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Australia's fish stocks under scrutiny

"A strong viable fishing, industry can be maintained provided we keep a close eye on our fish stocks," the Federal Minister for Resources, David Beddall, said today.

"Despite improved research effort over recent years, we still do not have a complete scientific understanding of our fish stocks.

"Whilst many of our fish stocks are being harvested at sustainable levels, the status of some is still poorly understood," Mr Beddall said.

These are some of the findings of a report by the Bureau of Resource Sciences (BRS) entitled, Fishery Status Reports 1994, which was released today.

"The report provides the most up to date scientific assessment of Australia's Commonwealth fisheries reflecting the current knowledge of the biology of fish stocks and dynamics of fish populations. We must have this type of information for fisheries management decisions," Mr Beddall said.

"The findings indicate that school shark, southern bluefin tuna and eastern gemfish need rebuilding and management actions are being implemented to achieve this. The fisheries for the majority stocks including northern prawn, tiger flathead and morwong are assessed as fully developed. Northern trawl fish, northern shark and squid are assessed as having room for further development for domestic fishermen, while the status of 10 species such as bight redfish, silver trevally, ling and mirror dory is still uncertain or unknown.

"Current research confirms our approach to management and the Government is putting further effort into closing the information gap to enable sustainable development of all fisheries.

"I am particularly pleased that one of our most important fisheries, the Northern Prawn Fishery, is now at a more sustainable level as a result of major industry restructuring.

"We now have a coordinated approach to research on stock assessment of Commonwealth fisheries, involving the Bureau of Resource Sciences, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, the Fisheries Research & Development Corporation and CSIRO. Only by these Government measures will we continue to produce more reliable information for the sustainable development of this $1.7 billion industry," Mr Beddall said.

Further information:

Tamara Johnson, Minister's office, 06 277 7440; 015 266 370

Peter Halsey, 019 446 729

Derek Staples, Department, 06 272 5177

Copies of the report can be purchased by telephoning the Publications Officer on 06 272 4012