18 August 2023 taskforce meeting
The 4th meeting of the Future Fishing Taskforce was held in-person and via videoconference on 18 August 2023 in Brisbane, and was chaired by Mr John Tanzer.
The taskforce discussed the risks of gillnetting in the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) World Heritage Area and Gulf of Carpentaria on threatened, endangered and protected species. While all gillnet fishing would be phased out by mid-2027 in the GBR, a level of risk will remain from gillnet fishing south of Cape Bedford during the transition period between 1 January 2024 and 30 June 2027.
The taskforce sought expert advice from a number of recognised academics and scientists from:
- James Cook University
- University of Tasmania
- University of Queensland
- Department of Environment and Science
- Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.
They provided input from published papers and research currently underway and summarised relevant advice for the taskforce to consider when developing recommendations to government.
The taskforce acknowledged there is already a complex network of zones and management areas within the GBR, consisting of marine park zoning, Dugong Protection Areas (DPA) A and B, and recreational-only fishing areas. They noted that the GBR is home to 6 species of turtle (all of which are classified as endangered or vulnerable) and dugong, humpback and snubfin dolphins (all also classified as vulnerable). Hammerhead sharks are nationally classified as ‘conservation dependent’ and are currently under reassessment for uplifting their status to vulnerable/endangered. The taskforce noted that the population of dugong is likely continuing to decline in central and southern GBR, and that entanglement in gillnets is one of several threats to dugongs in the southern GBR (along with habitat loss and vessel strike).
The taskforce noted that in the Gulf of Carpentaria, sawfish are classified as vulnerable or migratory and 3 species of turtle nest, forage and migrate between the Gulf and GBR waters. Of particular concern to the taskforce was that there is no network of marine parks or protected areas offering refuge to endangered or protected species in Queensland Gulf of Carpentaria waters, meaning their consideration of gillnet free zones in the Gulf of Carpentaria may be critical to mitigating the risks to these species. The taskforce noted that there are existing net closures in the Gulf of Carpentaria within select rivers and creeks.
The taskforce noted that DPAs in the GBR represented important habitat to not only dugongs, but also turtles, juvenile hammerhead sharks and sawfish. Research shows that most of the medium/high/very high dugong density recordings overlap with DPAs, and that dugong populations can only sustain extremely low levels of mortality due to their population recovery capacity.
The taskforce also noted that DPAs (particularly DPA Bs) represented an important area for commercial fishing, producing around 40% of the harvest within the GBR from the east coast inshore fishery. The taskforce recommended further detailed analysis be undertaken to assess the relative importance of the DPAs, with the risks posed from continued gillnetting until mid-2027, the expectation of UNESCO in protecting critical habitats and the value and importance of the commercial fisheries resources harvested from the areas. They considered that other measures in addition to further closures may be required in the interim period up to mid-2027, such as independent data validation or monitoring (cameras or observers), more stringent net attendance or different hang ratios. These issues would be considered in more detail at a future taskforce meeting.
The taskforce was pleased to note many commercial, recreational and other stakeholders have taken the opportunity to make a submission through the consultation Ehub, and expect to receive all of these at the conclusion of the consultation period on 28 August 2023.
The next Taskforce meeting will be on 25 August 2023, and will consider input from other stakeholders, such as recreational and conservation interests.
- 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).