25 August 2023 taskforce meeting

The 5th meeting of the Future Fishing Taskforce was held in-person and via videoconference on 25 August 2023 in Brisbane, and was chaired by Mr John Tanzer.

The taskforce welcomed representatives from the recreational and conservation sectors who have been engaged in the east coast inshore fishery, Great Barrier Reef and marine park management through the east coast inshore fishery working group, the Great Barrier Reef Plan advisory committee and other government consultative processes over a number of years.

The representatives from each sector asked to present jointly and then to have the opportunity for short, separate sessions.

While generally supportive of the Australian and Queensland governments’ decisions regarding the gill net fishery in the Great Barrier Reef, they raised several issues considered critical to the successful implementation of structural adjustment package and associated fisheries management policy changes.

In particular, both noted that many threatened species are in decline and the loss of even a small number of individuals can set a population back decades and lead to long-term decline. Multiple recovery programs and peer reviewed publications highlight gillnet fishing as a key threat.

Recommendations to the taskforce included the following matters:

  • The threatened species hotspots identified by the Australian Marine Conservation Society and James Cook University are extensive and considerably larger, although with high spatial overlap with Dugong Protection Areas (DPAs). DPAs are not fulfilling their objective for protecting threatened species. All DPAs (A&B) must be the priority for net-free zones to protect both dugong and other threatened species within these areas.
  • In addition, new net-free zones are recommended, which have strong community support and are likely to present opportunities for recreational fishing tourism.
  • Additional closed areas were necessary to protect important threatened species habitats during the transitional fishing period (between 1 January 2024 to mid-2027).
  • Support for the purchase and recovery of gillnets.
  • Introduction of independent data validation for those licence holders remaining until the complete phase-out of gillnet fishing by mid-June 2027.
  • Support for individual transferable quota buy out and adjustment of total allowable catch.
  • Concern that there may be effort shift to other associated fisheries, particularly the N11 (small mesh/bait nets).
  • Noted that some east coast inshore tier 3 species are important recreational species and harvest strategy measures may not be sufficient to mitigate changed commercial fishing behaviour during the transition.
  • Considered it unknown how much product from the east coast fishery remained in Queensland communities to support local supply chains.
  • Noted that the number of licences operating until June 2027 should be as low as 30 and no fishers should operate without independent data validation.
  • Any new fishery apparatus or technology would need to be appropriately and rigorously trialled before being supported as an alternative for commercial fishing.

The groups provided a detailed written submission that will be considered alongside other stakeholders written submissions made to the taskforce.

The conservation sector also noted that effort shift to the recreational sector would need to be managed and recreational monitoring would need further focus in coming years. They also considered the importance of sustainable aquaculture as being part of a future for Queensland seafood – high tech, zero carbon emissions, safe, of high value and supporting regional economies. WWF (World Wildlife Fund) noted that they also held commercial fishing licences and would like to explore how they may support Traditional Owners and First Nation initiatives in partnership with the Queensland Government, holders of Traditional Use of Marine Resources Agreements, the Cape York special fisheries working group and other First Nations communities.

The next taskforce meeting will be on 1 September 2023. The taskforce will consider threatened species risks and net-free zones for the Gulf of Carpentaria, and will review the submissions made through the eHub consultative process that closed on Monday 28 August 2023.


  • 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).