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Landmark resource sharing deal in Eastern Tuna fishery.

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Landmark resource sharing deal in Eastern Tuna fishery

DAFF07/111A 6 October 2007

The recreational and commercial fishing sectors in the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery (ETBF) will be entitled to a fair share of the catch under a landmark new resource sharing agreement announced today by the Australian Minister for Fisheries and Conservation, Senator Eric Abetz.

Under the agreement, commercial longline fishers will set their lines in waters deeper than the 400m isobath and ensure that their fishing gear does not drift into waters shallower than the 200m isobath.

The agreement recognises a catch by the recreational sector of around 20 percent of the overall catch in the fishery. Given the high rate of catch and release in the recreational sector, this equals approximately five per cent of mortality in the fishery. The catch rates

will be accounted for under the Australian Fisheries Management Authority’s ETBF Management Plan.

The agreement recognises each sector’s interests in the fishery and gives greater separation to the areas in which they fish. It also provides for improved research into the interaction of both sectors within the fishery.

The Minister said that the agreement recognises that both the commercial and the recreational sectors have important and long term roles in the fishery.

“This agreement is a unique way forward on catch sharing. The fact that both sectors support implementing the new arrangements under a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ shows a genuine spirit of co-operation and respect between the sectors - and we want to support that,” Senator Abetz said.

“Both sectors accepted a compromise in order to reach this agreement and they should be congratulated.”

Management of the agreement will be overseen by a Resource Sharing Committee including representatives of both sectors.

The agreement, to be reviewed in three years, follows extensive negotiations between the sectors and builds on earlier proposals by independent consultant, Ridge Partners, who facilitated the discussions between the sectors.

Senator Abetz said most commercial fishing for tuna and billfish occurred outside the 400m isobath but some industry assistance will be provided to offset the impact on affected longliners.

Minor line and purse seine fishers will not be affected by the agreement.

“This arrangement will result in a much better understanding of how to manage the total extraction of the tuna and billfish species from the fishery, and therefore keep total fish catches at sustainable levels,” Senator Abetz said.

Game Fishing Association of Australia (GFAA) President Grahame Williams said he believed that the agreement would improve recreational fishers’ access and rights in the fishery.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” he said.

“It will help to protect inshore stocks of pelagic fish and hopefully lead to the recreational and commercial fishers living in harmony.”

One of the key negotiators for the commercial fishermen, Gary Heilmann, said the agreement was an important recognition of the rights both sectors had to fishing in the fishery.

“This agreement is about engendering respect and goodwill between the sectors,” he said. “I would encourage all parties to uphold the spirit and detail of the agreement.”

Recfish Australia Chair Bruce Schumacher said that whilst the arrangement fell short of Recfish Australia’s preferred position, the recognition of the recreational sector as a legitimate shareholder in the fishery was a significant milestone.

Mr Schumacher thanked all parties for the effort to reach an agreement.

“The role of the resource sharing committee to oversee the management of the agreement and review any issues that arise would be very important to its success,” he said.

Senator Abetz said the new resource sharing agreement followed the voluntary surrender of approximately half the longlining permits in the ETBF under the Australian Government’s $220m Securing our Fishing Future package.

Further Information:

Grahame Williams, GFAA, 0412 302 450 Gary Heilmann, commercial sector, 0419 599 474 Bruce Schumacher, Recfish Australia, 0418 499 322

Further inquiries:

Senator Abetz’s office: Brad Stansfield 0419 884 666