3 February 2009
Joint media release
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
The eastern Australian population of gemfish (eastern gemfish) and school shark have been placed in the conservation dependent category on the national threatened species list.
Environment Minister Peter Garrett and Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Tony Burke today announced the inclusion of the two species on the list at the recommendation of the Threatened Species Scientific Committee.
The listing will not prohibit the fish from being caught in low levels as by-catch, but fishing must be conducted in accordance with the management plans developed by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA).
AFMA has developed comprehensive strategies to rebuild stocks, in-line with the Commonwealth Harvest Strategy Policy.
Mr Garrett said the two species were eligible for the category as they had undergone severe population declines in the past but were currently subject to robust fisheries management measures designed to rebuild their stocks.
"The eastern gemfish and the school shark have both previously suffered severe declines in their populations. The committee has evaluated the current fisheries management strategies for these species and found they are sufficient to prevent further decline of the species and support their recovery," Mr Garrett said.
"While it's encouraging that the management measures in recent years have helped to stop their decline, with populations still very low, their inclusion on the list is warranted.
"I would like to acknowledge the cooperation of the fishing industry in the development of the management plans and look forward to its ongoing support."
Neither eastern gemfish nor school shark are targeted by commercial fishers but they are taken incidentally while fishing for other species.
Mr Burke said that the listing of these species showed that the Government was serious about fisheries sustainability.
"The Rudd Government will continue to work with the fishing industry to ensure that families can enjoy fresh, locally caught fish," Mr Burke said.
"Commercial fishers around Australia recognise the need to maintain fish stocks and have adopted new technology to help reduce unwanted by-catch.
"Fishers have implemented a number of measures over the years to reduce incidental catch and it is pleasing to note that initial evidence suggests the eastern gemfish is recovering under existing management arrangements.
"Importantly the public can still buy gemfish and school shark from the fish markets or fish shop, particularly since western stocks of gemfish are not considered to be under threat."