Study: Sardine fishery’s impact minimal


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
September 4, 2011

Despite rapid growth, South Australia’s sardine fishery hasn’t adversely affected the surrounding ecosystem, according to a new study from South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI).

The seven-year, AUD 2.5 million study addressed concerns about the fishery’s potential ecological implications in the eastern Great Australian Bight.

“What we didn’t understand before this study was done was the role of sardines in the ecosystem and how the ecosystem was structured,” said Tim Ward, who lead the study. “This study shows that South Australia’s pelagic marine ecosystem is in good health. The evidence suggests that the precautionary approach to management that the sardine fishery has taken is achieving its goal of ensuring ecological sustainability.”

The sardine fishery is Australia’s largest by volume with an annual catch of around 30,000 metric tons, mostly to feed farmed tuna but increasingly to supply the emerging human-consumption market.

Ward and his team of SARDI researchers estimated the total sardine population in the eastern Great Australian Bight at around 200,000 metric tons.

“This equates to a conservative exploitation rate of 15 percent of the spawning biomass, which is well below the internationally accepted boundaries for small pelagic fishes and well within the biological limits of the stock,” said Ward.

“The sardine industry should be congratulated for supporting the study, because as well as demonstrating the sustainability of the fishery this work will ultimately benefit many other fisheries and stakeholders in the region,” he added.

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