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Tuesday, 25 November 2003
Page: 22868

Mr Kelvin Thomson asked the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, upon notice, on 14 October 2003:

(1) In respect of the Longline Fishing Threat Abatement Plan for Albatross, (a) what has been the outcome of the targeted observer program, and (b) has the by-catch of seabirds during oceanic longline fishing operations been reduced.

(2) Does the Government have estimates of the number of albatross killed by longline fishing for the years (a) 1998, (b) 1999, (c) 2000, (d) 2001, and (e) 2002; if so, what are the details.

(3) Will he provide details of the resources involved in this program (eg. funding, staff and time etc) since 1998.

(4) Why was there a delay between recognition of the Threat Abatement Plan Observer Program as a necessary action and the commencement of the program in September 2001.

(5) When will trials of mitigation measures become standard practice.

Dr Kemp (Minister for the Environment and Heritage) —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) (a) I understand that a routine observer program for pelagic tuna fisheries commenced in the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery, and Southern and Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery, in August 2003. Prior to this, there has been significant observer coverage south of latitude 30S since 2001, primarily established to assist in development of seabird bycatch mitigation measures. An observer program has also been in place in the Gillnet, Hook and Trap Fishery since 2001, and the Antarctic Fishery operating around Heard and McDonald Islands since 2002. However as management of these fisheries and collection of fisheries data is a responsibility of the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, your question should be addressed to the Minister for Fisheries, the Hon Senator Ian Macdonald. (b) The introduction of mandatory measures south of latitude 30S, such as night-setting of longlines and retention of offal, the number of seabirds killed in Australia's pelagic tuna fisheries will undoubtedly have been reduced significantly.

(2) The introduction of measures outlined in the answer to question (1)(b) will have led to a reduction in albatross bycatch of around 90% since 1998.

(3) If this question relates to the fisheries observer program, it should be addressed to the Hon Senator Ian Macdonald.

(4) Implementation of an observer program for Australian pelagic longline fisheries was delayed pending the results of a trial of an underwater bait-setting chute. This device showed great promise as a seabird mitigation measure in initial trials, but failed to reduce seabird bycatch significantly when it was tested extensively. When this became apparent, the observer program was implemented.

(5) Trials of mitigation measures are already a standard practice. The TAP provides for the trialling of new mitigation measures. The TAP advisory group is working to further develop effective approaches to minimise the capture of seabirds in longline fisheries.