assessment.  MRAG
Americas (2012) concluded that “direct and
indirect fishery effects and their impacts on ETP species have been accounted
for in the ecological risk assessments and no species in any of the five
groups (marine mammals, seabirds, marine reptiles, elasmobranchs, and
teleosts) have been assessed as “at risk”. Furthermore, the Australian
government’s export certification process has declared that the NPF meets the
requirements of the EPBC Act. Therefore there is a high degree of certainty
that all national and relevant international requirements with regard to ETP
are met (100).

Despite
the fact that impacts are considered acceptable, there is acknowledgement
that some risks still exist. The NPF notes that recent BRD implementation has
not proven effective at reducing seasnake catch in the NPF when set at the
maximum legal distance from the codend. There are also concerns that
cumulative impacts to sawfishes have not been adequately accounted for and
that interaction rates have not been adequately reduced by TEDs due to
sawfish rostrum entanglement. Therefore, while direct and indirect impacts
are considered acceptable, they may still be significant and are the subject
of continuing research (80).
  The most recent surveillance audit reviewed
the latest information on ETP species interactions, and found no
justification to alter the original scoring (MRAG Americas, 2017).

CRITERIA: (ii) The UoA has in place
precautionary management strategies designed to:

·       
meet national and international
requirements; and

·       
ensure the UoA does not hinder
recovery of ETP species.

Also, the UoA regularly reviews and implements measures, as
appropriate, to minimise the mortality of ETP species

(a) Management strategy in place

LOW RISK

The NPF scored 95 for the ETP species
management PI in its MSC assessment. 
MRAG Americas (2012) reported that “the NPF has formulated and implemented a Bycatch and Discarding Work
Plan (BDWP) and an Ecological Risk Management Strategy, which encapsulate the
NPF’s strategy for overall minimisation of bycatch through developing
management responses to high ecological risks and measures to avoid fishery
interactions with species listed under the EPBC Act. This strategy comprises
temporal and spatial closures, monitoring programmes, research projects and
bycatch reduction activities such as development and testing of new BRDs.

As
none of the ETP species have been found to be at high risk from the fishery,
the main management achievements for ETP species have been in the form of
bycatch reduction, in particular turtle bycatch has been reduced by 99%.
However, TEDs and BRDs have had mixed success for other organisms: one study
reported that TEDs reduced catches of narrow sawfish by 73% whereas other
studies found only a slight effect or no effect due to entanglement before
the TED is contacted. Similarly for seasnakes, research results showed that
BRDs did not effectively reduce bycatch when placed at the maximum legal
distance from the codend, although they did reduce crushing of caught
seasnakes and thus improved survival.
  On the basis of the available information,
they concluded that “there is a
strategy in place to manage the fishery’s impacts on ETP species. Given that
none of these species have been found to be at risk from the fishery, current
levels of impacts (interactions) are considered to exceed national and
international requirements for these species’ protection
”. 

(b) Management strategy
implementation

LOW RISK

MRAG Americas (2012) concluded that:

·       
the strategy is based on research
conducted for this fishery and quantitative analysis provides high confidence
and evidence that the strategy does work (100)
”; and

·       
“There is evidence that the strategy is being
implemented successfully given that interactions are monitored, and though
variable year-to-year, do not appear to be rising. However, one of the
recommendations arising from the 2008 DEWHA export certification was that the
NPF should continue to effectively mitigate against and reduce bycatch in the
fishery, particularly for sawfish, rays and sea snakes. Based on interaction
data from logbooks, supplemented by the findings of research studies, it does
not appear that seasnake and sawfish interactions are being continuously
reduced under the current management strategy, particularly since the
utilization rates for effective BRD types and deployments is not currently
monitored. Therefore it cannot be confirmed that the intended changes are
occurring (80)”.

CRITERIA: (iii) Relevant
information is collected to support the management of UoA impacts on ETP
species, including:

·       
information for the development of
the management strategy;

·       
information to assess the
effectiveness of the

·       
management strategy; and

·       
information to determine the outcome
status of ETP species.

(a)
Information

LOW RISK

The NPF scored 85 for the ETP species
information PI in its MSC assessment. 
MRAG Americas (2012) reported that “There are two types of data available to estimate the impacts of the
fishery on ETP species: comprehensive, but spatial and temporally limited
research studies; and ongoing monitoring of the fishery itself. The former
was used as the basis for the quantitative ecological risk assessment, which
found that no ETP species are at risk from the fishery. However, it was
acknowledged that cumulative impacts may need to be better accounted for in
the methodology, particularly for those species that are known to be
regionally/globally threatened such as sawfishes (CITES Appendix I listed for
all but one species which is CITES Appendix II; IUCN Red List Critically
Endangered). The monitoring data are designed to indicate trends in
interactions between ETP species and the fishery. In the Tiger Prawn
sub-fishery, ETP monitoring data are provided by NPF logbooks, the crew
member observer programme and the scientific observer programme. The two
observer programmes have coverage of 5% and 2.5%, respectively
[12.9% and
1.94% in 2015; Larcombe et al, 2016].
ETP species interaction rates recorded in logbooks and by crew member
observers are generally much lower, and are less likely to be species-specific,
than those recorded by scientific observers. For a variety of reasons,
species specific identifications are not always provided (e.g., in some
cases, obtaining a species identification could work against the live release
of the organism (sawfishes)). This, in combination with low catch rates,
makes it difficult to analyse the data for changes in abundance. A study
examining the requisite sample sizes to detect a statistically significant
difference found that the number of samples required to assess rare species
is well beyond practical limits of the observer and monitoring programmes;
therefore, other strategies were recommended.”

Based on this, they concluded that “the combination of quantitative ecological
risk assessment and ongoing fishery monitoring is sufficient to determine
whether the fishery is a threat to ETP species; to measure trends; and to
support the Bycatch and Discarding Work Plan and Ecological Risk Management
Strategy
”. 

PI SCORE

LOW RISK

 


2C: Habitats

CRITERIA: (i) The UoA does not
cause serious or irreversible harm to habitat structure and function,
considered on the basis of the area(s) covered by the governance body(s)
responsible for fisheries management

(a) Habitat status

LOW RISK

The NPF scored 100 for the habitat status
PI in its MSC assessment. MRAG Americas reported that “the Tiger Prawn sub-fishery is believed to have the greatest
potential for benthic habitat impacts because it is most closely associated
with the seabed of the three NPF sub-fisheries. However, none of the 157
habitat types (benthic and water column) evaluated under the Level 2.5
ecological risk assessment were found to be at high risk. Throughout the NPF
fishing effort is concentrated in a 3-month period and occurs over only about
3% of the managed region. One study found that over a 5-year period only 17%
of the managed region was trawled at all. The trawled “hotspots” tend to
change from year to year such that only a very small proportion of the fished
area of the NPF makes up the same hotspot every year.

Recent
studies in the Gulf of Carpentaria involving sampling of sites that were
subject to high, medium and low intensity trawling in three of the fishing
grounds/habitats defined (Groote, Mornington and Vanderlins) found that
trawling intensity explained only 2% of the biomass density variation in
epibenthic invertebrates (including benthic sessile and mobile species), and
at most 1% in infaunal invertebrates. Sessile or slow-moving taxa were found
to recover from the effects of intensive trawling within 6-12 months.
Findings’ indicating that trawling has little effect on the infaunal
community suggest that trawling also has relatively little effect on the
majority of benthic habitats within the NPF. The connection between habitat
and community is particularly strong in the case of habitat-forming organisms
such as gorgonians, soft corals and sponges found in this highly dynamic
environment.

These
same studies found no unique, exclusive habitats and noted that the majority
of the ecologically important habitats are located in untrawlable areas. Some
areas of high biodiversity such as marginal reefs and sponge gardens can be
found within trawlable areas but these may not be permanent structures given
the high natural environmental disturbance regime (e.g., storm surges, tides,
flooding and cyclones)
.”

The most recent surveillance report (MRAG
Americas, 2017) recognised new analysis of the trawl footprint in the context
of habitats in the NPF area (Pitcher et al, 2016).  The surveillance report summarised the main
outcomes of the analysis as follows: “About
19.6% of the NPF area (0‐150 m) is closed in CMR[2]s,
~0.2% in MPAs and ~0.7% under fishery regulation — the total closed is 20.5%.
The annual footprint of the NPF trawl fishery is 1.6% overall, with most
trawling around the perimeter of the Gulf of Carpentaria in assemblages ‘9’
(main habitat for the Tiger Prawn subfishery) & ‘2’ (main habitat for the
white Banana Prawn subfishery), with footprints of 13% & 5.7% trawled
annually about 1.9 & 1.4 times on average, hence total swept ratios are
24.7% & 7.9% respectively. These footprints are indicative of the
relative potential for habitat risk and priority for future AFMA habitat ERAs
”.  The surveillance audit concluded there was
no justification to change the original scoring.

CRITERIA: (ii) There is a strategy
in place that is designed to ensure the UoA does not pose a risk of serious
or irreversible harm to the habitats.

(a) Management strategy in place

LOW RISK

The NPF scored 80 for the habitat
management PI in its MSC assessment. 
MRAG Americas (2012) reported that “habitat impacts are primarily managed through a system of spatial and
temporal closures adopted by the NPF to protect vulnerable habitats such as
seagrass beds and coral and rocky reefs, as well as to address economic
objectives of the fishery. A total of 2.1% of the managed zone of the fishery
is subject to permanent closures while 8.3% is subject to seasonal closures.
These areas include all known seagrass beds. Furthermore, the entire fishery
is closed for 5.5 months each year. It has been noted that with the decline
in fishing effort from 286 vessels in 1981 to 52 vessels in 2009, and the
deployment of these vessels of between 8-17% of the NPF-managed region
overall and only intensively over about 3% per year (concentrated in a
3-month period), residual habitat impacts from trawls contacting the seabed
are expected to be further minimized. Since ecological risk assessments on
habitats found little or no detrimental impact on the physical marine
environment, AFMA has deferred development of an ecological risk management
strategy for NPF habitats until more information is available
.”

(b) Management strategy
implementation

LOW RISK

MRAG Americas (2012) concluded that “the partial strategy is based on known
ecological valuable habitats located within the NPF fishing grounds and there
is confidence it will work through VMS monitoring to demonstrate avoidance of
closed areas. Some evidence for implementation of the partial strategy is
provided in the form of VMS monitoring of vessel movements with regard to the
spatial and temporal closure requirements, and by the low number of observed
interactions with seagrass bed-associated species such as dugongs and
syngnathids.

 

CRITERIA: (iii) Information is
adequate to determine the risk posed to the habitat by the UoA and the
effectiveness of the strategy to manage impacts on the habitat.

(a) Information quality

LOW RISK

The NPF scored 95 for the habitat
information PI in its MSC assessment. 
MRAG Americas (2012) reported that “all habitats in the Tiger Prawn sub-fishery were mapped for the
ecological risk assessment. The impacts of the trawl gear’s interaction with
these habitat types were evaluated and none of the habitats were found to be
at high risk. A number of historical and recent in-depth research projects
have, in combination, produced a digital spatial library describing the
state, composition and spatial variability of the NPF’s habitats. Areas that
have been subject to trawling, as well as those that have not, have been
identified and the time required for the habitat to recover from
trawl-related disturbance has been investigated through quantitative field
experiments and simulation modelling. Ongoing information gathering is mainly
in the form of VMS monitoring of vessel behaviour with regard to the temporal
and spatial closures. While other research studies on habitats may be
undertaken in the future, this work is not an ongoing feature of NPF
management
”.

(b) Information and monitoring
adequacy

LOW RISK

On the basis of the available
information, MRAG Americas (2012) concluded that “Monitoring of fishing effort and total area fished would demonstrate
if effort or area increased, which would detect a potential change in risk to
the habitat. The physical impact of the gear on habitat types has been
extensively studied through field experiments and simulation
”.

PI SCORE

LOW RISK

 


2D: Ecosystems

CRITERIA: (i) The UoA does not
cause serious or irreversible harm to the key elements of ecosystem structure
and function.

(a)
Ecosystem Status

LOW RISK

The NPF scored 100 for the ecosystem
status PI in its MSC assessment.  MRAG
Americas (2012) reported that “the
ecosystem effects of the NPF’s trawl fisheries have been studied in depth,
most recently in studies involving both field surveys/experimentation (e.g.
sampling of sites that were subject to high, medium and low intensity
trawling in a number of fishing grounds) and simulation models. These studies
have focused on the Tiger Prawn sub-fishery (Gulf of Carpentaria), which has
the highest diversity of catch. The most recent of these studies, completed
in 2010, concluded that the effects of trawling at the current scale of the
NPF do not affect overall biodiversity and cannot be distinguished from other
sources of variation in community structure. Specifically, trawling intensity
explained only 2% of the biomass density variation in epibenthic
invertebrates (including benthic sessile and mobile species), and at most 1%
in infaunal invertebrates. Community composition and structure were more
strongly related to region, and in some cases time of day, than to the
intensity of trawling. Nevertheless, mean trophic level was shown to have declined
when the fishery was at its peak in the early 1980s and rose again when
fishing effort dropped. The study found that communities can recover rapidly
when trawling frequency is reduced.

In
addition to these studies of the benthic community, a Level 1 risk assessment
(based on a Scale Impact Consequence Analysis) concluded that impacts to the
ecosystem were of low consequence. The assessed risks, the field studies of
impacts, and the monitoring undertaken for the species assessed elsewhere
under this principle (P2), further support the lack of disturbance to key
components of the ecosystem and thus suggest a lack of disturbance to
ecosystem structure and function.
 

CRITERIA: (ii) There are measures
in place to ensure the UoA does not pose a risk of serious or irreversible
harm to ecosystem structure and function.

(a) Management Strategy in place

LOW RISK

The NPF scored 90 for the ecosystem management PI in
its MSC assessment.  MRAG Americas
(2012) reported that “the Ecological
Risk Management (ERM) document for the NPF states that it does not contain
specific management strategies for habitats and communities; however, it does
contain measures to prevent adverse impacts to species (through quantitative
ecological risk assessment, list of priority species for monitoring, and
catch monitoring and reporting requirements) and measures to prevent adverse
impacts to habitats (through temporal and spatial closures and VMS monitoring
of the location and duration of trawling impacts). Therefore, while the ERM document
cannot be considered a full strategy premised on functional relationships
between the fishery and the ecosystem, it certainly represents a partial
strategy. Evidence that this partial strategy is likely to work and is being
implemented is available in the form of species and VMS monitoring data,
which are subject to ongoing scrutiny, as well as updates to the ecological
risk assessment process and changes to monitoring procedures as necessary.
Several research studies have also been conducted to assess the effectiveness
of management practices (e.g., TEDs/BRDs) for bycatch and ETP species groups
in particular
.”

(b) Management Strategy
implementation

LOW RISK

MRAG Americas (2012) concluded that “the elements of the ERM document have been
tested and proven to work through experience in the fishery involved, as
confirmed by comprehensive research studies and reports.  Evidence for effective implementation
exists in the form of successful lowering of interaction rates with some
groups of ETP species, large reductions in the overall amount of bycatch, and
VMS monitoring of temporal and spatial closures
.”

CRITERIA: (iii) There is adequate
knowledge of the impacts of the UoA on the ecosystem.

(a) Information quality

LOW RISK

The NPF scored 90 for the ecosystem
information PI in its MSC assessment. 
MRAG Americas (2012) reported that “detailed ecosystem studies have been conducted for the NPF in the
Gulf of Carpentaria focused on the Tiger Prawn subfishery.  These studies have comprised both field surveys/experiments
and simulation models and addressed the issue of the impacts of trawling from
many angles. While these research projects have been given generous,
multi-year funding, they are not an ongoing component of NPF management. Two
issues have been highlighted for further study: the identification of proper
control sites for impact assessment, and the effects of trawling on high
biodiversity areas (e.g., sponge gardens) within trawlable fishing grounds. A
recent study has integrated bioeconomic stock and ecological risk assessment
models with food web, effect of trawling and species distribution models to
form an operational spatial management strategy evaluation framework. This
tool will facilitate NPF ecosystem-based fisheries management
.”

(b) Investigations of UoA impacts

LOW RISK

MRAG Americas (2012) concluded that “The main functions of ecosystem components
are known through field investigations and computer simulation; however, the
impacts of the fishery on all species and habitats are yet to be fully
understood.

Research
studies have provided sufficient information to understand the main ecosystem
consequences for components (e.g., trophic levels), though not necessarily
elements (e.g., species). Existing information appears to be sufficient to
develop strategies to manage ecosystem impacts; however, it is noted that as
serious and/or irreversible ecosystem impacts have not been identified, no
such strategies have as yet been developed.

The
main interactions between the fishery and the ecosystem elements have been
investigated in detail
.”

PI SCORE

LOW RISK

 

COMPONENT
3: Management
system

 


3A: Governance and Policy

CRITERIA: (i) The management system
exists within an appropriate and effective legal and/or customary framework
which ensures that it:

·       
Is capable of delivering
sustainability in the UoA(s)

·       
Observes the legal rights

·       
Created explicitly or established by
custom of people dependent on fishing for food or livelihood; and

·       
Incorporates an appropriate dispute
resolution framework.

(a) Compatibility of laws or
standards with effective management

LOW RISK

MRAG Americas (2012) reported that “overarching Commonwealth legislation
relevant to fisheries includes the (1) Fisheries Management Act of 1991 and
(2) the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999. The FMA takes
account of the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement and FAO’s Code of Conduct
for Responsible Fisheries. AFMA has also adopted the Ecosystem Approach to
Fisheries Management through the Ecological Sustainable Development Policy
and its overarching framework for Commonwealth fisheries (AFMA, 2005). The
Ecologically Sustainable Development Policy ESD includes the principles of
ecologically sustainable target and bycatch species, ecological viability of
bycatch species, and impact of the broader marine ecosystem
”.  Accordingly, there is an effective national
legal system to deliver on the outcomes expressed in Components 1 and 2.

(b) Respect for Rights

LOW RISK

MRAG Americas (2012)
report that “s
pecial provision for ‘traditional
fishing’ is made where they might apply in the contexts of both Commonwealth
and State Fisheries Law. The Northern Prawn fishery is a specialist offshore
commercial fishery. Indigenous rights are however considered in the context
of The Aboriginal Land Act 1978 (NT) s 12(1) which empowers the Administrator
to close the seas adjoining and within 2km of Aboriginal land, to others who
are not Aborigines entitled by tradition to enter and use the seas in
accordance with that tradition. Before doing so he may (and in case of
dispute he must) refer a proposed sea closure to the Aboriginal Land
Commissioner. These issues are taken into account through NOPRMAC
consultation processes and in the context of closed areas discussions. Once
seas are closed it is an offence for a person to enter or remain on these
seas without a permit issued by the relevant Land Council
”.

In addition, Fisheries Legislation Amendment
(Representation) Bill 2017 is currently before the Commonwealth parliament.
The Bill provides for explicit recognition of recreational and Indigenous
fishers in Commonwealth legislation and requires AFMA to have regard to
ensuring that the interests of all fisheries users are taken into account in
Commonwealth fisheries management decisions[3].

Given the above, the management system
has a mechanism to observe the legal rights created explicitly or established
by custom of people dependent on fishing for food or livelihood.

CRITERIA: (ii) The management
system has effective consultation processes that are open to interested and
affected parties. The roles and responsibilities of organisations and
individuals who are involved in the management process are clear and understood
by all relevant parties.

(a) Roles and Responsibilities

LOW RISK

The roles and responsibilities of the
main people (e.g. Fisheries Minister, AFMA Commissioners) and organisations
(AFMA) involved in the Australian Commonwealth fisheries management process
are well-understood, with relationships and key powers explicitly defined in
legislation (e.g. FMA, FAA) or relevant policy statements (e.g. AFMA
Fisheries Management Paper 1 – Management Advisory Committees).  MRAG Americas (2012) report that “AFMA undertakes the day to day management
of the Commonwealth fisheries under powers outlined in the FMA and Fisheries
Administration Act 1991. Overarching policy direction is set by the
Australian Government through the relevant Minister responsible for fisheries,
acting upon advice from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture,
Fisheries and Forestry. Roles and responsibilities are divided between the
respective management organisation (AFMA), the Northern Prawn Industry Pty
Ltd, the Northern Prawn Management Advisory Committee (NORMAC) and Northern
Prawn Resource Advisory Group (NPRAG)
”.

(b) Consultation Process

LOW RISK

MRAG Americas (2012) report that:

·       
as part of AFMA’s partnership approach to
fisheries management, it has established NORMAC, which is AFMA’s main point
of contact with client groups in the NPF and plays an important role in
helping AFMA to fulfil its legislative functions and pursue its objectives.
The MACs comprises representatives of the NPF industry, environmental
organisations, research interests and fishery managers. Permanent observers
are also appointed, which may include DSEWPaC, Australian Bureau of
Agriculture and Resource Economics
(ABARES),
and representatives of CSIRO. The role of the NORMAC is clearly defined (AFMA
2009a, AFMA 2011a, AFMA 2011b). NORMAC provides advice to AFMA on a variety
of issues, including the harvest strategy and other ongoing measures required
to manage the fishery, including the development of management plans,
research priorities and projects for the fishery
”;
and 

·       
NORMAC considers the wide range of
information including local knowledge as part of its advisory processes. The
minutes of NORMAC meeting are publically available. These include rationale
on how local knowledge has, or has not, been incorporated into management
advice to the AFMA Commission. The AFMA Commission (and Parliament), may
reject NORMAC advice. In respect to the AFMA Commission, NORMAC will always
receive a letter from the Commission outlining any decisions made on NORMAC
recommendations, including explanations as to acceptance or rejecting of
NORMAC recommendations
”.

These arrangements meet the low risk SG.

CRITERIA: (iii) The management
policy has clear long-term objectives to guide decision making that are
consistent with Components 1 and 2, and incorporates the precautionary
approach.

(a) Objectives

LOW RISK

MRAG Americas (2012) note that “the long term objectives of the management
system are specified in the FMA and the EPBC Act, and further defined in the Commonwealth
Fisheries Harvest Strategy Policy and Guidelines. The objectives and policy
guidance are consistent with MSC’s Principles and Criteria and explicitly
require application of the precautionary principle. The fishery is also
subject to the Commonwealth EPBC Act which requires periodic assessment
against the Guidelines for the Ecologically Sustainable Management of
Fisheries. These Guidelines are consistent with the MSC Principles and
Criteria and encourage practical application of the ecosystem approach to
fisheries management
”.  These
arrangements are consistent with the low risk SG.

PI SCORE

LOW RISK

 


3B: Fishery Specific Management System

CRITERIA: (i) The fishery specific
management system has clear, specific objectives designed to achieve the
outcomes expressed by Components 1 and 2.

(a) Objectives

LOW RISK

MRAG Americas (2012) note that “The Northern Prawn Fishery Management Plan 1995 reinforces the
objectives of the FMA as the objectives of the Plan. Fishery
specific objectives can be identified
in the Northern Prawn Fishery
Harvest Strategy under Input Controls, 2011, and updated annually. The
Strategy contains references to use of measurable indicators such as target
and limit reference points. Other management
documents containing fishery-specific objectives relating to the fishery
include
the Bycatch Action Plan (BAP), and the NPF Industry Code of
Practice. Management outcomes are provided in the BAP and the Strategic
Assessment report to DSEWPac (AFMA (2008b).

CRITERIA: (ii) The fishery specific
management system includes effective decision making processes that result in
measures and strategies to achieve the objectives and has an appropriate
approach to actual disputes in the fishery.

(a) Decision making

LOW RISK

MRAG Americas (2012) note that “the decision making processes by AFMA
based on advice from NORMAC (working with NPF RAG and the NPF Research and
Environment Committee (NPF REC)) are transparent with feedback provided by
the Commission directly to NORMAC and to stakeholders through media such as
the regular AFMA Update
and through the Annual public meeting of both the MAC and
AFMA.  The decision making process for
the NPF is consistent with those for the broader management system and
responds to the defined harvest and bycatch management strategies, which
respond to research, outcomes evaluations and monitoring programmes.
  On this basis, they
concluded that “decision-making
processes respond to all issues identified in relevant research, monitoring,
evaluation and consultation, in a transparent, timely and adaptive manner and
take account of the wider implications of decisions
”.

(b) Use of the Precautionary
approach

LOW RISK

The precautionary approach is explicitly
required in both the FMA and the NPF Management Plan.  A practical example of the precautionary
approach being applied is the assumption of higher risk in the ERA process
where uncertainty exists in the input parameters. 

(c) Accountability and
Transparency

LOW RISK

MRAG Americas (2012) reported that “the AFMA website contains an extensive
list of evaluations, research reports and assessments, and evidence exists
within the NORMAC and the NPFRAG that decisions respond to these findings
”.  They also noted that “formal reporting to all interested stakeholders describes how the
management system responded to findings and relevant recommendations emerging
from research, monitoring, evaluation and review activity
”.

CRITERIA: (iii) Monitoring, control
and surveillance mechanisms ensure the management measures in the fishery are
enforced and complied with.

(a) MCS Implementation

LOW RISK

The NPF scored 100 for the compliance and
enforcement PI in its MSC assessment. 
MRAG Americas (2012) reported that “the management system takes a risk-based approach to compliance.
Compliance risk assessments are undertaken in consultation with the industry,
and compliance plans are developed for the NPF fishery by AFMA. Primary
compliance tools include vessel monitoring systems on all vessels, prior to
landing-reports, catch disposal records and fish receiver records. At-sea and
in-port vessel inspection, fish receiver inspections, and trip and landing
inspections are carried out. There are appropriate provisions for penalties
for infringement of fishery management measures in the FMA
”.  They concluded that “a comprehensive monitoring, control and surveillance system has been
implemented in the fishery under assessment and has demonstrated a consistent
ability to enforce relevant management measures, strategies and/or rules
”. 

(b) Sanctions and Compliance

LOW RISK

A
framework of sanctions for non-compliance is set out in the FMA,
Maritime Powers Act 2013 and Fisheries Management Regulations 1992. These include powers to
issue warnings, cautions, directions, Observer Compliance Notices,
Commonwealth Fisheries Infringement Notices (CFINs), amend fishing
concession conditions, suspend or cancel fishing concessions and prosecute
offenders through the courts (AFMA, 2015a). 
Evidence exists that fishers comply with the management system
including providing information of importance to the effective management of
the fishery.  Across all years between
2011-12 and 2015-16, no action was required in >90% of boat inspections in
Commonwealth fisheries (total inspections 879) (AFMA, 2015b).

MRAG Americas (2012) noted that “AFMA acts on intelligence provided and
there is a considerable degree of peer pressure applied within the industry
to ensure compliance. This is also cemented by the NPF Code of Conduct which
ensures the application of best practice such as reporting ETP interactions,
and applying appropriate handling practices
.”  Overall, they concluded that “sanctions to deal with non-compliance
exist, are consistently applied and demonstrably provide effective deterrence
”.

(c) Systematic non-compliance

LOW RISK

MRAG Americas (2012) concluded that there
is no evidence of systematic non-compliance in the fishery and there is a
high degree of evidence fishers comply with the management system.

CRITERIA: (iv) There is a system
for monitoring and evaluating the performance of the fishery specific
management system against its objectives.
There is effective and timely review of the fishery specific management
system.

(a) Evaluation coverage

LOW RISK

Performance
of all stocks against the NPF Harvest Strategy are assessed annually through
the NPRAG and NORMAC process.  Periodic
updates of ERAs evaluate performance against environmental objectives and
guide management priorities. Fishery Status Reports produced annually by the
Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences
(ABARES) provide an independent evaluation of key parts of the management
system (e.g. stock status, overfishing status).   In addition, two Australian National Audit
Office reviews have been undertaken into the domestic compliance program
(ANAO, 2009; 2013).  Accordingly, the
fishery has measures in place to evaluate key parts of the management system.

(b) Internal and/or external
review

LOW RISK

The NPF scored 100 for the monitoring and
management performance evaluation PI in its MSC assessment.  MRAG Americas (2012) reported that “AFMA’s management system is subject to
internal and external performance evaluation including:

Internal
peer reviews, which include:

·       
The requirement to report in AFMA’s Annual Report on
overall performance against the legislative objectives, statutory
requirements and financial reporting, the effectiveness of internal controls
and adequacy of systems; and the Authority’s risk management processes;

·       
AFMA and the MAC to periodically assess the
effectiveness of the management measures taken to achieve the objectives of
this Management Plan by reference to the performance criteria specified in
the Plan

·       
An AFMA review of the performance of NORMAC and the
RAG; and

·       
AFMA also has an internal quality assurance program
to determine whether Compliance best practice has been followed. One of a
small number of breaches in the NPF was subject to review.

External
reviews, which include:

·       
Questioning by the Senate Standing Committee on
Rural and Regional Affairs in Senate Estimates hearings (three times/year);

·       
Strategic assessment of Management Plans and ongoing
assessment for export approval under the EPBC Act against the Guidelines for
the Ecologically Sustainable Management of Fisheries;

·       
The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource
Economics and Sciences (ABARES) reports on the ecological and economic
sustainability of fisheries managed by AFMA; and

·       
The Australian National Audit Office periodic reviews
of aspects of AFMA’s performance. This includes a report on its audit into
the Management of Domestic Fishing Compliance (audit report no. 47 2008-09).

CSIRO
research results are often published in peer reviewed scientific journals.

DSEWPac
undertake an assessment of the fisheries management activities against the
principles outlined in the EPBC Act. There is a regular review of the bycatch
programme and a very high level of assessment applied to retained, bycatch,
habitat, ecosystem and ETP species
.”

PI SCORE

LOW RISK

 

References

 

AFMA (2015a).  National
Compliance and Enforcement Policy 2015. 31pp.

AFMA (2015b). National Compliance and Enforcement Program 2016
-17.  45pp.

Australian National Audit Office (ANAO)
(2009),
Management of Domestic Fishing Compliance, audit report no. 47
2008-09.

Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) (2013). Administration of
the Domestic Fishing Compliance Program. 128pp.

Courtney, A. (1997). A study of the biological
parameters associated with yield optimisation of Moreton Bay Bugs, Thenus spp.
Final Report (Project #92/102).

Dichmont, C., Jarrett, A., Hill, F. and Brown, M. (2014). Harvest
strategy for the Northern Prawn Fishery under input controls, AFMA, Canberra.

Larcombe, J., Bath, A. and Green, R. (2016). Chapter 5 Northern
Prawn Fishery. In ABARES 2016, Fishery status reports 2016, Australian Bureau
of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra. CC BY 3.0.

Milton, D., Fry, G., Kuhnert, P., Tonks, M., Zhou, S. and Zhu, M.
(2010), Assessing data poor resources: developing a management strategy
for byproduct species in the Northern Prawn Fishery, final report to the
Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, project 2006/008.

MRAG Americas (2012). Public Certification Report for Australian Northern Prawn
Fishery. 399pp.

MRAG Americas (2017). Surveillance Audit Report for The Australian
Northern Prawn (Twin, triple and quad otter trawl) Fishery: 4th Surveillance
Report. 21pp.

MRAG Asia Pacific (2015). 
Coles Responsibly Sourced Seafood Assessment Framework.  12pp. 

NPFI (2015). Northern Prawn Fishery Bycatch Strategy, 2015-2018.

Pitcher, C.R., Ellis, N., Althaus, F., Williams, A., McLeod, I.,
Bustamante, R., Kenyon, R., Fuller, M. (2016) Implications of current spatial
management measures for AFMA ERAs for habitats — FRDC Project No 2014/204.
CSIRO Oceans & Atmosphere, Published Brisbane, November 2015, 50 pages.

Stewart, J., S.J. Kennelly and O. Hoegh-Guldberg (1997). Size at
sexual maturity and the reproductive biology of two species of scyllarid
lobster from New South Wales and Victoria, Australia. Crustaceana 70: 344-367.

Zeller, B, Larcombe, J. and Kangas, M. (2016). Moreton Bay bugs Thenus parindicus, Thenus australiensis,
Thenus spp.
in Carolyn Stewardson, James Andrews, Crispian Ashby, Malcolm
Haddon, Klaas Hartmann, Patrick Hone, Peter Horvat, Stephen Mayfield, Anthony
Roelofs, Keith Sainsbury, Thor Saunders, John Stewart, Ilona Stobutzki and
Brent Wise (eds) 2016, Status of Australian fish stocks reports 2016,
Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, Canberra.

 



[2] CMR = Commonwealth Marine Reserve

[3] http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_Legislation/bd/bd1617a/17bd090