Structural adjustment schemes—frequently asked questions

On this page:

I am a commercial fisher, what happens next?

Fisheries Queensland will send notification to all affected licence holders outlining the fisheries management changes that will come in effect from 1 January 2024—these include:

  • N1, N2, N4 and S symbols retired
  • BM1–5, KT1–5 and GM1–4 quota units retired, replaced by regional competitive total allowable catch, and quota levels reduced by 15% for tier 1 species in management regions 1–4
  • Hammerhead sharks (all species of the family Sphyrnidae) will be no take in Queensland
  • Barramundi can be accessed by commercial line fishery symbols
  • Management region boundary between MR1 and MR2 changed to Cape Bedford
  • Commercial gill netting will not be permitted north of Cape Bedford (except N11 for own use)
  • Changes to N11 permitted species
  • New symbol N15 (management region 5) established and includes barramundi
  • New symbol NX (Great Barrier Reef) established that will expire on 30 June 2027
  • NX not authorised to fish in Dugong Protection Areas A or B, except rivers and creeks of area B.

You will receive an email and text message from Fisheries Queensland to notify you that the first Queensland Rural Industry Development Authority (QRIDA) structural adjustment scheme is open to commercial fishers. If you have not received any communication in the days following 14 December 2023, check your details are registered correctly in Fishnet Secure or call 13 25 23.

Fisheries Queensland will also contact impacted fishers with details of an initial indicative assessment, and how to contact QRIDA to apply.

When is all this happening?

The Fisheries and Other Legislation (Structural Reform) Amendment Regulation 2023 has been made and will commence on 1 January 2024. It gives effect to the government's decision to buy out and remove N1, N2 and N4 licences and also a number of other associated management changes.

The new zoning plan for the Great Sandy Marine Park is expected to be made in early 2024 and is anticipated to commence from the second quarter of 2024.

The first structural adjustment scheme is now open and applications can be made to QRIDA for the following payments:

  • independent legal and financial advice ($3,000)
  • retired fishery symbols (N1, N2, N4, S)
  • impacted fishery symbols (N10, K1–K8)
  • retired individual transferable quota (ITQ) units
  • voluntary surrender of eligible Primary Commercial Fishing Licences (PCFLs) and symbols for certain licence holders impacted by the Great Barrier Reef gill net fishery phase out or changes to zoning and management in the Great Sandy Marine Park
  • voluntary surrender of ITQ units for grey mackerel, school mackerel or whiting in management region 5.

The first structural adjustment scheme will also cover payments in certain circumstances for:

  • loss of income payments for Great Barrier Reef net fishers
  • loss of income payments for net, line, trawl and crab fisheries impacted by the changes to zoning and management in the Great Sandy Marine Park.

Subsequent structural adjustment schemes will include:

  • crew and skipper payments
  • boat refit grants
  • acquisition of nets
  • business and downstream supply chain support.

It will also include:

  • other fisheries (such as commercially harvested worms or aquarium fisheries) impacted by changes to zoning and management in the Great Sandy Marine Park
  • those that may not be eligible for loss of income payments in the first scheme.

I hold a primary commercial fishing licence with an N1, N2, N4 or S symbol attached. What does this mean for me?

From 1 January 2024, N1, N2, N4 and S symbols will no longer authorise commercial net fishing activities in Queensland. These will be removed from your PCFL from 1 January 2024, regardless of whether you have been paid, or applied to be paid under the structural adjustment scheme. To receive the retired symbol payment you will need to apply under the structural adjustment scheme.

What if I want to keep net fishing?

Instead of N1, N2 and N4 symbols, 2 new types of symbols have been created in legislation to authorise limited netting on the Queensland east coast:

  • NX symbol for the Great Barrier Reef, management regions 2 to 4, valid until mid-2027 and subject to operational conditions
  • N15 symbol for management region 5.

Current holders of primary commercial fishing licences with the symbols N1, N2 or N4 will be eligible for NX and N15 symbols.

Licence holders can apply for adjustment payments and loss of income and symbol payments, regardless of whether they apply for or receive an NX or N15 symbol.

Can I keep fishing until I receive my structural adjustment payments?

Not unless you hold a relevant symbol and licence that entitles you to fish. Because N1, N2 and N4 symbols will be retired at midnight on 31 December 2023, to commercially gill net from 1 January 2024, you will need to hold an NX or N15 symbol on your primary commercial fishing licence.

I hold an N10 or K fishery symbol. What do I need to do?

N10 and K fisheries symbols also entitle the holder to fish as an N1 symbol 'as of right'. The amendment legislation automatically entitles N10 and K symbol holders the commercial fishing authorisation as granted by the new N15 as part of the K and N10 symbols. They will not be issued an N15 symbol, rather it is incorporated in their N10 or K symbol. Holders of N10 and K symbols do not need to apply for N15 to receive these fishing rights.

Holders of N10 and K symbols will need to apply for payment under the QRIDA scheme. Holders of N10 and K symbols are not entitled to the financial/legal advice payment.

Will individual transferable quota (ITQ) units be bought out?

From 1 January 2024, barramundi and king threadfin quota units in all management regions, and grey mackerel quota units in management regions 1 to 4 will be retired. To receive the retired quota unit payment you will need to apply under the structural adjustment scheme.

For management region 5, quota unit holders can apply to receive payment for a voluntary surrender for their grey mackerel, whiting and school mackerel units.

What about shark and ray S fishery symbols?

From 1 January 2024, the S symbol will be removed. To receive the retired symbol payment you will need to apply under the structural adjustment scheme.

How will my loss of future probable earnings be recognised?

In recognition of the potential income loss resulting from removing N1, N2 and N4 licences in the Great Barrier Reef, eligible licence holders or leaseholders will receive a payment in lieu of lost probable income for up to 3 years.

Rather than use taxable income based on Australian Taxation Office records as prescribed in the Fisheries Act for compensation, the government has recognised the complexity of how the industry operates and has chosen a more generous approach to calculating the loss of income to fishers based on logged catch.

The loss of income payment will approximate income for 3 years and be calculated using information from:

The loss of income payment includes consumer price index percentage increases.

Further information and details on the price multipliers to be used for each fishery and species is contained in the Fisheries Structural Adjustment Tables (PDF, 1.79MB).

Fisheries Queensland will provide QRIDA much of the necessary information in the first instance required to make an assessment, such as relevant catch information, and licencing records. If eligible, you will receive a letter outlining an estimate of loss of income payment you may be entitled to, based on the formulas in the QRIDA scheme.

What logbook information is not included in calculations for loss of future probable earnings?

Logbook returns for the relevant period that are received by the department and receipted after 1 November 2023 will not be included in the loss of income payment. Each logbook entry about a commercial fishing operation must be given to Fisheries Queensland by the commercial fisher in control of the fishing operation, within 7 days after the relevant fishing operation ends. The cut-off date of 1 November 2023 ensures all logbook returns have been submitted for the relevant period of 1 September 2021 to 30 June 2023.

I leased a licence. Am I entitled to the lost income payment for the Great Barrier Reef?

If you operated under an N1, N2 or N4 symbol that was attached to your own primary commercial fishing licence (regardless of whether you were the owner of that symbol) for any part of the relevant period, you will be entitled to a loss of income payment, which will be based on the level of catch you reported.

If you leased a primary commercial fishing licence with a relevant symbol attached for the whole of the relevant period, and there is evidence of this lease arrangement, you can apply for the loss of income payment in the first structural adjustment scheme.

Because of the complexity in tracking temporary lease arrangements between licence holders and linking that to catch history, this first structural adjustment scheme is only available to those who leased a PCFL for the whole of the relevant period. This relevant period is 1 September 2021 to 30 June 2023.

A future structural adjustment scheme will be available to those who may have leased a PCFL for only part of the relevant period. This future scheme will come into effect early 2024. In addition, leaseholders may also be entitled for payments for:

  • buyback of stranded gillnet assets
  • refitting of net reel boats.

I am impacted by the Great Sandy Marine Park rezoning. What can I expect?

Any licence holder or leaseholder impacted by the zoning and management changes in the Great Sandy Marine Park can expect to receive a payment that recognises loss of fishing access in parts of the marine park. Similar to the approach taken for the Great Barrier Reef, it will approximate income for 3 years and be calculated using:

  • reported catch history within the impacted areas of the park
  • species beach prices from the BDO report
  • consumer price index percentage increases.

Fisheries Structural Adjustment Tables (PDF, 1.79MB) contain further information and details about:

  • how reported catch for each grid site for each fishery is taken into account and adjusted
  • the species price multipliers used.

If you are a crab, net, line or trawl licence holder, you are able to apply for loss of income payments for impacts from the rezoning of the Great Sandy Marine Park in the first scheme. Other fisheries (such as aquarium fish or worms) will be able to apply in future schemes opening in early 2024.

All licence holders will have the opportunity to apply and receive any eligible payments before the new zoning plan comes into effect in the second quarter of 2024.

Fisheries Queensland will provide QRIDA much of the necessary information in the first instance required to make an assessment, such as relevant catch information, and licencing records. Because of the complexity in tracking temporary lease arrangements between licence holders and linking that to catch history, this first structural adjustment scheme is only available to those who leased a PCFL for the whole of the relevant period. This relevant period is 1 September 2021 to 30 June 2023.

A future structural adjustment scheme will be available to those who may have leased a PCFL for only part of the relevant period. This future scheme will come into effect early next year. In addition, leaseholders may also be entitled for payments for:

  • buyback of stranded gill nets
  • refitting of net reel boats.

I operate under an N1 or N2 in the Great Sandy Marine Park. What are my options?

In addition to the loss of income payments, and retired or impacted symbol or quota unit payments, if you are eligible you can apply for the N15 symbol.

Changes to the zoning and management of the Great Sandy Marine Park will impact your ability to fish in particular areas of the region when the new zoning plan comes into effect in 2024, and you will not receive any further access to payments in future schemes if you receive an N15 symbol.

You will also have the opportunity to apply for total package exit of any eligible fishery symbols and your primary commercial fishing licence.

I am an N1 or N2 licence holder that operates outside of the Great Barrier Reef and the Great Sandy Marine Park. What happens to me?

If you are eligible, you will receive an N15 symbol to replace your N1 or N2. You will also receive payment for your N1 or N2 symbol. You are also able to seek a total exit package or sell back eligible symbols as part of the structural adjustment. If you receive a N15 symbol, you will not be entitled to future payments (such as boat refit grants or for your nets).

Will my nets and boat be bought back too?

Financial support to buy back fishing gear or refit net reel boats, and other financial support (such as stranded asset support) will be available in 2024 in a future structural adjustment scheme. There will be maximum prices set for these assets and liabilities.

Details of these aspects of the structural adjustment will be provided in 2024. Holders of N15 will not be eligible for these schemes.

I am a skipper or a deckhand, but don't own a licence. Will I be eligible for any payments?

Skippers or deckhands may be eligible for a one-off lump sum employee support payment to help with retraining and offset expenses incurred while looking for alternative employment. They can also access retraining grants for TAFE courses.

Eligibility criteria, amounts and applications for these payments and courses will open in early 2024.

What will an NX symbol allow me to do?

The rules and management applying to NX is through a combination of legislation, licence conditions and policy. Fisheries Queensland will be working closely with NX applicants to finalise their operating conditions ahead of the symbols being issued during January 2024—to enable fishing to commence from 1 February 2024.

The amendment legislation coming into effect on 1 January 2024 establishes the NX symbol. They are non-transferable and will automatically expire on 30 June 2027. Initially there is no annual symbol fee, but one is expected to be introduced by 1 July 2024 and it will be similar to the current N2 annual symbol fee.

The boundaries of management region 1 and 2 have been amended, so the southern boundary of management region 1, and the northern boundary of management region 2 is now at Cape Bedford. NX is not permitted to be used in management region 1.

The use of gillnets under NX is not permitted in Dugong Protection Areas A or B, with the exception of the adjacent rivers and creeks upstream of Dugong Protection Area B.

The types of nets permitted will remain largely as they currently are under N1 and N2 arrangements.

Tier 1 species (barramundi, king threadfin and grey mackerel) will be managed by prescribed commercial catch (competitive total allowable catch) in each Great Barrier Reef management region. The total allowable catch has been reduced for these species by 15%.

Tier 2 species will continue to be managed by total allowable commercial catch for each region, and no changes have been made to these total allowable commercial catch levels.

Conditions of NX licences will include:

  • only the holder of the licence with the NX symbol is authorised to undertake NX fishing
  • requirement to complete master fishing training through Oceanwatch (when available)
  • mandatory participation in independent data validation program and agreement
  • strengthened attendance rules (e.g. soak time attendance and distance from net provisions)
  • management responses (such as sit out period or spatial closures) when fatal interactions occur with threatened, endangered or protected species
  • participation and engagement on an NX working group
  • annual participation review and minimum fishing requirements to maintain NX.

Applicants will need to meet assessment criteria to be eligible, such as:

  • recent catch history in the Great Barrier Reef N1, N2 or N4 fishery
  • have good fisheries and marine park compliance history
  • be willing to work cooperatively with Fisheries Queensland on the management operations for the NX fishery.

A written application outlining a business plan, response plan to TEP interactions, preferred management region/s and addressing selection criteria will be required.

Fisheries Queensland will engage directly with interested applicants and release a draft policy for targeted consultation as decisions are made around operating conditions. Assessments for NX symbols will occur in January 2024, to enable fishing to commence from 1 February 2024.

In certain exceptional circumstances Fisheries Queensland will consider arrangements to authorise fishing during January, ahead of final NX decisions being made.

What will an N15 symbol allow me to do?

The N15 symbol is the replacement for N1 and N2 symbols for management region 5. Arrangements for the N15 symbol will align closely with current N1 conditions, except:

  • take of barramundi will be permitted
  • barramundi and king threadfin will be managed by a regional prescribed commercial catch (or competitive quota).

N10 and K symbol holders will automatically receive the replacement N15 symbol as part of their K and N10 symbols 'as of right'.

Individual transferable quota will continue for:

  • whiting
  • grey mackerel
  • school mackerel.

Barramundi and king threadfin will be managed by a competitive total allowable commercial catch.

How do I apply for N15?

Eligibility for N15 symbols will be linked to historical catch in management region 5 since 1 September 2021. Licence holders can immediately indicate their interest in receiving an N15, and assessments will be prioritised to enable fishing continuity for those who have the requisite level of historical catch in management region 5.

N15 symbol holders will not be eligible to access any further financial support or structural adjustment under the future schemes (such as net payments, boat refits, crew/skipper support payments, business support). However, some N15 holders may be eligible for loss of income payment for hammerhead shark.

N15 symbols can be issued until 1 July 2024, so licence holders have time to consider their options before deciding whether to apply for an N15, or receive the other structural adjustment payments they may be eligible for if they don't take up an N15.

I am a net fisher in the Gulf of Carpentaria. What changes can I expect?

From 1 January 2024, hammerhead shark are no take in all Queensland waters, including the Gulf of Carpentaria.

The Gulf of Carpentaria inshore fishery discussion paper consultation is now closed. No decisions will be made about gillnet-free zones or other fishery matters in the Gulf of Carpentaria until the government can:

  • review the considerable number of submissions received
  • assess and consider the impacts, options and implications for all stakeholders in implementing regional closures in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Structural adjustment for impacted licence holders will be considered as these changes are implemented.

Are there any changes to N11 symbols?

From 1 January 2024, east coast waters from Cape Bedford to the tip of Cape York will become a net-free zone (newly defined management region 1) and fishing under an N11 symbol in this area will not be permitted.

A payment will be available for affected N11 symbol holders who have history of N11 catch in this region. Use of 'as of right' bait net for own commercial use will be permitted in the net-free north.

From 1 January 2024, the following species will not be permitted to be taken by N11 for commercial purposes (sale):

  • Tier 1: barramundi, king threadfin, grey mackerel, school mackerel
  • Tier 2: black jewfish, dusky flathead, spotted mackerel
  • Tier 3: yellowfin bream.

Coral reef fin fish, snapper and Spanish mackerel remain not permitted species under an N11 symbol.

It should be noted that marine park management prohibits the use of N11 nets or limits the species that can be taken with these nets, in some zones. No changes to N11 apply in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

What is happening with hammerhead sharks?

Hammerhead sharks are a no-take species from 1 January 2024 in all waters, including the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Licence holders who have reported east coast hammerhead shark catch history since 1 September 2021, and are not receiving payments for either the Great Sandy Marine Park or Great Barrier Reef may be entitled to loss of income payments. Applications for these payments will be available in the second QRIDA scheme to open early in 2024.

Can other licence holders seek structural adjustment?

The guidelines will explain what options may be available for you, depending on what licences you hold.

Exit packages (for any symbols listed in the table with a price) including the PCFL, will be available in the following rounds:

  • Round 1: those with N1, N2, N4 symbol (on opening and closes on 15 March 2024)
  • Round 2: those with other symbols or just a PCFL (open from 2 April to 30 April).

I have a business that is impacted by these changes to netting. What payment can I expect?

The first scheme only covers adjustment payments to eligible licence and lease holders in certain circumstances.

Other affected businesses may become eligible for the second phase of adjustment scheme payments, set to be announced in early 2024.

What about commercial fishing of barramundi by line?

From 1 January 2024, barramundi will be permitted to be commercially caught by line fishers under existing line endorsements and will be subject to the existing regional total allowable commercial catches. However, barramundi will not be permitted to be caught commercially by line in areas that are already designated net-free recreational fishing zones (Cairns, Mackay and Rockhampton).

What are the values for symbols and licences?

Retired symbols

SymbolDescriptionValue
N1 Net - Large mesh general purpose (East Coast) $35,000
N2 Net - Large mesh set (East Coast) $60,000
N4 Net - Large mesh offshore netting (East Coast) $150,000
N10/K 80% of N1 value $28,000
S Shark and Ray Symbol (East Coast) $7,000
BM Barramundi quota units MR1–5 $17/unit
KT King threadfin quota units MR1–5 $20/unit
GM Grey mackerel quota units MR1–4 $25/unit

Eligible licence/symbols for optional buy out

SymbolDescriptionValue
PCFL Primary Commercial Fishing Licence $20,000
C1 Crab - (East Coast and Gulf) $25,000
N11 Net - Small mesh netting (East Coast) $5,000
L1(0) Line - Other Than Great Barrier Reef $7,000
L1(1) Line - Other Than Great Barrier Reef $8,000
L1(2) Line - Other Than Great Barrier Reef $9,000
L1(3) Line - Other Than Great Barrier Reef $10,000
L1(4) Line - Other Than Great Barrier Reef $11,000
L1(5) Line - Other Than Great Barrier Reef $12,000
L1(6) Line - Other Than Great Barrier Reef $13,000
L2(0) Line - Great Barrier Reef $7,000
L2(1) Line - Great Barrier Reef $8,000
L2(2) Line - Great Barrier Reef $9,000
L2(3) Line - Great Barrier Reef $10,000
L2(4) Line - Great Barrier Reef $11,000
L2(5) Line - Great Barrier Reef $12,000
L2(6) Line - Great Barrier Reef $13,000
L2(7) Line - Great Barrier Reef $14,000
L3(0) Line - Limited (East Coast) $5,000
L3(1) Line - Limited (East Coast) $6,000
L3(2) Line - Limited (East Coast) $7,000
RQ(0) Coral Reef Finfish Fishery $8,000
RQ(1) Coral Reef Finfish Fishery $10,000
RQ(2) Coral Reef Finfish Fishery $16,000
RQ(3) Coral Reef Finfish Fishery $18,000
RQ(4) Coral Reef Finfish Fishery $20,000
RQ(5) Coral Reef Finfish Fishery $22,000
RQ(6) Coral Reef Finfish Fishery $24,000
RQ(7) Coral Reef Finfish Fishery $26,000
RQ(8) Coral Reef Finfish Fishery $28,000
SM(0) Spanish Mackerel Fishery $10,000
SM(1) Spanish Mackerel Fishery $15,000
SM(2) Spanish Mackerel Fishery $17,000
SM(3) Spanish Mackerel Fishery $20,000
SM(4) Spanish Mackerel Fishery $25,000
SM(5) Spanish Mackerel Fishery $28,000
SM(6) Spanish Mackerel Fishery $30,000
T1 Trawl - No.1 (East Coast) $20,000
T2 Trawl - Concessional Zone (East Coast) $20,000
T5 Trawl - River and Inshore (East Coast) $25,000
T6 Trawl - River and Inshore (East Coast) $25,000
T7 Trawl - River and Inshore (East Coast) $25,000
T8 Trawl - River and Inshore (East Coast) $25,000
T9 Trawl - River and Inshore (East Coast) $25,000
SCM5 School mackerel quota units (MR5) $20/unit
WT5 Whiting quota units (MR5) $20/unit

What are the species catch multipliers being used for loss of income payments?

The species catch price multipliers are listed in the Fisheries Structural Adjustment Tables (PDF, 1.79MB).

The price multiplier incorporates the industry average beach price per year, as estimated by BDO EconSearch, further adjusted for the Consumer Price Index to create projected prices for the future years 2024, 2025 and 2026, which are then combined into a single total. For instance, if you divide the price multiplier by 3, it is the average price being paid per year.

Find out more about the analysis of fisheries economic and social data completed by BDO Econsearch.