Australia overfishing by more than a third, with ‘insufficient data’ to determine stock levels

Australia has made limited progress in restoring fish stocks to sustainable levels, a report says.

Australia has made limited progress in restoring fish stocks to sustainable levels, a report says. Photo: AAP

Australia is overfishing by more than a third and has made “limited progress” in restoring its fish stocks to sustainable levels, an international study has found.

The Global Fishing Index study, involving more than 500 fisheries from around the world, has ranked Australia’s sustainable fishing capability as 24.9 out of 100.

“Australia has a well-developed fisheries governance system that, where applied, has the capacity to ensure sustainable fishing,” the report, which was released on Sunday, said.

“However, Australia has made limited progress to restore fish stocks to sustainable levels, and many stocks remain overfished or unassessed.”

The study found 38 per cent of the nation’s fish stocks are overfished and 60 per cent of its catch comes from unassessed stocks.

There is “insufficient data” to estimate how healthy Australian fish stocks are, with a large number of species caught at low volumes without stock assessments.

This represented “a challenge for Australia to manage”.

“Australia needs to apply strong management and increase knowledge of fish stocks across all fisheries in its waters,” the report said.

It recommended Australia improve sustainable fishing by expanding science-based management, starting with information collection and analysis of its fish stocks.

The country should also improve how it manages overfished stocks and “take corrective action where needed”.

Globally, the report found one-tenth of fish stocks are on the brink of collapse, with 49 per cent of assessed stocks overfished.

“This result is considerably higher than the previous global estimate of 34 per cent,” it said.

Mining magnate Andrew Forrest, founder of the Minderoo Foundation which organised the study, said no country was doing near enough to protect the ocean from overfishing.

“Half of the world’s assessed fish stocks are overfished and nearly 10 per cent are on the point of collapse,” he said, adding that this threatened ocean ecosystems, as well as livelihood and food security for millions of people.

“Every single country in this index needs stronger fisheries management, better laws and policies, better enforcement, better data collection, more science-based decisions.”

Global Fishing Index program lead Kendra Thomas Travaille said 52 per cent of the world’s marine catch lacked basic data.

“This problem is due to a lack of fisheries monitoring, compounded by a lack of transparency among governments and fishing companies about their fishing activities,” she said.


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