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The challenge

Vulnerable fish species requiring intervention and protection

Orange Roughy

Orange Roughy is particularly vulnerable to over-exploitation as they are long‑lived, late-maturing and low recruitment fish that display vulnerable aggregating behaviours. Lack of regulation of early catches combined with overfishing led to significant depletion of the Orange Roughy stocks in the 1980s and 1990s, and near-collapse of the fisheries. In 2006 the Orange Roughy became the first commercial fish in Australia to be listed as conservation dependent under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (1999).

Southern Bluefin Tuna

Southern Bluefin Tuna (SBT) is vulnerable to overfishing due to their longevity, late spawning (10-12 years old) and relatively low rates of natural mortality. The SBT stocks had been fished beyond sustainable levels and were both in danger of collapse. By 2010, SBT was listed as conservation dependent under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (1999) and as critically endangered under by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. This immediate situation required the development and implementation of a plan for rebuilding stock levels.

Our response

Sustainable fisheries management and stock assessment methods

Orange Roughy

Managing the Orange Roughy fisheries sustainably requires the ability to accurately assess and monitor stock health to inform annual total allowable catch.

CSIRO began the Orange Roughy project in 1987 with the aim of developing a lowcost, high-precision monitoring method to accurately assess and determine changes in stock levels.

Research on Orange Roughy began by developing an acoustic method to accurately identify Orange Roughy among aggregations of different fish species.
However, the method was unable to completely resolve Orange Roughy. In 2009, CSIRO developed an optical, photographic survey method to verify the acoustic assessments. The combined Acoustic Optical System (AOS) was attached to fishing vessel trawl nets and operated from a fishing vessel, offering the opportunity to visually confirm spawning Orange Roughy. This new system is more efficient, accurate and cost effective.

Southern Bluefin Tuna

To manage the SBT fishery to ensure it is run in a sustainable way requires an ability to accurately assess and monitor fish stocks in order to determine the annual total allowable catch (TAC) for the fishery.

In 2016, CSIRO developed two innovative new stock assessment methods: Close Kin and Gene-Tagging to accurately determine the abundance of the adult spawning stock and the recruitment of juveniles, respectively. These projects gained significant industry and management support; the close-kin due to deep concerns about the impact of the unreported catches on the accuracy of the current stock assessment; and, gene-tagging as a potentially more accurate and cost-effective alternative to the aerial survey used to estimate relative juvenile abundance.

The results

Rebuilding stocks and development of effective monitoring and decision-making framework

Orange Roughy

The Orange Roughy project has enabled rebuilding of stock and sustainable fishing for commercial purposes. As a result of this research, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) has listed the five Australian Orange Roughy fisheries as sustainable and in 2015, the fishery restarted.

Southern Bluefin Tuna

CSIRO’s SBT research enabled the development of an effective monitoring and decision-making framework, which generates transparent and consistent advice.

The SBT research has contributed to economic benefit from commercial fishery revenue for Australia in the order of $80 million, and globally of $300‑400 million over the 2011-18 period. Another impact of this research has been the development of an Australian SBT industry.

Economic assessment

An independent economic assessment estimates that the net present value of the benefits to 2025 from the Orange Roughy and Southern Bluefin Tuna 
project is $616.5 million in 2018-19 dollars. The project has a benefit‑cost ratio of over 28.1

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