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Strategies for future of Australian fisheries

Australia's fisheries ministers at their annual meeting held today in Darwin endorsed two critical initiatives designed to ensure a strong and productive future for Australian fisheries.

The Chair of the Ministerial Council on Forestry, Fisheries and Aquaculture, Federal Minister Warren Truss said: "The Ministers agreed to endorse a national program to develop ecologically sustainable development (ESD) management strategies for our fisheries.

"ESD addresses the economic and social benefits to the community, now and in the future, by using, conserving and enhancing fisheries resources and the environment on which they depend. The concept of ESD is not new.

"Australia has had a policy on ESD since 1992, and fisheries managers and the industry have achieved a lot in the past decade. At the same time; however, more needs to be done to sustain the future of the industry and the communities that depend on it."

The Ministers noted that: "State, Territory and Commonwealth fisheries managers are developing, together with all stakeholders, a reporting system with objectives, criteria and indicators to measure how well a fishery is being managed ecologically while at the same time providing economic and social benefits to the nation. This is the case whether the fishery is commercial, recreational, indigenous or part of the aquaculture sector."

A number of Commonwealth and State fisheries are being tested against the framework.

"This will pave the way for ESD assessments of all Australian fisheries to demonstrate to the community how well they are meeting their sustainability objectives. The testing will also help identify where improvements can be made to ensure fishing continues to benefit all Australians."

The Ministers also agreed to explore mechanisms for third party auditing of how the framework is applied in each jurisdiction.

They said this is an exciting development that has the strong support of stakeholders. However, it is a complex undertaking that would ultimately assess over 140 fisheries across Australia, each with its own special characteristics.

"But while the task is difficult, we are nevertheless confident the exercise will help protect the environment and continue to deliver significant economic and social benefits, particularly in rural and regional areas," they said.

The Ministers also endorsed a national approach to managing marine pests.

"The threat introduced pests pose to the marine environment was graphically illustrated last year when black striped mussels invaded Darwin harbour," Mr Truss said.

"The outbreak resulted in swift action by governments and industry to wipe the mussels out before they could become established and spread. It is therefore appropriate we are announcing the initiative here in Darwin."

Following that action, a national taskforce examined the whole problem of introduced marine pests and proposed a number of actions to help reduce the impact of newly introduced marine pests becoming established in Australia.

The Ministers have now endorsed those actions and $5 million funding has been provided to combat any future outbreaks.

Further inquiries: Alison Penfold — Mr Truss's office — (00612) 6277 7520

See also www.australia.org.nz

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