1 September 2023 taskforce meeting

The 6th meeting of the Future Fishing Taskforce was held in-person and via videoconference on 1 September 2023 in Brisbane, and was chaired by Mr John Tanzer.

The taskforce reflected on the advice they had received from experts about the impacts from gillnetting on threatened species within the Gulf of Carpentaria in their 4th meeting. They noted that habitats of the Gulf support threatened and endangered species such as turtles, sawfish, speartooth shark, snubfin and humpback dolphins, and crocodiles.

They acknowledged that there are a number of existing small-scale netting closures already in place in the Gulf, but suggested that given their limited scale they would not necessarily offer sufficient protection to offset the impacts to threatened and endangered species. Unlike the east coast, the Gulf of Carpentaria has not been afforded systematic or representative protection of habitats through marine park declaration or zoning (except the Commonwealth’s marine park north offshore of Wellesley Islands).

The taskforce was aware that the previous stock assessment for king threadfin was estimated to be at around 5% of unfished biomass, but noted that this was being updated with more data and the new assessment would give a greater degree of confidence to inform management decisions (will be available in coming months). They also noted that latent licences, lack of harvest strategy and absence of total allowable commercial quota meant displaced fishers from the east coast fishery could shift into the Gulf of Carpentaria if this wasn’t pre-emptively managed.

The taskforce was mindful that commercial fishing activities were of particular economic importance for Gulf of Carpentaria communities, and there were limited opportunities to shift into other industries or employment. The taskforce noted that the majority of commercial fishers working in the Gulf worked with researchers and were generally good stewards of their environment. They also noted that the Gulf was a vast area and only had a small Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol presence. Consequently, any potential future regulations should be designed to include robust and fit-for-purpose compliance and enforcement mechanisms.

The taskforce considered the 11 candidate areas in the Gulf that had been identified as possible net-free zones. These include waters around Weipa, Karumba, Burketown Pormpuraaw and Wellesley islands, and Wenlock, Ducie, Bynoe, Flinders, Mitchell and Kirke rivers. They considered the benefits of each region for their known threatened species values and the importance of the region to the volume of harvest, and also considered the social impacts of displacing commercial fishers and the effects that may have more broadly across Gulf net fishing licence holders.

The taskforce noted that given the Gulf of Carpentaria net-free zones were to be implemented on a different timeframe to the Great Barrier Reef, there was time to consult with industry in more detail around net-free zones and other management initiatives as the harvest strategy is developed.

The taskforce heard a high-level briefing and summary of key issues raised through the eHub consultation process. Over 100 specific submissions were received in addition to several detailed submissions from stakeholder groups. Most (74%) of the eHub submissions were from licenced commercial fishers. The taskforce noted that none of the industry peak bodies made a submission. The key themes noted were:

  • concern about loss of income to fishing businesses
  • concern around flow-on impacts to seafood-related businesses
  • effort shift into other commercial fisheries
  • recommending a total buy-back of commercial fishing assets (nets, quota, symbols, vessels and other equipment).

The taskforce noted that all the submissions will help inform their recommendations and that a summary report will be published on the department’s website.

The next taskforce meeting on 8 September 2023 will consider appropriate arrangements for the licences that will remain during the transitional period between 1 January 2023 and 30 June 2027, when gillnets will ultimately be phased out in the Great Barrier Reef. This will include numbers of available licences, fishing conditions, closed areas and eligibility criteria.


  • John Tanzer (independent chair)
  • Senior representatives from the Queensland Government including:
    • Fisheries Queensland
    • Department of Environment and Science (Environment and Planning Policy/Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service)
    • Department of the Premier and Cabinet
    • Queensland Treasury
    • Queensland Rural Industry Development Authority (QRIDA).