2019/20 Assessment Summary
There is effectively no current commercial fishing for Australian Sardine in Tasmanian waters, with all Developmental Australian Sardine Permits now expired. As such, the current level of fishing pressure in Tasmania is unlikely to cause the biological stock to become recruitment impaired. The species was classified as not overfished nor subject to overfishing by ABARES for 2019/20. Similarly, all Australian stocks are currently classified as Sustainable in the 2019 Status of Australian Fish Stocks report.
Tasmanian Scalefish Fishery
Catch, effort and CPUE trends
Australian Sardine is a species with a history of commercial exploitation in mainland state and Commonwealth waters, but which has rarely been caught in Tasmanian state waters. The majority of the total Australian Sardine catch is derived from mainland state waters.
The fishery for Australian sardine in Tasmania is likely based on the Bass Strait–Port Phillip Bay stock. There is evidence to suggest that the species may be present in large quantities in Tasmanian waters in some years. Ichthyoplankton surveys conducted during 2014 suggested that a spawning biomass of approximately 10,962 t was present off northern Tasmania and in Bass Strait during summer (Ward et al. 2015). It was also noted that the actual spawning area was likely to be larger than surveyed (possibly extending further into Bass Strait and off northern Tasmania), implying that the estimate may be negatively biased. To ensure sustainable exploitation, Smith et al. (2015) recommended a harvest rate of 24–27% for Australian Sardine. However, given uncertainty in the biomass estimate and considering that very little is known about the dynamics of the sardine stocks off south-eastern Australia, a more conservative harvest rate of around 20% has been proposed. Applying a harvest rate of 20% to the 2014 biomass estimate suggests that the stock (some of which occurs outside of Tasmanian waters) could support catches in the range of 1,600–3,000 tonnes per year. However, the south-eastern Australian stock is likely to be shared with the fishery operating in Victoria (annual catches > 1,500 t in recent years), and accordingly, collaborative management will be needed.
In 2015, the Tasmanian Government released a framework to support a developmental fishing program for Australian Sardine (DPIPWE 2015). Managed as a developmental fishery, a total annual catch limit of 600 tonnes was applied to the large-scale sector (with a maximum of 300 tonnes to be taken from Bass Strait and 300 tonnes from the east coast) and a maximum of 50 tonnes applied to the small-scale sector. Two large-scale and two small-scale developmental permits were issued initially, but the framework expired in 2018. There are currently no active permits to take sardines.
Australian Sardine is not a significant recreational species in Tasmania (Lyle et al. 2019).
The full 2019/20 Scalefish Assessment can be found at the link: