ESD and Fisheries

ESD and Fisheries

The relevance of the principles of Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD) within the context of fisheries management is clear, which has always been about more than setting minimum biological limits on fish stocks.

Societal goals and values have often influenced the acceptable levels of exploitation of fish stocks, often placing these well above any biologically-based limit.  Moreover, there would be few changes that have been made to management arrangements or regulations of fisheries that have occurred without the social or economic implications being considered.

What has been needed is a more formal, transparent and structured way of considering these issues – which ESD provides.

Consequently, ESD is now accepted as the foundation for natural resource management in Australia, and is a major component of all fisheries legislation at both Commonwealth and State levels.  Additionally, these principles are consistent with a number of international treaties and initiatives such as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the UN Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries.

The need to develop a comprehensive and practical reporting system for ESD has increased substantially in recent years, to meet both a variety of government requirements (most notably the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 – administered by Department of Environment and Heritage) and also the raised community expectations.  Strong support to develop such a system was obtained from all stakeholder groups at the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) funded workshop on ESD and fisheries held in Geelong during March 2000.

The resultant FRDC-funded ESD projects have had a strong stakeholder involvement.  This includes a working group from the Marine and Coastal Committee of the NRMSC and representatives from the commercial seafood industry (Australian Seafood Industry Council – ASIC), indigenous interests, recreational fishing (RecFish), aquaculture (Aquaculture Council of Western Australia – ACWA), Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), the FRDC and environmental groups (Traffic, World Wildlife Fund), along with experts in economic and social research.

This group developed a conceptual framework for ESD that included:

  • gaining agreement on terminology;
  • identification of eight key components of ESD; and
  • a draft reporting framework.

This reporting framework was subsequently ‘road tested’ during a series of eight case studies and modified, following a workshop to review the outcomes. The revised guidelines for the ESD reporting framework has been tested through a further set of case studies.  The current version of these guidelines is located in the Implementing ESD section of this website.

A second FRDC project worked on the methods for industry to improve their environmental performance through the development of environmental management systems.  The “Seafood EMS” project and subsequent projects have developed a toolkit for individuals through to an entire fishery to develop the systems to assist in the documentation of their objectives, appropriate methods of operations and measurement of performance including the potential for third party audited ISO systems.  More on this initiative can also be found in the Implementing ESD section.

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