Reef line fishery working group

This working group provides operational advice on the management of the Queensland reef line fishery.


  • 18-19 July 2017

    The Coral Reef Fin Fish Fishery Working Group met to review the current decision rules for coral trout, ahead of the setting of coral trout quota for the 2018 season. The review occurred because of concern from commercial fishers and other stakeholders about the responsiveness of the decision rules to fishery issues.


    The working group requested further analysis of key components of the decision rules to better inform which parts need to be amended, in particular:

    • How should the average catch rate be calculated? The current rules calculate the average catch rate based on the reported catch from the last two calendar years.  A number of other models (one year, or best two from the last three years) will also be analysed to compare and inform the setting of this rule.
    • Should the target catch rate of 25 kg per dory per day be maintained? The working group noted that this target is currently based on commercial aspirations of viability. However, future information on drivers of fishery profit would better inform setting of a more appropriate target.
    • Should the limitations on quota changes be maintained? The rules currently restrict quota changes of less than 50 tonnes or more than 200 limits unless exceptional circumstances apply.

    Fisheries Queensland will provide the working group with additional advice out-of-session in relation to the above dot points before the end of August 2017.

    During the discussion on the current decision rules a number of other fishery matters were also raised.  Key areas to note were:

    • A need for better communication to improve community understanding of commercial fishing rules to ensure sustainability of this fishery and improve to commercial fishers’ understanding of the history of the quota system for this fishery and operating a business within a quota managed system.
    • Concern about the recreational take of a number of longed lived species (such as red emperor and nannygai) in the “Other Species” quota category.  It was also noted that an Ecological Risk Assessment should be considered in developing a harvest strategy for the fishery.
    • Concern about progress particularly expediting harvest strategy implementation and how the harvest strategy process relates to removal of input controls. The working group also noted that improved data on recreational take as well as economic information on the commercial sector would better inform the setting of decision rules and support moving to a harvest strategy for the whole fishery.

    Fisheries Queensland will provide the working group information on revised harvest strategy timelines and monitoring programs at the next meeting.

    In addition, the working group received presentations on the following topical matters:

    • Fisheries Queensland provided an update on the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy.  The working group noted that the Coral Reef Fin Fish Fishery is in a good position to transition to a harvest strategy compared to other Queensland fisheries.  There was considerable discussion about the roll out of the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) with the working group noting that Fisheries Queensland is trialling smaller units more suitable for line dories. Fisheries Queensland is also partnering with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to pool $2.2 million in funding to assist with the roll out.  The working group recommended that further engagement with industry be undertaken and that VMS should also be trialled on charter and recreational vessels.
    • The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority provided an update on the coral bleaching event currently effecting the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The working group noted the areas of greatest concern were in the northern and central areas of the reef.
    • Professor Morgan Pratchett from James Cook University presented his research into the effects of climate change on coral trout and possible adaption options.  Key points were increased water temperature can alter the lifecycle (breeding, growth) of coral trout and that the northern areas of the fishery that experienced higher temperatures are likely to be more impacted than the southern areas of the fishery. It was noted that a higher biomass assists in providing greater stock resilience.
    • Dr Natalie Dowling from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) updated the working group on her project of developing triple bottom line harvest strategies that balance environmental, social and economic objectives for multi-sector fisheries. The working group will be working with the project team to develop a harvest strategy for the Coral Reef Fin Fish Fishery.

    Next steps

    Fisheries Queensland will provide detailed analysis of the decision rules to enable a follow up working group meeting in October 2017 to finalise recommended changes to the current decision rules.

    If changes are recommended, Fisheries Queensland will undertake targeted consultation about the proposed changes in November 2017. This will allow revised decision rules to be finalised this year and applied to the setting of the coral trout quota for the 2018 season.

  • 17-18 October 2017

    The coral reef fin fish fishery working group met in Brisbane to define a set of fishery objectives with the assistance of the FRDC Triple Bottom Line (TBL) Project team and to review the decision rules for coral trout.

    The working group was provided an update on the harvest strategy development process and the working group’s role to provide advice, under the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy. The members noted that a harvest strategy will apply to all sectors (commercial, charter, recreation and indigenous) and a worked example was provided for coral trout. Members talked about a range of influences on the fishery, and noted that these need to be a consideration within the harvest strategy framework. Fisheries Queensland will guide the working group through the harvest strategy process with the assistance of the FRDC TBL project. The project will provide access to economists, scientists and fishery management experts.

    The FRDC TBL Project team facilitated a discussion to start identifying objectives to underpin the harvest strategy for the coral reef fin fish fishery. The working group discussed a range of possible social, economic and ecological objectives for the fishery. Setting fishery objectives is an important step to set out the direction and aspirations for the fishery. The fishery objectives will be finalised out of session to enable further consultation with all stakeholders later in 2017.

    Fisheries Queensland presented an update on the implementation of vessel tracking under the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy. The members identified issues relating to the operationalisation of vessel tracking including the ability to transfer between vessels and data confidentiality protocols. Further consultation on business rules will be undertaken with all stakeholders later in 2017.

    Fisheries Queensland provided information on the Monitoring and Research Plan, which outlined how the research aligns with priorities for management. Members noted the recently expanded boat ramp surveys will produce trends in recreational catch rates, which can be used in lieu of a more formal estimate of catch. Members noted that a combination of data sources will better inform the development of a harvest strategy. Fisheries Queensland advised the working group that it has added a number of coral reef species to the boat-ramp monitoring program to improve the biological data on key species in the fishery. Fisheries Queensland expects that the working group will likely identify additional information and research needs to underpin a harvest strategy for the fishery – these requirements will be discussed more as part of developing the harvest strategy.

    Trends in the beach and lease price for coral trout was discussed. The working group noted that while there has recently been more stability in the beach price of coral trout, the current price is still low compared to the price of quota, indicating suboptimal economic conditions. The members noted that better marketing, access to new markets, improved sorting of coral trout and increased communication may improve economic performance. Working group members will discuss mechanisms to improve marketing of coral trout out-of-session, and provide an update at the next meeting. Given the commercial contribution of coral trout to Queensland (over $30m), the collection and use of social and economic data would be informative in harvest strategy development.

    The working group members reviewed the commercial catch and effort data and discussed the decision rule for setting coral trout quota and its response to using different average timeframes and in response to severe weather events. In discussing the decision rules, the working group noted the health of the Great Barrier Reef and its impacts on reef fish stocks and other influences from events like cyclones, high temperatures and bleaching events are important considerations. The working group noted that changing the decision rules now would not address the economic concerns of commercial fishers in the short term, subsequently recommending retaining the current decision rules and prioritising the development of the harvest strategy to improve management and address a range of concerns for all sectors. Despite the recommendation not to make changes to the current decision rules, the working group discussion has identified a number of issues to kick-start the harvest strategy process.

    The working groups’ aim was to ideally have a harvest strategy in place for the 2019 season.

    The working group discussed the effectiveness of current input controls for the fishery. Members noted that in quota-managed fisheries there is generally less of a need for input controls. The members noted that a number of input controls will be revised while the harvest strategy is being developed, so that once vessel tracking and a harvest strategies become operational input controls can be removed. Further discussion at the next meeting is required before review priorities can be identified for the development of legislative proposals and broader consultation in 2018.

    Further out-of-session discussions on a number of matters including the FRDC TBL Project will occur prior to the next formal working group meeting, scheduled for February 2018.

    The Coral Reef Fin Fish Working Group members are: Fisheries Queensland (Chair- Kimberly Foster, Sian Breen, Tom Roberts), commercial fishing (Chris Neil, Gareth Andrew, Terry Must and Mathew Squires), recreational fishing (Dan Kaggelis and Jason Bradford), charter fishing (Raymond Gleeson) and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (Darren Cameron), Queensland Boating & Fisheries Patrol (Bob Russell), Research (Andrew Tobin) and Conservation sector (Jim Higgs).

  • 6-7 March 2018

    The coral reef fin fish fishery working group met in Brisbane to consider the 2018/19 commercial coral trout quota, work with the FRDC Triple Bottom Line (TBL) project team to continue work on a draft harvest strategy and to consider a discussion paper on reform options. A joint session with the Sustainable Fisheries Expert Panel occurred prior to the working group meeting. The session involved a workshop on research priorities under the monitoring and research plan, and allowed members to engage in a Q&A session with the Expert Panel.

    The working group noted that a stock assessment for Spanish mackerel is due this year, which may necessitate management review. The working group recommended that some dedicated Spanish mackerel fishers, together with some existing working group members form a sub-group to review the stock assessment and formulate management recommendation. Expressions’ of interest from Spanish mackerel fishers would be sought for inclusion in this sub-group.

    The working group discussed the coral trout commercial total allowable catch (TAC) for the 2018/19 season. Commercial average catch per unit effort (CPUE) increased significantly from 24.53 in 2016 to 31.09 kg/dory/day in 2017. This follows an increase in CPUE from 19.74 to 24.53 kg/dory/day in 2015 to 2016.  These increases in CPUE and fishery performance predict an increase of 370 tonne in the commercial TAC, which is limited to a maximum of 200 tonne in any year when applying the decision rules formula (developed by the working group).

    In considering whether the coral trout TAC should be increased by 200 tonnes for the 2018/19 year, the working group considered the current state of the Great Barrier Reef, quota usage to date and market conditions. The conservation member, recreational fishers and GBRMPA noted that caution should be exercised in increasing the quota of coral trout given system-wide decline in the condition of the Great Barrier Reef, including impacts from severe weather events and the unprecedented 2016 and 2017 bleaching events and resulting coral mortality.  Despite their concerns, the recreational fishers supported the application of the decision rules. The GBRMPA representative strongly expressed the importance of reducing all impacts on the reef, (including from fishing), to increase its resilience, but supported the application of the decision rules, to the extent that exceptional circumstances apply to only increase the TAC by 100 tonnes. The conservation representative did not support any increase to the coral trout quota. Commercial sector representatives supported the increase.

    The working group noted the need to start capturing economic data (such as lease price, beach price and sale of quota) to monitor any economic trends from increasing the quota.  The working group was keen to move forward in developing harvest strategies that incorporate rules to address all sectors, reef condition, resilience and additional indices of abundance to improve confidence in providing advice on future quota decisions. All advice from the working group will be provided to the Chief Executive to make a decision on the commercial TAC for the 2018/19 season.

    An update on current monitoring programs was noted, including a program to evaluate coral trout monitoring strategies to inform management practices. Modelling recreational boat ramp survey data is being used to design biological sampling strategies for development of regional age-length keys, which is important for stock assessment. The working group were encouraged that current boat ramp survey data could be used as an index of abundance and that there will be greater emphasis on increasing the robustness of survey data in the future.

    The working group reviewed a draft discussion paper reviewing existing rules governing the Coral Reef Fin Fish Fishery. The discussion paper aims to address rules that inhibit the fishery maximising the ecological and economic benefits available from an ITQ fishery. Removing existing input controls may increase risk to those ‘Other Species’ (OS) quota category, however it was noted that harvest strategy decision rules and reference points would be implemented prior to any legislation changes. It was agreed that the discussion paper be amended to include a review of ‘OS’ species, and seek feedback on regional aspects of management. Given a harvest strategy will be developed for the whole fishery, the working group agreed that dedicated OS fishers should be included in future discussions.

    Fisheries Queensland provided information on the additional investment in social and economic monitoring under the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy. Working group members noted that a workshop with experts had been held to identify social and economic indicators and the requirements to roll out a successful monitoring program. This will include seeking advice from the working group to develop priority social and economic indicators for the coral reef fin fish fishery.

    The FRDC TBL project team facilitated a workshop to develop and refine the fishery objectives to underpin a harvest strategy for the coral reef fin fish fishery. The workshop evaluated each objectives on its merits for inclusion in a harvest strategy or whether they should be considered outside of a harvest strategy framework. The working group were provided a demonstration of the weighting process, which is used to determine how conflicts between objectives are resolved and prioritised.

    Working group members noted an update on the vessel tracking trial and the vessel tracking policy and guidelines consultation, which ended on 23 February. Major concerns raised by members included the cost of units, confidentiality issues, risk of unit failures, and reception issues for manual reporting options. Whether GBRMPA could differentiate between fishers’ accessing a safe anchorage or fishing activity in a green zone of the marine park was questioned. It was generally understood that the situation would be dealt with in the same manner it is dealt with now, for fishing vessels without VMS anchored in green zones.

    A further working group meeting is planned for 18 and 19 June 2018. Fisheries Queensland will be seeking the views of all stakeholders through face-to-face consultation around issues raised in the discussion paper which is expected to take place throughout April-May.

    The Coral Reef Fin Fish Working Group members are: Fisheries Queensland (Chair- Kimberly Foster), commercial fishing (Chris Neil, Gareth Andrew, Andrew Tobin, Terry Must) marketing/export (Mathew Squires), recreational fishing (Dan Kaggelis and Jason Bradford), charter fishing (Raymond Gleeson) and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (Darren Cameron), and Conservation sector (Jim Higgs).

  • 26-27 July 2018

    The coral reef fin fish fishery (CRFFF) working group met in Brisbane to progress the harvest strategy with the assistance from the FRDC funded Triple Bottom Line (TBL) project team, consider feedback from the management review discussion paper and recommend appropriate management amendments.

    FRDC have funded a project using the CRFFF as a pilot fishery to develop a comprehensive triple bottom line harvest strategy that meets all stakeholder objectives (commercial, recreational and environmental).  The working group has been collaborating with the project team, and took the next steps in developing a harvest strategy at this meeting.

    The FRDC TBL project team advised there was a very good response to the project’s fishery objective preference survey which assisted to analyse and weight ecological, economic, social and management objectives for each sector. The working group noted that ecological objectives are considered of primary importance to all stakeholders.

    Coral Trout

    The working group together with the TBL team considered the strengths and weaknesses of the existing decision rules associated with the coral trout. It was noted that the commercial sector have been the primary contributors to the stock’s status since the introduction of the decision rules and they are the only group bound by the existing decision rules. The working group agreed that adjustments should apply to commercial total allowable catch (TAC) and recreational bag limits. All sectors agreed that in future all stakeholders should share the benefits and costs of ensuring coral trout stock biomass is maintained.

    The working group discussed the following key issues:

    • The existing quantitative stock assessment process was supported, and in interim years (between formal stock assessments), decision rules would incorporate more indicators to give additional lines of evidence to give a higher degree of confidence for those decisions.
    • Using standardised catch rates would reflect best practice and help detect trends in underlying abundance with more confidence.
    • Other indicators in the harvest strategy would include lead (indicative of future stocks) and lag (reflective of past stocks) measures and include fishery independent data that accounts for other aspects such as reef health and severe weather events. Override triggers in the harvest strategy may account for environmental effects or events.
    • Recognising that there are 6 coral trout species in the current ‘coral trout’ complex that have different distributions, reef habitat affiliations and are targeted by different sectors should be accounted for.

    The working group agreed in principle, the harvest strategy should account for regional aspects at a finer spatial scale to account for spatial abundance, reef health, weather impacts, fishing effort and temporal spawning differences. Ideally, the harvest strategy would include levers or triggers to address effort shift after a severe weather events (at whatever scale it occurs), long-term declines, and catastrophic and/or reef-wide events. Further consultation is critical in developing options further.

    Red Throat Emperor

    The working group and TBL team agreed that similar principles to coral trout should be considered in developing a harvest strategy for red throat emperor (RTE). RTE is of particular importance to the charter and the recreational sector, but is now, because of the economics of the live coral trout fishery, largely a byproduct species for most licence holders. The last stock assessment (2006) established the sustainable harvest level at that time, which current catch levels do not exceed. The working group agreed that in light of the biological characteristics, past management reform and the existing level of fishing effort, the threat of overexploiting RTE stocks was likely to be low.

    A harvest strategy could take into account the low-risk life history of red throat emperor, and trigger management actions only when changes in biomass occur. Indicators might include a risk assessment, reported discards, catch rates, or total annual harvest. A risk assessment approach and/or regular stock assessments may also help inform appropriate catch limits for all sectors. To provide an improved understanding of stock status, a commitment to acquiring regular biological samples (length/weight measurements, otoliths) for incorporation in stock assessments would be useful.

    Other Species (OS)

    It was noted that the current OS quota category does not adequately constrain those species considered to be high risk, and management arrangements don’t respond to stock status, address risk or localised depletion. The working group noted it is a large and complex group of species that differ by a number of attributes including biological life history and risk characteristics, spatial abundance, localised pressures, importance to each sector, market demands and discard mortality rates.

    The working group together with the TBL team discussed a number of options that could address limitations in the existing framework for OS, including:

    • Tiered approach where an overall OS quota applies but with triggers informing when/how to adjust quota;
    • Identify higher-risk or key species and apply species-specific catch caps or triggers;
    • Individual ITQs and bag limits for some higher risk species.

    A range of management responses were identified, including move-on provisions, higher unit value conversions, commercial trip limits, recreational bag limit adjustments, or seasonal closures.

    Summary TBL Project

    Across the three sets of species categories, the existing arrangements were reviewed and alternative harvest strategy options were developed accounting for all sectors. The TBL team will develop detailed versions of the harvest strategy frameworks based on the principles and elements identified by the working group.

    Out of session, the working group and the TBL project team will rate each option against its perceived ability to address the fishery objectives. This input will then help inform the preferred harvest strategy option for further consideration by the working group and stakeholders.

    Discussion paper and consultation outcomes

    The working group took into account the results of consultation on the discussion paper to inform their view on a number of management reform issues. In summary, the working group supported recommending the following proposals to Fisheries Queensland, noting in most cases they will be contingent on harvest strategy implementation to address risk associated with high-risk OS species.

    • Increase the fishery primary vessel length limit to 25m.
    • Maintaining the RQ and L symbol arrangements.
    • Retain the current 7m tender vessel size limit.
    • Transhipment or transfer of fish between primary vessels operating out of the same quota account may be considered alongside vessel tracking and appropriate monitoring provisions.
    • Existing limits on L2 and RQ tenders be capped at a maximum number of 7 per licence, to be sourced from the existing pool of tenders.
    • In light of existing AMSA regulations, the 5nm tender distance be removed from fisheries regulations, as Commonwealth legislation overrides the State’s.
    • Filleting at sea is an important element for commercial viability but arrangements must be strengthened in a number of areas to address compliance and increase certainty. The working group will continue to be consulted with a policy position on this matter.
    • Support to maintain the existing coral trout spawning closures and arrangements at this stage. Any extension beyond the 2 x 5 days for coral trout be considered in future harvest strategy implementation.
    • Consideration be given to the requirement and timing of spawning closures for species other than coral trout.
    • Affirm existing recreational possession limits that will move accordingly with the status of stocks and to maintain sectoral proportions.
    • Ensure that the reforms proposed in the regulations are flexible enough to support and/or enable OS and finer spatial or regional management in the context of delivering the harvest strategy.

    Further out-of-session discussions on a number of matters including the FRDC TBL Project will occur prior to the next formal working group meeting.

    The Coral Reef Fin Fish Working Group members are: Fisheries Queensland (Chair- Kimberly Foster), commercial fishing (Chris Neil, Gareth Andrew, Andrew Tobin, Terry Must) marketing/export (Mathew Squires), recreational fishing (Dan Kaggelis and Jason Bradford), charter fishing (Raymond Gleeson) and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (Darren Cameron), and Conservation sector (Jim Higgs).

  • 20-21 March 2019

    The coral reef fin fish fishery (CRFFF) working group met in Brisbane to review the interim results from the coral trout stock assessment, provide advice in relation to the coral trout total allowable commercial catch (TACC) for the upcoming 2019/20 season, discussed proposed regulation amendments and consider harvest strategy approaches for the fishery.

    The working group discussed the challenges and benefits of the implementation of the vessel tracking in the commercial sector of the fishery, noting the issues with some faulty units and the lack of customer service with some suppliers. Industry have requested changes to the SMS notification system and a review of the requirement to tie up dories with faulty VMS units, until such a time as vessel tracking is reliable.

    The commercial sector remain frustrated and very concerned for the need to maintain the requirement for tenders to operate within 5nm of the primary vessel with active vessel tracking, despite repeated requests from industry for it be removed. The working group requests that Fisheries Queensland urgently remove this requirement, particularly for vessels with vessel tracking installed. In addition, commercial sector working group members requested the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to review the requirements for dories to be attached to the primary vessel in key marine national park zone anchorages now that vessel tracking is in place which is critical for safety of crew and vessel operation.

    The recreational and charter sector is concerned and opposed to the proposed impact of a boat limit for coral trout, and welcome the opportunity for further consultation on this management option.

    All sectors raised concerns with levels of predation from sharks on catches and how this is being addressed. The working group welcomes research into this issue to provide a better understanding for all fishermen.

    Coral trout stock assessment

    The working group were presented with the results from the 2019 stock assessment and noted the improvements compared to the 2014 assessment, such as including the full area of the fishery, using underwater visual survey data and recreational catch estimates. The assessment estimates common coral trout abundance at 68% of unfished biomass, similar to the previous (2014) assessment, and above the SFS target of 60% biomass.  The assessment suggests that a total catch for all sectors of around 1398 tonnes would continue to maintain the current economic target of 68% biomass.

    While members appreciated the new stock assessment results are based on best practice stock assessment science and responsibly utilised available data, they were keen to review the stock assessment report in full. Additionally, some members have concerns about the potential environmental impacts on the Great Barrier Reef (combined bleaching, crown of thorns outbreak and cyclones), and felt a precautionary approach to setting harvest limits is warranted. It was noted that stock assessments can only incorporate environmental and other aspects where there is a validated quantitative methodology to do so. Further research is required to appropriately incorporate the effects of these issues in future models.

    The working group spent some time discussing the considerable external market trends and pressures with the increasing operating costs to the commercial fishing and charter industries. It was also noted that overseas aquaculture product is also potentially reducing international market demand. The live coral trout market currently relies heavily on Chinese demand, both in Australia and around the world. Market place changes have resulted in lower prices offered for coral trout reducing the viability and profitability of industry.

    The working group noted the results of the stock assessment, uncertainty around input data sets and assessment outputs, current harvest levels (expected to be around 350 tonnes lower than the TACC in 2018/19 on current projections) and advice on depressed markets and increased operating costs. Taking into account all the available information the working group members recommended no change to the current TACC of 1163 tonnes for 2019/20.

    Harvest strategy development

    The harvest strategy for the OS category needs to ensure adequate control at the species level. The working group discussed the concept of triggers for harvest controls and management review for individual species in the ‘Other Species’ (OS) category. Triggers would most likely be informed by commercial catch data in conjunction with updated recreational harvest estimates. If harvest rates for any species reach predetermined level, management action would be taken such as setting a total allowable catch limit while a formal stock assessment is used to establish a sustainable catch level for all sectors.

    The harvest strategy for coral trout will rely on the annual stock assessment outputs including biomass and yield estimates for setting the quota each year. The working group confirmed that they would prefer annual quota setting, based on a target biomass of 68%, which is considered optimal for economic and social objectives. Options for minimum and maximum annual changes in the TACC and other measures and reference points were discussed, and will be incorporated into a harvest strategy.

    Other matters

    The working group discussed the regulatory amendments to support the fisheries reform and harvest strategy processes. These amendments will be released for public consultation later in the year. The working group noted the recent changes to the Fisheries Act that amongst other items include strengthened penalties and enforcement powers to address black marketing.

    The next steps will be to develop a harvest strategy for working group consideration in mid-2019, before being released for broader consultation.

    The Coral Reef Fin Fish Working Group members are: Fisheries Queensland (Chair- Eddie Jebreen), commercial fishing (Will Neil, Sean Stiff, Jake Kingdon, Chris Bolton) marketing/export (Jono Leahy, Michael Wakeling), recreational fishing (Dan Kaggelis, Jason Bradford, John Robinson), charter fishing (Soozi Wilson) and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (Darren Cameron), and Conservation sector (Jim Higgs)

  • 30-31 July 2019

    The coral reef fin fish fishery (CRFFF) working group met in Cairns to provide advice in relation to proposed regulation amendments, consider harvest strategy approaches and reform implementation details.

    The working group noted that the Regulation Discussion Paper consultation closed on 19 July 2019, and a report on the results of consultation will be published shortly. Members noted many of the key aspects of the reforms receiving good levels of support, noting the detailed comments are still being collated and analysed.

    Fishers noted their concerns about when some of the rules would commence, noting the second closure in 2019 coincides with the planned withdrawal of Cathay Pacific from Cairns, and the difficulty complying with them until the amendments are finalised later this year.

    The commercial and charter sector members discussed the challenges associated with implementing vessel tracking on tender vessels, and the difficulty many commercial fishers are having in keeping units operational and complying with the regulations. The working group acknowledged the lengths to which the commercial industry members have gone to comply with vessel tracking requirements and independently find innovative workable solutions to fix vessel tracking units. There is considerable concern about the ability for the prescribed units to operate in the way they are required on tender boats, needing significant power and airtime. The costs of purchasing, maintaining, sourcing and then initialising units is prohibitive from having many spares. Notwithstanding the above, all members of the working group supported the vessel tracking initiative but acknowledged the current units prevent industry from being compliant. Urgent action is required until technical issues can be resolved. Fisheries Queensland have agreed to explore short term and longer term solutions identified by the working group.

    Members provided a briefing on key aspects associated with their interests in the fishery. The ceasing of Cathay Pacific flights from Cairns to Hong Kong (28 October 2019) was noted, and processors explained what steps they had been taking to minimise the impacts on their operations. Other matters discussed included the positive initiatives associated with the Cairns Recreational Fishing Forum and funding grants, application and development of digital observer programs in other fisheries and the trial led by WWF in the reef line fishery, and opportunities they may offer in the future. The charter sector expressed concern regarding the introduction of mandatory vessel tracking and recommended it should not apply to charter dories. Fisheries Queensland will continue to work with the charter sector to finalise vessel tracking requirements ahead of implementation on 1 July 2020. The speed of reforms was noted and some members felt many aspects feel rushed. The GBRMPA member advised that the next five-year Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report release is due in 2019.

    Regional management

    The coral reef fin fish fishery is managed at the scale of the whole east coast for all species. Over a number of years, the matter of finer spatial scale management of the coral reef fin fish fishery has been raised and discussed. The intent of the SFS is to manage each species at the stock level, and the working group noted that there may be some uncertainty in the science of the stock structure for coral trout, and some key ‘other species’. Red throat emperor is thought to be a single genetic stock on the east coast.

    Fisheries Queensland will explore the available scientific literature for coral trout stock delineation and bring a report back to the next working group meeting. Members noted that finer spatial management could offer a number of benefits, including: the ability to respond at a finer localised scale, respond appropriately to severe weather or environmental events and address shifting or displaced effort. Industry concerns were acknowledged about the implications of regional or finer spatial scale management on economic opportunities and restricting business operations.

    Working group members noted that finer spatial scale management was not limited to simply zoning and dividing quota into zones, there are other options available such as specific triggers in the Harvest Strategy to respond to localised depletion or events, scaled quota unit conversion factors for some regions (i.e. each quota unit converts to less weight) or competitive TACC’s. The working group agreed to explore further opportunities and options to inform regional management in the context of the harvest strategy.

    Harvest strategy development

    The working group spent considerable time reviewing the draft harvest strategy.

    The working group discussed the following issues in relation to the draft harvest strategy approach:

    • Ensuring the objectives are appropriate for all sectors
    • The frequency of setting and reviewing total allowable commercial catch (TACC) and recreational in-possession limits
    • How and when the sectoral catch shares between the recreational/charter and commercial sectors would be calculated
    • Ensuring response is appropriate when biomass is lower, and measures to build stock abundance are effective and precautionary
    • Buffers to minimise drastic changes in TACC, but ensure response is scaled appropriately
    • Appropriate decision rules and biomass targets and corresponding and commensurate increases and decreases in both the commercial TACC and recreational in-possession limits
    • Avoiding ambiguous language and being clear on timeframes which will provide certainty to all stakeholders

    The working group discussed what an appropriate biomass target for coral trout might be, noting that it already exceeds the 60% biomass target objective under the Strategy. The uncertainty and error in the stock assessment is still being determined, and this should help inform how to incorporate the stock assessment results and yield estimates into the decision rules.

    For the red throat emperor and ‘other species’ (OS) quota categories the harvest strategy needs to ensure adequate control at the species level. The working group supported the concept of a species harvest reference that once reached would trigger stock assessment and a commercial allowable catch limit while the formal stock assessment is completed.

    The working group acknowledged the catch of saddletail snapper (also referred to as large mouth nannygai) would have been triggered if the harvest strategy proposed decision rules were in place. Further, on the basis that recreational catch of saddletail snapper likely exceeds that of the commercial sector, the working group agreed the adequacies of the existing combined recreational possession limits for crimson and saddletail snapper, should be reviewed up front in the draft harvest strategy.

    Other matters

    The working group received briefings and discussed a number of other matters including the following.

    • Data team provided an overview of changes to data collection for all commercial fisheries, such as making logbook requirements consistent across fisheries, recording accurate weights for all species at the end of a trip (catch disposal), and future app development.
    • Filleting was discussed in light of proposed changes to reporting at species level and the implications for the OS quota category.
    • Environmental risk assessment approach and the results of the assessment, including the next steps to review risks in detail as a working group.
    • Species biological monitoring activities, and activities to collect fish measurements, otolith samples and fish frames from recreational and commercial fishers to enhance stock assessment veracity.
    • State-wide recreational survey update, improved methodology and timeframes for delivering results.
    • Economic survey being conducted independently by BDO Econsearch.

    The next steps will be to develop draft harvest strategies for independent review, expert panel consideration and formal public consultation phase, prior to their being considered and approved ahead of the 2020/21 fishing season.

    At the conclusion of the meeting, the working group toured Kingdon Fisheries and the Australian Reef Fish Trading Company. Members appreciated the high level of professionalism and significant investment required to operate in the fishery, and the dedication and commitment of industry members as ambassadors for the Queensland industry.

    The Coral Reef Fin Fish Working Group members are: Fisheries Queensland (Chair- Eddie Jebreen), commercial fishing (Will Neil, Sean Stiff, Jake Kingdon, Chris Bolton) marketing/export (Jono Leahy, Michael Wakeling), recreational fishing (Dan Kaggelis, Jason Bradford, John Robinson), charter fishing (Soozi Wilson) and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (Darren Cameron), and Conservation sector (Simon Miller)

  • 31 March 2020

    The Reef Line Working Group met via video conference on 31 March 2020 as a result of changed working arrangements associated with COVID-19. The purpose of the working group meeting was to note the recommended final draft harvest strategy, the 2019 status of the fishery and apply the decision rules and other relevant information to provide recommendations for Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) setting for the 2020 and 2021 seasons for coral trout in accordance with the harvest strategy.

    The commercial industry members provided updates on the impact of COVID-19 on the fishing sector.  Export markets were impacted initially following the restrictions implemented in China in January 2020 which had flow on impacts to the domestic market.  This has been followed by restrictions implemented in Australia since March 2020 which has impacted on international flight availability for export and all domestic seafood markets. The commercial Industry appreciates the economic relief that is available however there is concern about the co-payment requirements given the financial uncertainty that will take at least 12 months to settle.  They also are finding it difficult to utilise a range of the COVID 19 business assistance measures, as fishing businesses generally operate with contract labour and shared revenue arrangements.  Fisheries Queensland advised that eligibility criteria is being updated from time to time and recommended people check back to see if these are helpful. Uncertainty, significant adjustments to traditional supply chains/markets and trying to adapt at a fast rate to keep businesses afloat remain a significant concern for Industry.  Some fishing is continuing.  It is likely that the export market will recover quicker than the domestic market. International flight ability will be critical for this fishery noting there will be continued price and trade pressures from the Chinese market in particular.

    The Charter member provided an update on impacts to charter fishing businesses.  Phased international and domestic travel restrictions have effectively tied charter vessels to the wharf and generated some significant financial issues.  Many pre-paid bookings are being cancelled for their usual operating season which is usually March to November. Charter fishers are facing similar issues accessing economic relief as they are not fitting the eligibility criteria and are looking for assistance in mooring fees, fuel subsidies, grants or easily accessible loans.  The GBRMPA member advised that the GBRMPA was considering a range of options to support the tourism industry with the Environmental Management Charge being waived for the remainder of the calendar year for tourism operators.  The Charter member asked whether this and similar measures could be extended to apply to the 2021 season to assist businesses reduce their operating cost during the expected business recovery period.

    The recreational fishing members advised that there is confusion as to whether they can go fishing or not with COVID-19 restrictions. Fisheries Queensland clarified that the advice is for Queenslanders to stay home to reduce the spread. Only, fishing to provide food for yourself or your family is permitted. For example, remote communities or individuals that rely on fishing as their primary food source. No more than two people should be on-board the boat unless they are members of the same household. Do not travel long distances to go fishing. If you cannot fish locally, then do not go. Members also advised that the tackle, broader marine service industry and tourism industry were impacted as a result of less people fishing due to movement restrictions.

    GBRMPA provided a quick update on the health of the Great Barrier Reef with recent reports of no, low, moderate and severe bleaching occurring in different areas of the Marine Park and directed fishers to view weekly Reef health updates on the GBRMPA websites. The extent of mortality from the bleaching event was not yet known but it is the third major bleaching event across the GBR in five years. Fisheries Queensland provided an update on the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy (the Strategy) and the working group noted that the second round of proposed regulatory amendments to implement the fisheries reforms are still to be considered by Government.  For the Reef Line Fishery there are a number of red tape reduction measures still subject to consideration.  The working group noted that they were outlined for progress in 2019 and were concerned that they had not yet been implemented.

    The working group noted the process and consultation undertaken to develop a final recommended harvest strategy for the Reef Line Fishery.  The Harvest Strategy aligns the fishery with the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy and meets key objectives to set sustainable catch limits based on achieving maximum economic yield (MEY), or a proxy of 60% biomass, establish decision rules for setting the TACC on a biennial basis and rules setting out when these decision rules should be departed from as well as other ‘triggers’ for management actions.

    The working group discussed and noted the results of consultation on the draft harvest strategy which was released for public consultation in December to January 2020.  Thirty seven formal responses were received, with mixed feedback.  Most unsupportive comments were found to be less about the harvest strategy itself and more around fisheries and regulatory reform (e.g. shark depredation, reform process). Generally stakeholders were supportive of the approach outlined in the harvest strategy.  A key change following consultation was to use a more universal approach that simplifies the TACC setting process and allows for a smoother transition across a range of target reference points known as the ‘hockey stick rule’ (i.e. for rebuilding a stock). The working group noted the final draft harvest strategy has been endorsed by the Expert Panel and is now subject to approvals in accordance with the Fisheries Act 1994.

    Fisheries Queensland provided a brief outline of the stock assessment undertaken for common coral trout, and explained a number of improvements to the process and model. This approach will now be used for all assessments of this stock for the next five years to ensure timely, repeatable and comparable stock assessment outputs. The working group noted the stock assessment estimated the spawning biomass for common coral trout at 59% of unfished levels with a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) of 1034 tonnes to build the stock back to 60% spawning biomass.  The coral trout quota group includes all species of coral trout caught in Queensland, with common coral trout accounting for the majority of the catch. To account for the other species of coral trout in the coral trout quota group TAC, the common coral trout TAC (1034) is scaled up by 4.5% resulting in a recommended TAC of 1081 tonnes for all coral trout species in Queensland for 2020/21.

    Applying the harvest strategy and taking into account the sectoral allocations (80% commercial and 20% recreational/charter, this would recommend a TACC of 865 tonnes and a total recreational harvest of 216 tonnes in 2020/21.  Fisheries Queensland advised that the harvest strategy also provides a maximum change of 200 tonnes and consideration of social and economic issues in making recommendations.  The working group noted that at 59% biomass there is a good level of sustainability for common coral trout and coral trout quota is expected to be significantly under caught in 2019/20 (current commercial catch is only 549 tonnes) as a result of COVID-19 impacts.

    The working group all agreed that the unprecedented impacts of COVID-19 need to be accounted for in setting the TACC.  The working group recommended no change to the TACC for the 2020-21 fishing season but made this recommendation on the basis it be reconsidered by the working group in 2021.  It was noted that the current estimate is based on data up to the end of 2019, which does not reflect the impacts of COVID-19 on the abundance of the stock. The working group members also recommended an updated stock assessment be provided to inform setting catch limits ahead of the 2021-22 fishing season.  The following concerns were also raised by members;

    • the need to better understand the TACC setting processes and how the stock assessment determines recommended catch levels particularly as the outcomes are critical to economic viability of the commercial operators;
    • implications of repeated coral bleaching events on the status of the stock; and
    • a commitment to implementing the harvest control rules with a 1 year delay, i.e a reduction to the TACC for the 2021/22 fishing season unless a revised stock assessment informs a different recommendation on setting the TACC for the 2021-22 fishing season.

    The working group noted five OS species (red emperor, spangled emperor, stripey snapper, gold band snapper and saddle tail snapper) and RTE were above the 20 tonne threshold and progressed for assessment against trigger II. After assessment against trigger II (1.5 X 2011-2015 avg.), no species were found to be above 20t and increased to more than 1.5 times above the historical average. As a result no further management action was deemed to be required.  In relation to catch triggers for the charter sector, two species, namely red throat emperor and tusk fish group, are greater than 20 tonnes, but none had experienced increases in harvest by greater than 30% from the previous calendar year and were deemed to require no further action.  There is no new data for the recreational sector and as a result no further action was deemed to be required.

    Fisheries Queensland advised that a revised stock assessment could account for changes in catch associated with COVID-19 and that we would work with the working group out-of-session on the next stock assessment. The working group noted the next meeting to consider TACC setting for the 2021-22 fishing season will occur in March 2021.  Noting, the working group requested a separate meeting before this to discuss in more detail, the science relevant for this fishery.

    The Coral Reef Fin Fish Working Group members are: Fisheries Queensland (Chair- Eddie Jebreen), commercial fishing (Will Neil, Sean Stiff, Jake Kingdon, Chris Bolton) marketing/export (Barry Dun, Michael Wakeling), recreational fishing (Dan Kaggelis, Jason Bradford, John Robinson), charter fishing (Soozi Wilson) and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (Darren Cameron), and Conservation sector (Simon Miller).

  • 22-23 April 2021

    The Reef Line Working Group met on 22-23 April 2021 in Cairns. This was the first meeting of the newly appointed working group. Former members were thanked for their contribution and new members were welcomed. The purpose of the working group meeting was to make a recommendation on the deferred harvest strategy decision for TACC setting for coral trout from 2020, provide recommendations for TAC setting for red throat emperor and to review the status and monitor the performance of the fishery based on 2020 data.

    Fisheries Queensland provided a broad update on the implementation of the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy 2017-2027, more specific reform changes for the reef line fishery and conditions associated with wildlife trade operation accreditation for the reef line fishery, which has recently been approved to 18 January 2024.

    Members were invited to provide a general update from their respective sectors. The commercial industry members provided updates on the impact of COVID-19 on the fishing sector. Export markets remain volatile and challenging. Increasing operation costs and little change in long-term beach price is generating concern about financial viability for fishing businesses. A combination of factors were raised that negatively influence confidence and wellbeing within the commercial fishing sector. Members agreed that the reef line fishery harvests a sustainable, line caught premium product and the industry is looking for support to promote the fishery both domestically and internationally to improve return on investment for participants. Industry welcomed the announcement of the vessel tracking working group and reiterated concern about ongoing costs and loss of productivity when units aren’t reliable.

    The Charter member provided an update on impacts to charter fishing businesses, stating that given their reliance on tourism, 2020 was effectively a write off for operators due to COVID-19 restrictions. With the reopening of domestic borders, the charter season in 2021 is flourishing, but relies on continued interstate tourism. The recreational fishing members noted that there has been more public interest in the management of Queensland’s fisheries, with mostly positive conversation about arrangements in place. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) and conservation members supported the position that the fishery is in a good place, and that support for continual improvement is still required to address some remaining concerns.

    Fisheries Queensland provided a 2020 calendar year update on the status of the fishery including revised standardised catch rates and harvest levels. The working group noted that while landings were slightly lower in 2020 than the 10-year (2011-2020) average, the impact of COVID-19 and disrupted domestic and international markets on harvest was less than expected.

    Fisheries Queensland provided a refresher on the stock assessment undertaken for common coral trout in 2020. The working group noted the stock assessment estimated the spawning biomass for common coral trout in 2019 to be 59% of unfished levels, resulting in a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) of 1 073 tonnes to rebuild the stock to 60% spawning biomass. The working group then discussed improvements to the TAC’s calculation process, in particular the transparent use and application of the recommended biological catch limit from the stock assessment, discount factors to account for uncertainty and the scaling factor to calculate an ‘all coral trout’ TAC. Based on the 2020 coral trout stock assessment and applying the harvest strategy decision rules a Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) of 858 tonnes was recommended, a 305 tonne reduction from the current TACC of 1163. Fisheries Queensland advised that the harvest strategy provides a maximum change rule of 200 tonnes, resulting in a final recommended TACC of 963 tonnes for the 2021-22 fishing season.

    Industry members noted concerns that the reduction in the recommended TACC comes from a new stock assessment model which shows a lower biomass estimate than the previous model and had significant concerns with the potential economic impact on quota lease price associated with large TACC changes. The working group acknowledged the deterioration in the economic conditions of the fishery and the impost on commercial fishers imposed by a reduction in the TACC, but recognised the importance of following the harvest strategy process. The working group members supported adopting the final recommended TACC of 963 tonnes for the 2021-22 fishing season.

    The working group agreed this would improve confidence in the management framework and the long-term sustainable outlook for the fishery. The working group then reviewed updated recreational and charter harvest estimates and noted that they were within the sector allocation decision rules, as such, no recreational or charter management changes were recommended. The working group noted this advice relates to the setting of the TACC for coral trout for the 2021/22 fishing season, and the working group will be asked to consider an updated stock assessment and provide advice on the coral trout TACC in 2022.

    Fisheries Queensland provided a presentation on the 2020 redthroat emperor (RTE) stock assessment. The working group noted the stock assessment estimated the spawning biomass for RTE to be at 72% of unfished levels in 2019, resulting in a TAC recommendation of 930 tonnes to fish down to the 60% biomass target. Applying the sectoral allocations in the harvest strategy, a TACC of 558 tonnes was recommended, a net reduction in the historic (2004) TACC of around 53 tonnes. The working group then reviewed updated recreational and charter harvest estimates and noted that they were well below the sectoral allocation in the harvest strategy, and as such supported no change to recreational or charter management. The working group recognised that while the commercial and charter representatives on the working group do not target RTE, adopting the harvest strategy process is important and supported adopting the final recommended TACC of 558 tonnes for the 2021-24 fishing seasons.

    Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol provided an update on fisheries and marine park compliance within the fishery, noting that compliance in the reef line fishery is generally good. GBRMPA also provided an update on compliance with marine park requirements, and the working group noted all sectors have had reported non-compliance issues with green zones and other fishing requirements within the marine park area. Working group members identified challenges with species identification, particularly for cod species, which can hinder compliance with fishing rules. The commercial sector identified that with vessel tracking now in place, a review of safe-anchorage requirements and clarification of zoning boundaries would assist the sector to be safer and more compliant. Industry members sought assistance from Fisheries Queensland to organise an out of session meeting with AMSA to discuss issues with marine safety and operational issues associated with line-of-sight restrictions on dories.

    Fisheries Queensland provided a presentation on the methodology and outcomes from the BDO social and economic indicators report for commercial and charter fisheries. The working group noted the social and economic indicators dashboard that is available on the department’s website is an important tool for businesses to view performance of the fishery. It was noted that the reef line fishery overall shows better performance compared to other Queensland fisheries, however, there are some businesses that are not working as efficiently as others. The recreational and charter members expressed the importance in measuring and comparing the social and economic information from the recreational and charter fisheries alongside the commercial sector information. The conservation member noted it is also important to obtain accurate information on exported product for this fishery, beyond initial point of sale, to highlight the importance of wildlife trade operation export accreditation to this fishery.

    All working group members agreed to the importance of this social and economic information in assessing the performance of the fishery, and when considering the economic impacts of management or other changes.  Members noted that survey participation from the reef line fishery was 19% and agreed they would encourage greater participation in future surveys. Fisheries Queensland said this will be particularly important to help measure and inform understanding the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Fisheries Queensland provided an update on the new standardised commercial fishing reporting requirements that will commence on 1 September 2021. The working group noted the primary change for the reef line fishery is the introduction of a pre-trip notice that is required before commencing a fishing trip. Working group members asked clarifying questions and appreciated the use of worked examples throughout the presentation.

    In considering the introduction of the TEP animal logbook, the conservation and GBRMPA member noted their concern that no take species that are not listed as TEP animals are not required to be reported in any logbook. Fisheries Queensland noted this will need to be discussed internally and will be added for discussion at the next working group meeting.

    The working group noted a presentation and update on the new commercial fishing smartphone application (the app). The app will cover a range of fisheries and is designed to encompass the new reporting requirements coming into effect from 1 September 2021. The app also provides functionality to check whether vessel tracking units are operating and manual reporting functionality if a unit fails at sea. The working group noted the app will evolve over time with additional fisheries and enhanced features added. Fisheries Queensland outlined that engagement with industry through development of the app is a big focus and is seeking working group input on an engagement strategy. The working group noted that the recreational fishing app was released late last year and has now been downloaded more than 20 000 times. Feedback has been positive and the app is undergoing continual improvements and updates.

    As part of general business, the working group discussed the following:

    • Following the recent release of the ‘Seaspiracy’ Netflix documentary, James Cook University and AMCS both published responses to the documentary. Industry asked whether Fisheries Queensland will also respond, noting it would provide support to industry and defend Fisheries Queensland’s management.
    • A Vessel Tracking Working Group has been established to help support the departments broad review of the implementation and administration of vessel tracking. The group is primarily an industry consultative body to provide operational advice throughout the departments 18-month review process.
    • Fisheries Queensland noted work is being undertaken into using vessel tracking data to validate and improve fisheries data and information (e.g. assisting in determining targeted effort, refining Fishery Monitoring survey areas and defining fishing footprints), and welcomes industry’s idea of value adding through using vessel tracking data.
    • There have been many requests throughout the meeting for government support in marketing and endorsing the reef line fishery and it was emphasised that industry has a large role to play in supporting and endorsing the fishery.
    • The working group noted that it would be useful to formally discuss and identify fishery research priorities in working group meetings. It was requested that members consider and keep track of research priority ideas and bring them to the working group meetings for tabling (e.g. shark depredation research).

    The next meeting will likely be an online meeting during the October spawning closure to discuss recreational fishing survey results and Wildlife Trade Operation conditions that are due to be reported on to the Commonwealth in mid-2022. The next TAC setting meeting will be in March 2022 when the fishery will return to scheduled decision making under the harvest strategy with an updated coral trout stock assessment.

    The Reef Line Working Group members are: Fisheries Queensland (Chair - Eddie Jebreen, Director (Management and Reform) – Kimberly Foster, Principal Fishery Manager – Tony Ham, Senior Fishery Manager – Ryan Keightley, Fisheries Manager – Chad Lunow), commercial fishing (Sean Stiff, Jake Kingdon, Chris Bolton, Susan Davenport) marketing/export (Barry Dun, Michael Wakeling), recreational fishing (Jason Bradford), charter fishing (Lynton Heffer) and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (Darren Cameron), conservation sector (Simon Miller) and external researcher (Prof. Morgan Pratchett).

  • 14-15 December 2021

    The Reef Line Working Group met on 14-15 December 2021 online. The purpose of the working group meeting was to review and provide advice on progress in meeting the wildlife trade operation (WTO) conditions for the fishery, research updates and to review the recent state-wide recreational fishing survey and fisheries economic and social indicators methods and results.

    Fisheries Queensland provided an update on the implementation of the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy (SFS), the release of the commercial fishing reporting application ‘eCatch’, noted stakeholder concerns with quota liquidity and increased catch of deep-water species.

    Commercial members cited concerns with coral trout quota availability and cost. Also, that the SFS reforms coupled with increased compliance, increased shark depredation, crewing issues and COVID-19 impacts, and rising fuel costs have made it a very difficult period for Industry. Volatility in export markets, competition from other international fisheries and aquaculture has remained a challenge. It was noted that there has been significant work and progress in developing a domestic fresh fish market. Members held divergent views on the challenging market for coral trout quota, including availability and prices, and the effect this is having on the operation and competitiveness of the industry more broadly.

    Members noted that Australian Marine Conservation Society are currently updating their ‘GoodFish’ sustainable seafood guide and that the recent reforms and harvest strategy implementation are positive and result in additional reef line species being included in the updated guide. An update on research on the effects of climate change on the fishery was noted and there is a push to better understand effects of target species on crown-of-thorns starfish.

    The charter member noted significant issues with shark depredation and is collaborating with researchers to quantify depredation in the charter sector and to trial mitigation options. Otherwise, the charter sector is looking forward to an increase in business demand with the opening of Queensland’s borders.

    The recreational fishing member advised that recreational fishers are eager to consider more scientific information about stock for which there are sustainability concerns. Generally recreational effort and fishing power is understood to be increasing, and recreational fishers are prepared to shoulder their share of the burden of future management changes to ensure ongoing sustainability of these stocks.

    GBRMPA provided an update on compliance and offences in the fishery including zoning non-compliance by commercial and recreational fishing sectors.

    The working group received a presentation from PhD candidate Kyle Hillcoat (JCU) on research on reproduction, barotrauma and size at maturity for saddletail snapper, finding regional variation across Queensland and inconsistency between the current minimum legal size and size at first maturity. An update was also provided on three ongoing shark depredation research projects including cooperation with some commercial and charter operators, as well as testing of two separate mobile apps for voluntary recording of shark depredation events.

    The working group discussed the range of conditions attached to the current WTO accreditation for the line fishery (reef). The conditions include requirements to review management arrangements and complete stock assessments for some ‘OS’ category species, collect additional data on non-retained species (including no-take/protected fish species) and an updated level 2 ecological risk assessment (ERA) for the Queensland Line Fishery (Reef). The working group considered results of the updated 2021/22 ERA which will be released this year. Members provided advice in relation to these matters, including general support for application of the reef line fishery harvest strategy and other management changes such as to possession, size and catch limits, to pursue the objectives of the harvest strategy and SFS. Further stakeholder input, including from the working group, may be sought prior to any potential management changes for these species. Stock assessments have been undertaken for saddletail and crimson snapper and these will be considered through the harvest strategy process at the next working group meeting. Measures to mitigate high risk species identified in the ERA will also be discussed at the next meeting.

    The working group noted the release of reports on fisheries economic and social indicators for the commercial, charter and recreational fishing sectors. Members noted the next available data will be for the 2020 financial year and will include investigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Comparing indicators between the different fishing sectors and updating the interactive dashboard will also be a priority. Members were also presented methodology and results of the state-wide recreational fishing survey 2019-20 and boat ramp surveys, including answering frequently asked questions regarding concerns about bias and participation.

    As part of general business:

    • membership on the working group was discussed, in particular challenges in recruiting new members and achieving representation across different sectors of the fishery,
    • commercial members reiterated the cumulative impacts of reforms and other changes (e.g. EPBC Act, WTO conditions, market access, marine park constraints) in the commercial fishery and the significant challenges are driving changes in the industry and affecting mental health and wellbeing, and
    • the working group further discussed current challenges and competition within the reef line quota market, particularly coral trout. Some working group members requested consideration by Government on whether the current market is adequately providing competitive and fair access to quota and in pursuing the objectives of the fishery. Fisheries Queensland will provide the working group information that is available on quota trading, including some analysis of historical trends.

    The next meeting will be held in February/March 2022 to include reviews of new stock assessments for coral trout, red emperor, crimson snapper and saddletail snapper and consideration of decision rules in line with the harvest strategy for these species.

  • 17-18 March 2022

    The Reef Line Working Group met on 17-18 March 2022 in Cairns. The purpose of the working group meeting was to review the 2022 coral trout stock assessment and make recommendations for total allowable catch (TAC) setting in line with the reef line fishery harvest strategy, as well as reviewing new stock assessments and discuss future management options for saddletail snapper, crimson snapper and red emperor.

    Fisheries Queensland provided an update including the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy 2017-2027 (SFS) reform progress and urgent management action and harvest strategy development for the east coast Spanish mackerel fishery, and noted some members held concerns with proposed Spanish mackerel changes and the impact this will have across fisheries.

    In the members update, Commercial members cited broad concerns for the future of the reef line industry, particularly noting crewing issues, increasing operational costs, closure of the export market, beach price, quota trading and lease price, and impacts from extreme weather events.

    The recreational member noted sectoral concerns and interest regarding the Spanish mackerel fishery and the future management of other recreationally important species (e.g. saddletail snapper). The recreational member also noted that fisher satisfaction is decreasing, particularly when fishing inshore, and fishers are shifting effort to offshore areas to seek the same level of fishing satisfaction.

    GBRMPA stated that illegal recreational fishing is the most common offence in the marine park. Vessel tracking continues to be a key tool for monitoring commercial sector compliance in combination with on water and air surveillance. GBRMPA also provided an update on heat stress on the reef, and surveys to investigate coral bleaching are underway. QBFP noted there has recently been a number of new QBFP officers appointed across Queensland and in the region, and QBFP are continuing an educational approach with new reforms that came into place from 1 September 2021.

    The conservation member noted the Australian Marine Conservation Society ‘GoodFish’ sustainable seafood guide update is near completion, and that harvest strategy implementation has improved results for a number of reef line species. The member further noted that climate change and heat stress on the reef is a focus of the conservation sector noting the broader implications on the fishery.

    Fisheries Queensland presented the methodology, data and outputs from the 2022 common coral trout assessment, noting this is the fourth assessment of this stock. The assessment builds on previous assessments that estimated the stock was at 60%, 68% and 59% of unfished biomass in 2012, 2019 and 2020 respectively. At the beginning of 2022, the stock level was estimated to be 60% (50–70% range across the 95% confidence interval) of unfished spawning biomass.

    Commercial members expressed concern that stock assessment results changed significantly over a short period over time (68% in 2019 to 59% in 2020), particularly how this looks to industry in relation to confidence in the stock assessments and management. Commercial members were also concerned that expected increases in recreational effort since 2019 are not reflected in the assessments projected harvest for the sector. Fisheries Queensland noted the data used is the best available information, and explained that an increase in recreational harvest in 2020 and 2021 would not influence the estimated 2022 biomass ratio result significantly. Members also held concerns regarding the magnitude of estimated dead discards, and suggested it does not reflect actual discarding behaviour, post capture mortality and depredation. Fisheries Queensland noted that improvements to discard information is a recommendation from the stock assessment report. Commercial members expressed a desire for involvement in the stock assessment development processes to provide expert industry advice on stock assessment inputs, which was supported by Fisheries Queensland.

    Members were presented the harvest strategy TAC setting process for coral trout using the outputs from the 2022 stock assessment, resulting in a proposed total allowable commercial catch (TACC) for the 2022-23 and 2023-24 fishing seasons of 912 tonnes. Members noted this is a net reduction to the current 2021-22 TACC of 51 tonnes, however, is less than the expected reduction of 105 tonnes required from the 2020 stock assessment following application of the large change limiting rule in 2021. Fisheries Queensland presented the recreational and charter decision rule for coral trout. The recreational and charter harvest estimate for 2021 was 191.5 tonnes, below the trigger level of 285 tonnes, meaning no management action is required. Members again expressed concern that recreational catch estimate does not reflect the recent increase in effort during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Members noted the assessment is indicating an increase in the recommended biological catch (RBC) from the last assessment, and the stock is at the target biomass of 60%, and many members explained it is difficult to understand why the harvest strategy decision rules recommend a reduction to the TACC. Fisheries Queensland explained that this reduction is required in line with the harvest strategy due to the application of the large change limiting rule in 2021 and to maintain the stock at 60% biomass.

    Commercial members and the Indigenous fishing member did not support a reduction to the TACC noting the impact on a sector that is already struggling with significant cumulative impacts and pressures across fisheries, including possible changes to ‘other regulated coral reef fin fish’ (OS) quota group and Spanish mackerel management. Commercial and marketing members noted that any reduction would result in a further increase to quota lease price on top of increasing operational costs. Commercial members also expressed frustration that quota unit fees do not decrease with quota unit value (kg) and requested that quota unit fees are reduced in line with any decrease in TACC. Commercial members also stated that 60% is a conservative target, and when a species is at the target reference point the harvest strategy shouldn’t be as sensitive to changes in RBC. Commercial members noted concern that the harvest strategy recommends changes to the TACC, but not to recreational limits, noting uncertainty in the recreational information in the assessment.

    The recreational and conservation members recognised the difficulties faced by the commercial sector, however supported following the harvest strategy decision rules. The conservation member noted their support for the 60% target reference point to ensure long term resilience-and avoiding localised depletion. The conservation member also emphasised a need to improve the data inputs incorporated into the stock assessment such as contemporary discard data and more regular and improved recreational catch information.

    The GBRMPA member supported continued management aimed to deliver the 60% target reference point and the need to follow the harvest strategy process, however noted the impacts and current difficulties faced by industry and the current healthy stock biomass estimate. The GBRMPA member advised that not adhering to the recommended harvest strategy reduction of 51 tonnes at this time would not likely compromise the ecological health of the Great Barrier Reef.

    Fisheries Queensland presented the methodology, data and outputs from the stock assessments for saddletail snapper, crimson snapper and red emperor, noting these are the first assessments for these species which are managed under the OS ITQ category. Biomass estimates for these species (and the range of outputs from modelled scenarios) were presented as 26% (12-81%), 44% (21-45%) and 58 (56-65%) respectively. Members indicated that they had expressed sustainability concerns regarding saddletail snapper in the past.

    Fisheries Queensland requested advice from members on appropriate ways to address new information and assessments on OS quota group species. The working group was asked to provide advice on whether the three OS species assessed should be classified as secondary or target species in this fishery. Commercial members explained that these are primarily secondary species, but there are some areas of Industry that focus effort on these species, in particular saddletail snapper and red emperor. The recreational and charter members explained that these species are regularly targeted in their sectors.

    The working group provided advice on options to consider for future consultation on the management of these species, including:

    • species specific recreational in possession limits in place of the current combined possession limit.
    • increasing the minimum legal size (MLS) informed by species biological information and size at maturity.
      • members stated this may increase total discard mortality, and should be combined with education on responsible fishing practices and handling and other voluntary or mandatory measures such as release weights/venting tools, use of circle hooks etc.
      • members also suggested a consistent MLS could apply across the three species which would assist with fisher compliance and understanding.
    • consideration of a seasonal closure as an alternative to increasing minimum legal size due to post release mortality and depredation concerns.
    • reallocation of individual Transferable Quota (ITQ) units for these species, recommended as a preferred approach by the commercial sector, noting that reallocation of an existing ITQ is difficult, and reallocation criteria, legal implications and impacts would need careful consideration.
    • species specific competitive TACCs within the OS ITQ group, which was not supported by commercial members, noting concerns for a race to fish where the TACCs could be fully caught early in the season resulting in increased discards later in the season.

    The working group noted that Fisheries Queensland will aim to develop a discussion paper based on this advice for working group consideration and broader consultation in mid/late 2022, with an aim to implement any changes by 1 July 2023.

    The next meeting will be held in June/July 2022 to include further discussion regarding OS species management options and deep water species management.

  • 13 July 2022

    The Reef Line Fisheries Working Group met on 13 July 2022 via teleconference. The main purpose of the working group meeting was to review management arrangements for banded rockcod (or bar cod, Epinephelus ergastrularius), and other relevant deep water species.

    Fisheries Queensland provided an update including Sustainable Fisheries Strategy 2017-2027 (SFS) reform progress, TACC status within the Reef Line fishery, and consultation for the east coast Spanish mackerel fishery.

    In the members update, commercial members cited broad concerns for the future of the reef line industry, particularly noting increasing operational costs, such as fuel and the primary export market remaining closed. The potential development of alternative markets within Australia was raised, noting that the GoodFish Sustainable Seafood Guide reflects the actions of the Reef Line fishery well. The charter representative also noted increasing costs such as fuel, but with the ability to pass on increased costs to the consumer. They also noted their involvement with a 12 month depredation research project is now underway, with early results coming in. Members noted the need for improved recreational reporting to better capture effort within the fishery.

    Working group members noted that the Reef line fishery harvest strategy decision rule 2.3, for secondary and byproduct species, had been triggered for banded rockcod. The decision rule triggers implementation of an interim competitive Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) limit of 2 times the reference period catch level (24.7 tonnes), and requires a stock assessment to be undertaken to inform the appropriate catch levels for this species. Members also noted previous concern from both the Reef Line and Rocky Reef workings groups, the Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol and other stakeholders about increasing recreational fishing effort towards larger, long-lived deep water species and an increased risk of black marketing.

    The working group supported the implementation of management actions, triggered by decision rule 2.3. The working group members present at the meeting supported the introduction of a combined recreational possession limit across deep water species including (the working group recommended these deep water species: banded rockcod (Epinephelus ergastrularius), eightbar cod (Epinephelus octofasciatus), bass groper (Polyprion americanus), comet grouper (Epinephelus morrhua), hapuku (Polyprion oxygeneios), blue-eye trevalla (Hyperoglyphe antarctica), ocean blue-eye trevalla (Schedophilus velaini), speckled grouper (Epinephelus magniscuttis), flametail snapper (Etelis coruscans), goldband snapper (Pristipomoides multidens and P. typus) and ruby snapper (P. filamentosus). Agreed consultation after the meeting with members not present identified that the recreational fishing member did not support the proposed recreation reduction limit for a list of deep water species while commercial fishing pressure on these species is allowed to continue unabated until a trigger point of 20 tonnes and twice the historical catch is reached. It was their view that while a precautionary approach is definitely warranted, that responsibility needs to be shared equitably across all sectors. The recreational member stressed all the species discussed here are currently captured under the basket “OS quota” species category for commercial fishers. The recreational member also acknowledged that deep water species are likely to be coming under increased pressure from all sectors and a possession limit of 20, for species previously without a limit, seems excessive for some species such as blue-eye trevalla, and should be reviewed urgently.

    Members encouraged Fisheries Queensland to improve recreational catch reporting through the use of an app or altering boat ramp survey techniques. Agreed consultation after the meeting with members not present identified that the recreational member was concern that any mandatory reporting requirements be administered in a reasonable way considering the different nature of the fishing experience, use of mobile phones at sea and familiarity of some fishers with the technology. The working group noted that changes  would need to be released for public consultation before any decision was made.

    The next meeting is expected in October/November 2022.

    The Reef line working group members are: Fisheries Queensland (Fill in Chair – Kimberly Foster, Senior Fishery Manager – Jeffrey Ikin, Fishery manager - Chad Lunow, QBFP – Tony Loader), commercial fishing (Sean Stiff, Susan Davenport and Chris Bolton), recreational fishing (Jason Bradford), indigenous (John Dorante), charter (Lynton Heffer), seafood marketing (Barry Dun and Michael Wakeling), conservation (Simon Miller), research (Prof. Morgan Pratchett) and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (Darren Cameron). Apologies for this meeting were: Susan Davenport, Jason Bradford, John Dorante and Michael Wakeling. Please note: The recreational fisher member and charter fishing provided their comments after the meeting through agreed consultation and their feedback has been included in the communique.

  • 27 April 2023

    The Reef Line Fisheries Working Group met on 27 April 2023 at Cairns. The main purpose of the working group meeting was to provide opportunity for stakeholder feedback, and to provide the members with updates on the fishery status, harvest strategy decisions, Wildlife Trade Operation (WTO) conditions and ongoing research. Fisheries Queensland also provided an update including Sustainable Fisheries Strategy 2017-2027 (SFS) reform progress, the working group membership expression of interest process, and will be publishing indicative closure dates for the coral reef fin fish and Spanish mackerel closures in the near future.

    In the members update, the recreational member discussed the desire for artificial reefs, but noted difficulty with implementing this within the Great Barrier Reef. Fisheries Queensland have lodged a submission to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority for their review regarding artificial reefs and fish aggregating devices. The recreational member also raised concern from their sector regarding the collection of coral, and the possibility for localised pressure in the Mackay region. Commercial members again noted cumulative increases in operational costs, and difficulty in attracting and retaining crew members. Shark depredation was also raised as an ongoing issue. The commercial fishing sector is still seeking feedback on linking unit value to quota fees. The conservation member raised the Report on the Great Barrier Reef Reactive Monitoring Mission priority recommendation to accelerate the implementation of the SFS, and the importance on continuing to implement the harvest strategy. The research member provided an update on recent and relevant research to the reef line fishery, including FRDC project 2018-034. All members recognised the significant increase in recreational fishing effort and capacity regarding reef line fishery species and the need to urgently obtain more comprehensive data.

    From 1 July 2023, the following management arrangements are expected to be implemented via regulation amendment:

    • The total allowable commercial catch (TACC) for coral trout will be set at 912 t (51 t reduction).
    • A prescribed commercial catch (PCC) to be implemented for bar rockcod of 2x historic average (24.67 t).
    • Additional reef fin fish closure dates for 2024 onwards.

    The commercial fishing industry members expressed concerns around the 51 t reduction for coral trout given the repeated under-catch of the TACC noting concerns the decrease will further increase financial constraints on industry.

    Commercial harvest of all other species (OS) was reviewed against the harvest strategy decision rules. Five OS species were above the 20 t threshold (red emperor, spangled emperor, stripey snapper, gold band snapper and saddletail snapper). Bar rockcod is expected to cross the 20 t limit as more logbook data is processed. No species were above the 2x historic average, and only bar rockcod was found to be in excess of 1.5x historic average. As bar rockcod was triggered previously against the 2x historic average, and a PCC is expected to be introduced from 1 July 2023, no further action is currently required. Recreational and charter harvest were reviewed against the decision rules in the harvest strategy. Charter decision rule 3.6 was triggered, reviewed and no further action was necessary as the rule was triggered due to reduced catch during the COVID-19 period and has since started recovering.

    Working group members noted progress towards meeting WTO conditions under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The WTO permitting export expires 18 January 2024. The reassessment submission will be sent 6 months prior to the expiry date (mid July 2023). WTO Condition 5 was discussed regarding non-retained catch monitoring, and possible solutions such as a discard verification program and including non-retained catch in the Qld eFisher app. Further discussion is required.

    Fisheries Queensland presented an update on the Qld eFisher logbook reporting App. Filleting operations can now use eFisher for their reporting. Fisheries Queensland are looking to understand what barriers may be hindering industry uptake of the app and commercial fishers noted concerns around its use. Fisheries Queensland committed to providing support for commercial fishers who want to use the app.

    An update was provided on the integrated monitoring and reporting (IMR) portfolio. This work aims to provide information to traditional owners, management, stakeholders, and policy makers about the status and trends of nearshore and offshore fish communities and draw this information together to develop indicators of fish status and trend, and how they are tracking towards the goals in the Reef 2050 plan. The three main sampling components are inshore fringing reef monitoring, coastal nursery habitat monitoring, and deep water inter reef monitoring. The deep water inter reef monitoring is attempting to gather monitoring information on important fishery species like saddletail and crimson snapper, red emperor and coral trout. Initial results are expected later in 2023. This data could be useful to supplement stock assessments.

    Fisheries Queensland provided an update on the BDO EconSearch social and economic report for fisheries for the 2021 financial year. Economic and social indicators provide valuable information to everyone about the benefits of fishing for regional communities. Key economic indicators for different fisheries for the four financial years (2018 to 2021) are available in an online dashboard. The data provided for these surveys to BDO is kept confidential and Fisheries Queensland only receives aggregated data which can not be linked to individual businesses. BDO EconSearch has been asked to collect this information from fishers for the 2022 and 2023 financial years and are seeking participation from industry. Initial meetings have been held with Fisheries Queensland, and BDO is scheduled to begin contacting fishers in May/June 2023.

    The next reef line working group meeting is expected in October / November 2023.

    The Reef line working group members are: Fisheries Queensland (Acting Chair – Sam Williams (Director Assessment and Monitoring), A/ Principal Fishery Manager – Jeffrey Ikin, Fishery manager - Chad Lunow, QBFP – Tony Loader), commercial fishing (Sean Stiff, Susan Davenport and Chris Bolton), recreational fishing (Jason Bradford), indigenous (John Dorante), charter fishing operators (Lynton Heffer), seafood marketing (Barry Dun), conservation (Simon Miller), research (Prof. Morgan Pratchett) and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (Darren Cameron). Apologies for this meeting were: Lynton Heffer, John Dorante and Darren Cameron. Observers for this meeting were: Dallas D’Silva (Executive Director) and Alex Campbell (Manager, Stock Assessment).

Terms of reference

The Queensland Government is committed to ensuring fisheries resources are managed in a sustainable and responsible manner that recognises the interests of all Queenslanders. An important part of fisheries management is stakeholder engagement through working groups.

Working groups provide advice within the scope of this terms of reference, which is considered alongside advice, information and requirements from Fisheries Queensland, the Sustainable Fisheries Expert Panel and other government agencies, as well as feedback from public consultation. Collectively, this informs decisions on the management of our fisheries.

Queensland’s reef line fishery consists of an iconic commercial, recreational and charter fishery that targets a range of bottom-dwelling reef fish by line or spear. A number of species are also important to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The fishery operates predominantly in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, with commercial and charter operators generally using smaller tender boats (dories) independent of a primary vessel.

The primary commercial target in the reef line fishery is coral trout for live export, with operators retaining red throat emperor and a wide range of tropical snappers (Lutjanidae), sweetlips (Lethrinidae), cods (Serranidae) and other coral reef species. While the live export is an important aspect of the fishery, it also supplies a range of coral reef fish species to domestic markets. This is a dynamic and complex fishery, with some operators also targeting inter-reefal or deeper water species such as saddletail snapper (Lutjanus malabaricus), red emperor (Lutjanus sebae), goldband snapper (Pristopomoides multidens) and many others. In these instances, the fish are processed at sea and do not form part of the live-trade market.

The commercial reef line fishery is one of Queensland’s most valuable fisheries given the high-value of the export component of the fishery. A range of management arrangements are in place, including limited commercial access and an individual transferable quota system with reporting requirements and vessel tracking, size limits, recreational possession limits, several no-take species, gear restrictions and 2 annual 5-day spawning closures coinciding with moon phases in October and November.

Purpose of the working group

The working group will provide advice on the operational aspects of the management of the reef line fishery.


  1. To assist with implementation, including advice on management options and fishing rules, consistent with the Reef line harvest strategy: 2020–2025, the Queensland harvest strategy policy and the Fisheries Act 1994.
  2. To provide general advice to Fisheries Queensland on any operational matters, emerging issues and general management of Queensland’s reef line fishery.

Working group roles

The role of working group members is to:

  • provide operational advice to Fisheries Queensland on particular fisheries management options and fishing methods
  • assist with the implementation of harvest strategies
  • consider information and provide advice on fisher performance (e.g. catch rates, fishing power)
  • assist with identifying ways to best manage the broader ecosystem impacts of fishing
  • provide advice on emerging issues (e.g. compliance, data, legislation, research) and meeting Wildlife Trade Operation approval conditions under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999
  • disseminate factual information back to a broad range of other stakeholders in the fishery and provide other stakeholders’ feedback to the working group for discussion.

The role of Fisheries Queensland is to:

  • provide direction for working groups in the form of a work program
  • arrange meeting times and provide logistical support for meetings
  • prepare and distribute meeting materials to support the effective operation of the working group
  • provide information and data to support the work of the working group
  • provide a point of communication between the working group, other working groups and the Sustainable Fisheries Expert Panel in accordance with each terms of reference
  • maintain communication with the working group members at least every 3 months.

Obligations and responsibilities of members

Being a working group member has important obligations and responsibilities. In accepting the appointment, members must be prepared to:

  1. contribute knowledge of, and experience in, Queensland’s fisheries
  2. consult with stakeholder peers through port-level or regional associations and networks, representative bodies and other avenues as necessary to ensure as many stakeholder views as possible are considered as part of working group discussions – members will be asked to report on broader views, not just their view as a member, including how the feedback was gathered and who it represents
  3. constructively participate in discussions to achieve acceptable outcomes
  4. respect the views expressed by other members
  5. act in the best interests of the fishery as a whole, rather than as an advocate for any particular individual, organisation, interest group or regional interest
  6. avoid pursuing personal agendas or self-interest, and participate in discussion in an objective and impartial manner
  7. promptly advise the Chair in writing (or announce at the start of a meeting) of any conflict-of-interest issues that arise, including those that may be perceived by others or have the potential be a conflict, subsequent to appointment
  8. conduct themselves in a manner that is consistent with the Queensland community’s expectations for reasonable conduct at all times – this requires a commitment to honest, fair and respectful engagement, including showing respect towards all persons involved in working group business.

Unreasonable behaviour will not be accepted. An appointed member may be removed from a meeting or in the case of serious and/or repetitive conduct removed from a working group if their conduct is contrary to the role, obligations or responsibilities as a working group member.

In either circumstance, the appointed Chair will provide a verbal warning if unreasonable behaviour is displayed at a meeting. Following this, the Chair has discretion to remove a person from the meeting. A record should be made in the meeting notes. If the unreasonable behaviour is displayed at a number of meetings and/or associated with working group business outside a meeting, the appointed Chair will write to the member to provide an opportunity to remedy the behaviour. If there is no change in behaviour or remedy, the Chair will refer the matter to the Executive Director, Fisheries Queensland, for formal review of the member’s membership.

Unreasonable behaviour includes abusive, threatening and other behaviours that may also become ‘unreasonable’ when, because of its nature or frequency it raises health, safety, resource or equity issues for those participating in the working group or others engaging with working group business.

Abusive behaviour is defined as directed at the individual, including foul, racist, sexist or demeaning language. Aggressive behaviour includes angry outbursts, which although not directly or explicitly threatening, are in an intimidating tone and intensity. Threatening behaviour is specific or explicit statements that a reasonable person would interpret as a real and serious communication of an intent to inflict harm on the person receiving the call or another person, or employees of the organisation in general, or to inflict damage or take other hostile action against departmental or meeting location property.

Other actions or behaviours which may, depending on the circumstances, be considered unreasonable conduct include unrelenting/repetitive contact (excessive contact, refusing to accept an outcome, lodging the same claim over again), demanding conduct (demanding a different outcome, demanding impossible, impractical disproportionate outcomes), unreasonable lack of cooperation (withholding or providing incomplete information, intentionally providing overwhelming volumes of information) and unreasonable arguments (argumentative or irrational conduct, conspiracy allegations, making vexatious complaints).

Meeting administration

The operation of the working group will consist of regular meetings via online meeting platforms (i.e. Microsoft Teams) or in person where resources allow.

Fisheries Queensland will prepare the agenda, including an opportunity at the start of each meeting for members to raise concerns, and supporting documents 14 days ahead of each meeting. Review of these documents will be required prior to the meeting in order to participate effectively.

The appointed Chair will manage the meeting according to the agenda, review status of action items from previous meetings, ensure a summary and actions for each agenda item are recorded and a communique for the meeting is prepared. The Chair will also address any conflicts of interest and manage the conduct of all members and observers present at the meeting.

Fisheries Queensland will publish the communique online within 3 days of the meeting and notify other stakeholders of its publication. Within 14 days of the meeting, Fisheries Queensland will prepare meeting notes and circulate them to members, allowing 14 days for member comments before being finalised. Where required, action items will be followed up by Fisheries Queensland to seek to resolve them and any operational issues tabled by the working group ahead of the following meeting.

Sensitive information and non-disclosure

Some information that is sensitive in nature is provided to working group members to enable them to provide the best advice to Fisheries Queensland on the specific fishery. Given this, members may be asked to:

  • exercise tact and discretion when dealing with sensitive issues – if a member is unsure or concerned about the disclosure to non-members, the member must seek advice from the Chair
  • act honestly and exercise care and diligence in the discharge of their duties at all times and not make improper use of working group information – improper use would be if a member gains an advantage either directly or indirectly (financial or otherwise) over another person or causes detriment to the working group’s work or to another person
  • not publish or communicate to any person, that they are not authorised to publish or communicate, any information that comes to their knowledge or possession because they are a member of the working group.

If sensitive information is used as part of a working group meeting, Fisheries Queensland will advise working group members to help them comply with these requirements.

Conflict of interest

A conflict of interest occurs when private interests interfere, or appear to interfere, with the performance of official duties. All members must perform their role/contribute in a fair and unbiased way, ensuring that decisions made are not impacted by self-interest, private affiliations, or the likelihood of gain or loss for them or others. Private interests include personal, professional or business interests, as well as the interests of individuals that you associate with, such as family, dependants and friends.

Conflicts of interest fall into 3 categories – actual (there is a direct conflict between your current duties and your existing private interests), potential (your role and private interests could conflict in the future) and perceived (it could appear that your private interests could improperly influence the performance of your role). Conflicts of interest can be pecuniary (if there is a reasonable likelihood of financial loss or gain) or non-pecuniary (if there is no financial component, but may involve self-interest, personal or family relationships or other affiliations).

All conflicts of interest (actual, potential and perceived) must first be identified and declared to the Chair. Steps can then be taken to appropriately manage and resolve the matter in the public interest. Having a conflict of interest alone is not considered misconduct. However, it is important that members are open about the conflict of interest, how the conflict of interest is managed and ensuring a conflict of interest is resolved in the public interest. Once reported, the Chair will then make an assessment about what action, if any, is required to manage the conflict of interest. Members must actively participate in the process to manage or resolve conflicts of interest in the public interest and adhere to all agreed resolution strategies. If the circumstances of a member change, they should consider whether this brings about any new conflicts of interest, or changes to an existing conflict of interest.

Sitting fees

Participation on the working group is on a voluntary basis – no sitting fees will be paid.

Travel costs

Members are eligible to be reimbursed for reasonable out-of-pocket expenses, including domestic travel and accommodation costs.


Fisheries Queensland appoints members to working groups. Unless notified and agreed, membership will be refreshed every 2 years to allow for rotation of different representatives and development of new industry leaders.

Sam Williams Chair Fisheries management (Fisheries Queensland)
Chad Lunow Fishery manager (FQ) Fisheries management (Fisheries Queensland)
Craig Bambling Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol Fisheries management (Fisheries Queensland)
Darren Cameron Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Environment
Zack Deguara Commercial fisher Harvest
Sean Stiff Commercial fisher Harvest
Susan Davenport Commercial fisher Harvest
Mathew Hubbard Commercial fisher and charter fishing Harvest
Tamara Squillari Indigenous & commercial fishers Harvest
Cameron Weir Charter fishing business operator Harvest
Vacancy Charter fishing Harvest
Jason Bradford Recreational fisher Harvest
Jason Bird Recreational fisher Harvest
Sarah Standen Recreational fisher Harvest
Tahlia White Recreational fisher Harvest
Simon Miller Conservation Conservation
Dennis Fay Indigenous representative Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
Barry Dun Seafood processor or wholesaler Post-harvest
To be advised To be advised Observers