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JOINT MEDIA STATEMENT


Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Federal Minister for the
Environment and Heritage
The Hon Warren Truss MP
Federal Minister for
Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry

19 June 2000

NEW STRATEGY TO REDUCE FISHERIES BYCATCH


Australian fisheries managed by the Commonwealth will be covered by a new, comprehensive policy to reduce bycatch - that part of a catch accidentally caught during fishing operations.

The Commonwealth Policy on Fisheries Bycatch represents a significant commitment by the Government, the industry and conservationists to protect vulnerable species or those of high conservation value - such as dugong, albatross and turtles. Fish with a low commercial value will also benefit form the new measures.

Launched in Canberra today by the Federal Ministers for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Warren Truss, and the Environment and Heritage, Senator Robert Hill, the Policy was developed by a Taskforce convened by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA).

The taskforce was made up of representatives from Federal fisheries and environmental agencies, the industry and fisheries scientists.

"This important initiative builds on the National Policy on Fisheries Bycatch I released last year as Chair of the Ministerial Council on Forestry, Fisheries and Aquaculture and requires action plans to be in place for major Commonwealth fisheries by 31 March 2001," Mr Truss said.

"The plans will be prepared by committees established by AFMA that will include all stakeholders and focus on finding practical solutions and measures. AFMA has also established a register to ensure the public can also have a role in developing the action plans."

Each plan will have a checklist that will take into account matters such as the feasibility of using mitigation devices and whether there is a need for education programs in a particular fishery.

For example, the Northern Prawn Fishery requires the compulsory use of turtle excluder devices (TEDs) as part of the first bycatch action plan developed for an Australian fishery.

"More importantly," the Ministers said, "the measures identified in the action plans will have legal clout by being included in permit conditions or making them part of a statutory fishing right under the Fisheries Management Act 1991.

"One of the Policy's main strengths is that it delivers both environmental and industry benefits and ensures a consistent planning and policy approach across the two portfolios and a more cooperative relationship with industry."

Copies of the Commonwealth Bycatch Policy are available by calling Michaeli Fulton in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry - Australia on (02) 6272 4679.

Further inquiries:
Senator Hill's office    Rod Bruem    (02) 6277 7640
Mr Truss' office    Andrew Hall    (02) 6277 7520 or 0419 996 766
Web sites    www.affa.gov.au    www.afma.gov.au    www.environment.gov.au

Commonwealth of Australia