Rocky reef fishery working group

The rocky reef fishery is an important commercial, recreational and charter fishery, which predominantly targets snapper. Other key secondary species include pearl perch, teraglin, and cobia.


  • 18-19 September 2018

    The rocky reef fishery working group met for the first time in Brisbane over 18 and 19 September 2018.

    The working group talked about their aspirations for the rocky reef fishery and reflected on past experiences and management initiatives.

    The working group was provided with an overview of the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy 2017-2027 (the Strategy). The members discussed the key policy objectives and how their input will be used to shape the future management of the rocky reef fishery.

    Fisheries Queensland provided the working group with an overview of the current status of the fishery. Limitations with the current estimates of recreational harvest were noted. The working group noted that improvements are needed and could be achieved by exploring alternatives and novel approaches to data collection and technological advancements.

    The working group noted the recent stock assessment results for snapper, which showed the biomass was between 10−45% of original unfished biomass (as low as 10−23% in Queensland) and noted there has been no rebuilding of snapper stocks in Queensland, despite management changes put in place in 2011.  More than half of the total harvest is estimated to be taken by recreational fishers (including charter).  All fishing sectors identified shark depredation and discard mortality as key issues.

    Members noted that there was uncertainty in the assessment, but agreed that there was an issue with snapper stocks. Some members felt that it wasn’t as bad as the assessment suggested, but all members still agreed there was a need to take action to recover the stock.  While the assessment has uncertainty, the working group noted that there are other signals that the stock is in a poor condition, including relatively low numbers of juvenile snapper (less than one year old) in Moreton Bay recruitment surveys, particularly since 2013, and a shift in age classes with more younger fish and fewer older fish in samples.

    The working group agreed to the following principles for reform in snapper and pearl perch management:

    • There is a need to take action to rebuild the stocks. Doing nothing is not an option.
    • A harvest strategy should fairly apply to all sectors
    • All sectors may need to take a reduction to help recovery
    • Changes need to be fair and equitable between sectors
    • Options needs to be practical, effective, reasonable and enforceable
    • The aim should be to see the stock start to recover and aim for 40% of unfished biomass initially rather than the 60% biomass target
    • Effective monitoring of all sectors’ harvest will be needed
    • There needs to be strong public engagement and wider consultation
    • Need to work with NSW to ensure the whole stock is managed appropriately.

    The working group acknowledged that the productivity may be affected by environmental factors like river flow, decreasing water quality, coastal habitat loss, and pollution events, and the working group was keen to use the working group process to advocate better environmental outcomes across government. It was also noted that snapper and pearl perch in Queensland are at the edge of their range distribution, so climate change effects will always be a challenge for managing the stocks.

    The working group also reviewed the pearl perch stock assessment which estimated the biomass to be between 15−40% of unfished biomass levels. Standardised catch rates have declined by 50% in last ten years, indicating that stocks are continuing to decline.  The working group noted that while the catch was relatively low, that some action will likely be needed to help recover the stock.

    The working group discussed the Queensland Harvest Strategy Policy and Guideline. The members noted that a harvest strategy would provide more certainty by outlining predetermined management actions based on agreed indicators for fishery performance. The working group discussed how increases in stock biomass (rebuild) and ‘good’ fishing years could be accessed in the future. The working group discussed how triggers could be applied to other non-target species caught in the fishery to pick up changes in trends.

    The working group members discussed current issues in the rocky reef fishery, and agreed on an initial set of fishery objectives that included:

    1. Transition from ‘overfished’ to ‘recovering’ for snapper and pearl perch
    2. Reduce fishing mortality to rebuild snapper and pearl perch stocks to 40% unfished biomass over time
    3. Reduce discard mortality, and reduce bycatch in other fisheries
    4. Restore and maintain habitats and water quality
    5. Improve certainty for commercial fishers, diversified businesses and profitability
    6. Ensure flexible management
    7. Provide business certainty for charter operators
    8. Improve satisfaction of recreational fishers and charter clients
    9. Minimise localised depletion
    10. Reduce latent effort in commercial and charter sectors
    11. Improve education and compliance

    The working group confirmed that the appropriate management unit for the rocky reef fishery continue to be at the species level in all Queensland waters given the species are mostly single stocks across Queensland.

    The working group discussed the range of management options, noting that the Strategy preferences quota where possible. The group noted the pros and cons of a range of options and recommended that Fisheries Queensland further analyse the following options for consideration and consultation with the wider community:


    • Create a new rocky reef (RR) symbol to limit the number of line fishers accessing rocky reef species
    • Total allowable commercial catch (TACC) allocated through Individual Transferable Quota for key species – snapper and possibly pearl perch
    • TACC for other species and/or watch/monitor through triggers in the harvest strategy (e.g. if catch increases or stock assessment shows concerns)
    • Explore making all rocky reef fish species line only commercial fishing (noting net harvest is very minor component currently)
    • The commercial sector supported moving to quota, but only if the recreational catch was constrained and reduced commensurate to the commercial sector and monitored effectively.


    • Consider the effectiveness of size limit increases for snapper and pearl perch
    • Consider spawning area closures (if key areas and times can be identified)
    • Set a catch limit for recreationally caught snapper
      • consider free harvest tags to manage to a limit (will also assist with black marketing)
      • consider other options to monitor compliance with catch limit e.g. compulsory reporting through an app or other mechanism
    • Consider fin clipping to identify recreationally caught fish to address black marketing issues
    • Explore ways to incentivise fishers to move on to other species (e.g. Fish Aggregating Devices)
    • Boat limit of 2−3 times the individual limit for priority black market species (snapper) (noting some members did not support this)
    • Some members supported a reduction in the pearl perch recreational limit to 4 to be consistent with snapper
    • Improve education on gear  e.g. use of circle hooks to reduce discard mortality
    • Community based social marketing / behaviour change program to encourage recreational fishers to take less and improve post-release survival
    • Clarify and simplify filleting arrangements
    • Reviewing the existing size limits for other species to ensure most fish have matured before entering the fishery
    • General recreational in possession limit of 20 for those species without a current limit e.g. sea sweep, bonito, frying-pan bream
    • Review all species caught in this fishery, particularly deep water species to ensure that none are overlooked (e.g. blue eye trevalla)
    • Consider an in-possession limit of 2 for blue eye trevalla


    • Limited entry for charter licences for snapper and pearl perch
    • Set a catch limit for snapper for charter fishers
      • E.g. allocation of free harvest tags
      • Consider ITQ allocated on history
    • Continue logbook reporting
    • Other recreational measures as above, except for the boat limit

    Members agreed further work is needed to explore these options, model the impacts on the catch and seek broader feedback. Part of this should include exploring the spatial aspects of the data and undertaking management strategy evaluations.

    The working group also identified a number of monitoring and research priorities. The working group would meet again in late January and review a draft discussion paper for public consultation in February/March.

    Fisheries Queensland (Chair – Claire Andersen), commercial fishing (Christopher Hain, Michael Thompson, Steven Campbell), recreational fishing (Jeffrey Ahchay, Lachlan Reed), charter fishing (John Gooding), Science/Conservation (Nils Krueck), Science (Paul Hamer), Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (Randall Owens), Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol (Simon Harmon), NSW Fisheries (Dale Gollan), Animal Science Queensland (Michael O’Neill, Joanne Wortmann)

  • 4-5 February 2019

    The second meeting of the rocky reef fishery working group was held in Brisbane over 4 and 5 February 2019, and welcomed observers from NSW fisheries and WA fisheries to contribute to working group discussions and share experiences and updates from other jurisdictions, particularly on snapper.

    The working group was provided with an update on implementing the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy 2017-2027 (the Strategy). Vessel tracking commenced on 1 January 2019. There was some debate by the working group about the benefits of vessel tracking and in particular the impost being placed on the commercial sector to pay for polling. Other Act amendments going through address a number of other issues like enforcement powers, black marketing and fishery declarations.

    The members noted the government’s directions paper, released in January 2019 which will guide reform to achieve the Strategy key policy objectives for the trawl, crab and east coast inshore fisheries. Commercial working group members noted that access by line fishers needs to be maintained for inshore species going to quota, noting that many fishers in the rocky reef fishery rely on catching inshore species also.

    The working group welcomed Associate Professor, Dr Ian Tibbetts, Chair of the Sustainable Fisheries Expert Panel, who explained the process for providing independent advice to the government and feedback to working groups on reform options being considered. The group discussed confidence around estimates of recreational harvest, limitations on the information available and environmental drivers for snapper (e.g. current, movement and water temperature relationships).

    The Fisheries Monitoring Team provided an overview of the biological data being collected on snapper and pearl perch in Queensland. Biological data is collected from recreationally and commercially caught fish, both through fishery dependent and fishery independent methods. The trends in the datasets all confirm that snapper and pearl perch stocks continue to be under significant fishing pressure and there have been no signs of rebuilding. For both snapper and pearl perch, the data shows a decline in the proportions and numbers of older/larger fish from both commercial and recreational sectors and a strong reliance on very young fish supporting the fishery. Pre-recruit surveys for snapper shows a decrease of around 80% since 2011, from 12 fish per hectare to less than four fish per hectare.

    The working group heard from Fisheries WA on their demersal scalefish management and pink snapper case studies. WA used simple rules, with broad impact. It was noted that a significant package of measures was required across all sectors to get to a 50% reduction in oceanic pink snapper harvest, but that trends are now improving.

    NSW commercial and recreational fisheries managers attended the meeting to provide an update on management arrangements. NSW has recently been through a commercial fishery reform and adjustment process, where the ocean trap and demersal dropline fishery linked catch with effort entitlements, to reduce the number of fishers and number of traps being used by around 40%. It was noted that the need for changes to the recreational fishing rules may be considered and that Queensland and NSW will continue to work together.

    The working group focused on developing a range of options for the Queensland rocky reef fishery to be included in a discussion paper for public release.

    The working group agreed, consistent with the first meeting, that there is an urgent need to take action to help recover the snapper and pearl perch stocks. The working group agreed that all sectors need to be part of the solution and contribute to rebuilding strategies. Each sector needs to share responsibility for reducing catch to rebuild stocks, noting the sectoral snapper catch shares were: recreational 50%, charter 15% and 35% commercial. The working group noted that a reduction in the total catch from 160 tonnes to 120 tonnes (a 30% reduction) was necessary for the Queensland part of the stock to achieve the objective to rebuild snapper stocks (based on the stock assessment modelling to rebuild to 40% of original biomass within 10 to 20 years).

    As such, the discussion focused on:

    1. Urgent measures that will kick-start rebuilding, to be implemented by September 2019, and
    2. Longer term reforms to the fishery to be implemented by 2021/22.

    Urgent measures

    The working group agreed that urgent management measures were warranted for snapper and pearl perch by September 2019, as they are two stocks in the rocky reef fishery that are classified as depleted and despite past management intervention no rebuilding has yet occurred. The objectives of the urgent measures are to:

    • Reduce retained catch of snapper and pearl perch by 30% for each sector
    • Protect spawning fish
    • Build acceptance and initiate behaviour change across all sectors to be part of the solution.

    The following package of urgent measures were recommended to achieve these objectives and for further consultation with other stakeholders:

    SectorSnapper Pearl perch
    All sectors (reduce catch from 160 t to 120 t for snapper)
    • One month closure, around appropriate moon phase in July/August; OR
    • 2 x 10 day closures in July/August on full moon
    • (closure area south of coral reef fin fish fishery area)
    • Increase size limit to 38 or 40cm* to allow more 3 and 4 year old fish an opportunity to spawn
    Recreational (60 t snapper)
    • Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) could be considered to provide alternative species to target
    • Boat limit of 2-3 times the in-possession limit to reduce black marketing
    • Behaviour change program to encourage fishers to reduce their harvest of snapper and pearl perch to help recovery
    • Reduce in-possession limit from 5 to 4*
    Charter (18 t snapper)
    • Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) could be considered to provide alternative species to target
    • Remove extended charter limit (but recreational boat limits would not apply)
    • Remove extended charter limit
    Commercial (42 t snapper)
    • No commercial net catch
    • Total Allowable Commercial Catch of 42 t
    • Clear direction that any catch history after 30 June 2017 will not be considered for any ITQ allocation process

    * One working group member did not support both increased size limit AND reduced possession limit for pearl perch.

    The working group spent considerable time developing these measures, reviewing the modelling available from the scientists and managers, considering each other’s perspectives, and the impacts to each sector. The working group stressed that the urgent measures outlined above need to be considered as a package as only collectively will they act to reduce catch in each sector as required. The department undertook to collate data on likely benefits from the different timing of spawning closures. Some members noted concerns about whether the measures for the recreational/charter sector would be sufficient to achieve a 30% catch reduction.

    The working group discussed the longer term reform options that would also be included in the discussion paper. This included for example:

    • Recreational and charter: Changes to bag limits if recovery is not sufficient, tags or mandatory catch reporting; general possession limit of 20 for species with no current limit (or total possession limit for deepwater/rocky reef species); in-possession limits for key deepwater species (e.g. blue-eye trevalla).
    • Commercial: Individual transferable quota (ITQ) for snapper, monitoring other species over time, establishing a Rocky Reef fishery symbol.

    The working group agreed to provide comments on the discussion paper out of session in order for it to be finalised and released for consultation in the next couple of months.

    The working group also identified a number of monitoring and research priorities through their discussions which would assist in updating the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy Monitoring and Research Plan. The working group would meet again mid-year to continue progressing the urgent and longer term measures.

    Members of Rocky Reef fishery working group: Fisheries Queensland (Chair – Claire Andersen), Commercial fishing (Christopher Hain, Michael Thompson, Steven Campbell), Recreational fishing (Jeffrey Ahchay, Lachlan Reed), Charter fishing (John Gooding), Science/Conservation (Nils Krueck), Science (Paul Hamer), Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (Randall Owens). Working group observers: Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol (Simon Harmon), NSW Fisheries (Phil Bolton/Julian Hughes), WA Fisheries (Shane Walters), Animal Science Queensland (Michael O’Neill, Matthew Campbell), Fisheries Monitoring (Anna Garland).

  • 12-13 August 2019

    The third meeting of the Rocky Reef Fishery working group was held in Brisbane over 12 and 13 August 2019, and welcomed observers from NSW fisheries as part of harvest strategy discussions, research collaboration and managing shared stocks.

    The working group heard an update on implementing the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy 2017-2027 (the Strategy). Regulation Discussion Paper consultation closed on 19 July 2019 and a report on the results of consultation will be published shortly.

    Members noted preliminary consultation results on the urgent measures for snapper and pearl perch. While there was mixed feedback, overall there were good levels of support for these proposals. Based on the feedback received, consideration is being given to adjusting the time of the snapper and pearl perch seasonal closure to avoid school holidays (mid-July to mid-August).

    Working group members raised the following concerns about the proposed Regulation amendments:

    • some members did not support the seasonal closure applying to both pearl perch and snapper, or including the northern area of the fishery in the seasonal closure;
    • commercial members did not support the seasonal closure applying to commercial fishers as the necessary catch reduction could be achieved through the total allowable commercial catch (noting that the closure was also about protecting spawning fish);
    • the commercial sector was concerned that a pearl perch TACC of 15 tonnes was not discussed at the previous working group meeting, and did not support its implementation;
    • the charter sector member did not support the proposed one month seasonal closure, as it would significantly impact the charter sector during their peak season (also felt that the stocks were recovering and a closure wasn’t warranted);
    • A recreational member felt that there should be no boat limits.
    • The commercial sector suggested considering a total closure for an area south of the Great Barrier Reef indefinitely until stocks improve.

    The working group discussed the status of snapper and pearl perch and made the following comments:

    • There was some concern over the trends suggested by the catch and effort data,  particularly with fish not being able to be landed due to shark depredation
    • The accuracy and confidence in the recreational harvest estimates and potential increase in catch as a result of the increase in the number of recreational fishers from 640,000 to 943,000
    • Members queried how influential and important the environmental factors and drivers are on recruitment success (temperature, currents, climate)
    • Snapper are a shared stock with NSW, and while the condition of the NSW part of the stock is in better condition than the Queensland part, changes in Queensland management will provide local benefits given the limited movements of snapper.

    It was noted that the snapper stock assessment showed 10 - 23% biomass for Queensland and that management action was required to recover stocks. In addition, pre-recruit surveys of juvenile snapper showed the lowest recruitment in ten years.  The commercial sector indicated a willingness to reduce the commercial harvest but wanted assurance that the recreational sectors harvest would also be reduced.

    Recreational catch data indicates that a one month seasonal closure and boat limit should reduce the recreational catch by around 30%, which would be equivalent to the reduction of the commercial sector harvest if a TACC were introduced. It was agreed that changes in recreational harvest should be monitored carefully and consideration given to introducing mandatory reporting (e.g. tags or reporting through app) to better quantify the recreational catch in more real time given that the recreational sector takes 65% of the total catch of snapper.

    The working group discussed a future management framework for the rocky reef fishery, with a focus on species other than snapper and pearl perch. It was agreed that a tiered species structure would be an appropriate framework in this fishery, for example having proposed ITQ species as tier 1 (snapper and pearl perch), any TACC species in tier 2 (to be determined) and set up a monitoring strategy for tier 3 species (e.g. grass emperor, yellowtail kingfish etc.). The working group discussed monitoring changes in species harvest as an effective way to monitor any future effort shift into tier 3 species. The commercial sector supported future management through changes in the TACC, while the recreational sector identified bag limits as their most effective management tool for tier 3 species (noting that for species with low bag limits i.e. 2, other options may be more suitable).

    An update on the management strategy evaluation research project was provided to the working group. This project will test the most effective management strategies for continuing to rebuild snapper and pearl perch stocks into the future. The working group provide a range of management strategies to be tested including varying size limits, spatial closures, TACs and bag limits etc. The working group also recommended incorporating a range of different post-release survival rates (including depredation) as well as climate effects (e.g. sea surface temperature). It is anticipated that the model will be developed to start testing each management strategy by early 2020.

    NSW Fisheries provided an update on their reform process, but noted there would be limited changes to snapper given the stock assessment suggests the NSW part of the snapper stock is in better condition. Working on ongoing in NSW to review the depleted status of pearl perch.

    The working group considered changes to commercial reporting requirements and generally supported a system like that applied in the reef line fishery. Commercial fishers asked to keep it simple and also keep the same terminology as currently (eg prior notice, unload notice and catch disposal records). The commercial sector requested that there be no extra requirements in the reporting system.

    The working group received an update on the fisheries economic and social data collection program, being conducted by BDO EconSearch. Commercial and charter fishers may be contacted in October 2019, and are encouraged to take part in the research. Working group members noted that there could be considerable benefits in understanding the contribution to the Queensland economy.

    Update on Statewide recreational fishing survey was provided to the working group, including information on the increased participation rate and an overview of the diary program that is being conducted over the next 12 months. It was also noted that the recreational fishing survey will include some economic analysis of recreational fishing.

    The working group noted an update of the $1m commitment to roll out Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) in south east Queensland, and that the government would work with stakeholders over the next 6 months to finalise the locations and details.

    Members of Rocky Reef fishery working group: Fisheries Queensland (Chair – Claire Andersen), Commercial fishing (Christopher Hain, Michael Thompson, Steven Campbell), Recreational fishing (Jeffrey Ahchay, Lachlan Reed), Charter fishing (John Gooding), Science/Conservation (Nils Krueck), Science (Paul Hamer), Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (Randall Owens). Working group observers: Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol (Simon Harmon), NSW Fisheries (Phil Bolton/Julian Hughes), WA Fisheries (Shane Walters), Animal Science Queensland (Michael O’Neill, Matthew Campbell), Fisheries Monitoring (Anna Garland).

  • 13-14 July 2021

    The reappointed Rocky Reef Working Group met 13 – 14 July 2021. The purpose of this working group meeting was to update members on the progress on sustainable fisheries strategy reform process, new information and research available, new Management Strategy Evaluation tool outputs and recommence management review and harvest strategy development processes for the Rocky Reef fishery.

    Fisheries Queensland provided a broad update on the implementation of the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy 2017-2027 and commercial fishing changes commencing on 1 September 2021.  The working group also discussed the proposed timeline to review the existing management arrangements and develop a harvest strategy for the rocky reef fishery ahead of the 2022-23 fishing season, to commence from 1 July 2022.  Members noted that any management changes and the draft harvest strategy would be released for public consultation before any decisions are made.

    Members were invited to provide a general update from their respective sectors. The commercial sector noted concerns with the upcoming reporting requirements, shift in fishing effort to deep water species, and accurate data collection and validation for recreational and charter sectors. All sectors reiterated concerns over shark and dolphin depredation impacting fishing mortality along with questions around the impact of other commercial fishing activities (e.g., trawl) on rocky reef species.

    The recreational sector expressed an interest in alternative management measures to bag and size limit such as enhancement of key wild harvest species through stocking, similar to what NSW, SA and WA are trialling with mulloway, kingfish and snapper. One of the charter members noted that weather has been a big issue this year resulting in an increase in cancelled trips. The working group expressed an interest in seeing the impact of COVID-19 on the snapper catch across all sectors at the next meeting. The charter sector noted a reduction in larger offshore fishing boats in south east Queensland, shifting effort to different areas and different species to make the trips worthwhile. One charter member suggested this may be due to recent snapper management changes (e.g., the eight boat limit).

    Noting any potential changes to management may result in increased discards, GBRMPA raised they are also interested in discard mortality, depredation and spawning area research. GBRMPA noted that they are currently reviewing their policy position regarding for FADs and artificial reefs and Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The NSW Fisheries observer provided an update on the NSW harvest strategy process. NSW have developed a Harvest Strategy Policy and Guidelines and are developing strategies in a staged process with working groups established to develop strategies for trawl (whiting), lobster, spanner crab and mulloway.

    Fisheries Queensland presented commercial harvest and standardised catch rates for snapper, pearl perch, cobia, teraglin, kingfish and grass emperor. The report is available on the department’s website. Commercial logbook catch rates are standardised for lunar cycle, wind, season, region, boat and fishing power. Fisheries Queensland clarified that NSW and QLD catch rates are standardised separately. The catch rate standardisation could account for some changes such as fishing power, but management changes through time are applied in the stock assessment model. The standardised snapper catch rates declined by almost half from the 1980s to present. .

    Fisheries Queensland presented the methodology and results of the 2019-20 statewide recreational fishing survey. The results are available via a dashboard on the department’s website. The results include recreational harvest, effort and expenditure and a range of other data which can be explored by region, species, year and other criteria. Fisheries Queensland also answered questions on the statewide boat ramp survey.

    Members noted they expect to see an increase in recreational effort in the next recreational survey due to an increase in recreational fishing across the COVID-19 pandemic. The working group discussed member’s concerns about the methodology and accuracy of recreational fishing data. The working group requested the department commit to timely improvements in the accuracy of recreational fishing data.

    Animal Science Queensland presented the new FRDC funded Management Strategy Evaluation (MSE) tool that was developed for snapper and pearl perch. Efficacy of management strategies are generally measured against biomass targets in stock assessments, which generally occurs years after implementation. MSE tests the effects of management on a virtual stock pre-implementation. A range of outputs from the MSE for a number of different management scenarios were presented. The MSE indicated that the current management arrangements (status quo) for snapper would result in no rebuilding and only minimal rebuilding of pearl perch under the most optimistic scenarios over the forecast period. The MSE indicated that only strong management action could result in rebuilding of both stocks over the forecast period.

    Fisheries Queensland provided a presentation on harvest strategy development. The presentation outlined key components of a harvest strategy, previous working group discussions on a draft rocky reef harvest strategy, and components from the Reef Line Harvest Strategy as a working example of a line fishery harvest strategy. Fisheries Queensland requested that members consider aspects of a draft rocky reef harvest strategy such as fishery objectives, species classification, tiers, sector allocation and decision rules in the lead up to the next meeting.

    Animal Science Queensland provided an update on a research project assessing the spawning characteristics and reproductive biology of pearl perch in Queensland. Results suggest that pearl perch are likely to be serial spawners and have a prolonged spawning period across several months (North between Aug – Mar; South between Mar – Aug). Further work is being undertaken on spawning locations and larval dispersion, but preliminary results suggest that pearl perch do not move much between sites, particularly as larger or older fish.

    Animal Science Queensland provided an update on a research project modelling the effects of environmental changes on Snapper and Pearl Perch in Queensland. There were several key findings from the project regarding environmental influences (temperature, chlorophyll-a concentrations) on snapper spawning and recruitment, which provide potential implications that should be considered in future management and stock recovery. The report will be available on the department’s website in the future.

    The working group was provided an update on the ‘Fishing for Change’ project and the ‘Switch your Fish’ campaign, which has the objective to increase the diversity of fish targeted by recreational fishers to reduce pressure on currently popular species, including snapper and pearl perch. The working group were advised the official campaign launch is on 18 July 2021 in Mooloolaba. The Chair noted that the program is a good example of trialling an alternative management strategy to promote recovery of snapper and pearl perch.

    Fisheries Queensland provided an update on the Fish Aggregation Device (FAD) program. There has been extensive use from recreational and charter sectors, primarily through Spring to Autumn, with mahi mahi the predominant species caught. Charter members noted that when there are good catches on the FADs, generally there is lower effort towards snapper and pearl perch (also vice versa). The working group noted the program is a great initiative which provides a positive impact in diversifying target species and reducing pressure on snapper and pearl perch.

    Fisheries Queensland provided a presentation on the methodology and outcomes from the BDO social and economic indicators report for commercial and charter fisheries, and noted an interactive dashboard is available on the department’s website. The commercial sector suggested that participation was low (16% - 44 businesses), and there is limited trust in the project and data outputs and the potential for misrepresentation of the data. The Chair explained that BDO have been engaged as an independent contractor and emphasised 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. The working group noted that BDO have been contracted to continue the project as well as work focused on measuring and comparing social and economic information from the recreational and charter fisheries alongside the commercial sector.

    The QBFP member provided an update on enforcement activities and offences in the rocky reef fishery over the past few years. It was noted that most infringements relate to regulated fish offences. Black marketing was noted as a priority area for the QBFP, and the department has made significant progress towards investigating and prosecuting these offences.

    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 rocky reef fishery is the introduction of a pre-trip notice and catch disposal record. Working group members asked questions regarding weights notice timeframes, accurate weight using certified scales, and landing locations. The commercial member noted that the 24-hour timeframe for giving the weights notice is not practical from a fatigue management and product quality aspect, and should be reviewed as a priority.

    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.

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

    • East coast Spanish mackerel: Fisheries Queensland provided an update on the east coast Spanish mackerel fishery, noting that preliminary stock assessment results indicated a 17% biomass. The stock assessment is currently undergoing independent peer review. No changes have been made to recreational or commercial fishing rules, and none will be made without consultation with all stakeholders.
    • Deep water effort shift: The working group noted there has been a shift in recreational effort to deep water species (e.g. bar cod, blue eye trevalla), and these are high value, large and long lived species. It was suggested that Fisheries Queensland review bag and boat limits for deep water species.

    The next meeting will be in September to discuss future management and develop a draft rocky reef harvest strategy.

    The Rocky Reef Fishery 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 (Joey Meeuwsen (Absent) , Scott Butterworth (Apology at this meeting), Michael Thompson), Recreational fishing (Jeffrey Ahchay, Lachlan Reed), Charter fishing (John Gooding, Mathew Hubbard), Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (David Williamson), Animal Science Queensland (Matthew Campbell), Working group observers: Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol (Simon Harmon), NSW Fisheries (Nicolas Giles), Animal Science Queensland (Michael O’Neill).

  • 9-10 February 2022

    The Rocky Reef Fishery Working Group met on 9-10 February 2022 online. The purpose of the working group meeting was to provide advice to inform development of a draft rocky reef fishery harvest strategy. The chair provided an acknowledgment to country, welcomed new members, and confirmed conflicts of interest.

    Fisheries Queensland provided an update on the implementation of the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy 2017-2027 (SFS), the release of the commercial fishing reporting application ‘eCatch’ and proposed timeline for development and implementation of the harvest strategy and rebuilding options.

    Members provided updates from their respective sectors. Commercial members cited concerns regarding the independence of working group chairs, as well as ensuring there is full sectoral representation on working group memberships, particularly for the commercial sector. The working group were advised that Fisheries Queensland would consider new applications to fill membership vacancies if received. Most members noted it has been harder to access snapper, particularly inshore, and many fishers are moving to deeper water or north targeting other species. Other members noted good catch rates and size classes of snapper and pearl perch, particularly in the north. Some members stated that they held reservations regarding the science and assessments for snapper and pearl perch and suggested the stock status does not reflect what they see on the water.

    Fisheries Queensland sought working group advice on the key components to develop a rocky reef fishery harvest strategy. Members provided advice on management units, noting harvest strategy policy default management units should be set at species’ stock level where possible, and that these species represent single stocks within Queensland. Commercial members suggested investigating northern and southern management units for snapper and pearl perch, reflecting greater recreational fishing pressure in highly populated areas and significant shark depredation in southeast Queensland.

    Fisheries Queensland sought advice regarding appropriate management tiers for rocky reef species, including tiers for species that drive fishing behaviour, secondary species and high-risk species identified through ecological risk assessment. Commercial members noted that effort towards snapper and pearl perch has shifted significantly to other reef species in the north or to deep water species. Members suggested the shift is primarily due to shark depredation, competition with imported snapper, and better prices achieved for other species. Concern regarding the management of deep-water fish species was emphasised, particularly recreational possession limits. Members also expressed a desire for country-of-origin labelling to assist industry and improve marketability.

    Members provided advice on a set of long-term fishery objectives to guide the management of the fishery under a harvest strategy. Members also acknowledged that fishery objectives and harvest strategy rules apply to all sectors.

    Fisheries Queensland presented average catch shares for commercial, recreational and charter sectors for rocky reef species. Commercial members expressed concern regarding confidence in and validation of recreational data, and Fisheries Queensland that noted information on recreational survey methodology and data validation can be provided at a future working group meeting.

    Fisheries Queensland presented draft ecological performance indicators, reference points and decision rules. The working group noted the default SFS target (60%) and limit (20%) reference points. Draft decision rules for target species were presented outlining pre-determined rules for adjusting total allowable catch limits for all sectors in response to stock assessments. Management arrangement changes can also be informed using the Management Strategy Evaluation (MSE) tool developed for snapper and pearl perch. Members recognised the need for an equitable approach that addresses fishing pressure from all sectors.

    Members discussed decision rules for secondary and byproduct species, noting these species seldom have reliable estimates of biomass. Indicators to trigger assessment and/or management review in response to increasing fishing pressure were presented, and members noted 2013-2017 represents a stable period in the fishery which may be an appropriate reference period. Members requested that there be sufficient buffer for these rules as fishers are already shifting effort towards these species in response to reforms in other fisheries.

    A draft decision rule for species or ecological components identified as having an unacceptable level of risk from an ecological risk assessment was presented, which would trigger review of the reason for increased risk and to take appropriate action to reduce the risk. Members noted concerns that high risk can be driven by a lack of information or data, and proper consideration of the drivers of risk should be given prior to taking management action. Fisheries Queensland advised the working group that many high risks in the current ERA are partly driven by not having a harvest strategy developed and implemented for this fishery.

    Members were asked for advice on potential social and economic objectives and performance indicators for the rocky reef fishery. Recreational members identified fisher satisfaction as a priority indicator, and suggested that feedback from all facets of industry, including the boating and tackle industry, be considered. The commercial sector expressed concerns regarding social and environmental objectives, in particular the potential for regulation to be introduced to address social and environmental licencing. Fisheries Queensland noted that the harvest strategy incorporates economic, ecological and social objectives and pursuing these puts all aspects of industry in a more defensible position with social licence and in line with community expectation.

    Members were presented with rebuilding objectives for species assessed to be under the limit reference point and noted an initial rebuilding target to 40% biomass. Members noted default rebuilding timeframes for snapper (5-10 years) and pearl perch (4-8 years) that are in line with Queensland and National guidelines. Rebuilding scenarios for snapper and pearl perch presented included changes to size and possession limits, seasonal closures and TACC reductions, to a complete closure of the fishery, in order to rebuild stocks to 40% within timeframes ranging between five to more than 24 years.

    Commercial members stated that none of the rebuilding scenarios presented would provide for an economically viable fishery, and suggested the management action (e.g. TACC reductions) already implemented should be sufficient to rebuild stocks. The working group discussed whether a stepped approach to management could be considered, and if alternative scenarios could be modelled. Fisheries Queensland advised alternative scenarios can be considered following release of the new stock assessments using the MSE tool.

    A recreational member raised concerns with impacts from environmental influences, post capture mortality, shark and dolphin depredation and from other fisheries which may have a greater influence on rebuilding snapper and pearl perch stocks. Fisheries Queensland will present further information regarding these concerns at the next meeting. One recreational member stated that we must trust the science that shows both stocks are in trouble, and the extended rebuilding timeframes presented would not be acceptable. Most other stakeholder members did not support this view. The stakeholder members agreed that if the fishery is closed there will be further effort shift to other areas and species.

    Fisheries Queensland presented monitoring and research priorities for discussion and prioritisation. Members also noted proposed performance monitoring and assessment measures and harvest strategy review timeframes.

    During general business:

    • Most stakeholder members stated they did not agree the snapper and pearl perch stock assessments accurately reflect stock status, suggesting there has not been enough time to see the effects of recently implemented management measures on rebuilding which should be considered before considering any further management action. Fisheries Queensland noted the MSE provides more detailed analysis of the effects of management measures on recovery.
    • One recreational member emphasised that the science shows these stocks are in trouble and it needs to be accepted. The member quoted the Status of Australian Fish Stocks report 2020 stating that ‘current management measures should help reduce fishing mortality of snapper in Queensland, and support stock recovery from its recruitment impaired state, however it is too early for these to have an effect on the depleted status classification’.
    • Commercial and charter members reiterated their view that data collection should be equitable across sectors and commensurate with existing commercial reporting arrangements. This could include reporting and monitoring through apps. The recreational members support this in principle but held concerns with the cost of any suggested arrangements.
    • The New South Wales observer recognised the shared nature of snapper and pearl perch stocks and appreciated the opportunity to observe the working group discussions.

    The next meeting will be planned to occur during the snapper closure period to discuss a draft harvest strategy, consider new snapper and pearl perch stock assessments and an updated MSE.

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.

The rocky reef fishery targets species not taken in the east coast inshore or reef line fisheries. While the fishery operates along the entire east coast, including within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, the central and south-east regions of Queensland record the highest effort.

The rocky reef fishery is an important commercial, recreational and charter fishery that predominantly targets snapper (Chrysophrys auratus) in south-east Queensland. Other important species include pearl perch (Glaucosoma scapulare), teraglin (Atractoscion atelodus) and cobia (Rachycentron canadum). A number of species may also be important to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. While the commercial fishery is line only, other fishers may also harvest by spear.

The take of rocky reef fin fish species is managed through a mixture of input controls (e.g. gear restrictions, limited entry) and output controls (e.g. size restrictions, no-take species). Compulsory catch reporting arrangements and vessel tracking systems are also in place for the commercial sector. In September 2019, urgent management action was introduced to reduce the impacts of fishing on depleted stocks of snapper and pearl perch while a rebuilding harvest strategy is developed.

Purpose of the working group

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


  1. To assist with the review of the management framework, including management options and fishing rules, and the development of a harvest strategy consistent with the Queensland Sustainable Fisheries Strategy: 2017–2027, 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 rocky reef 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 development and implementation of a harvest strategy
  • consider information and provide advice on fishery performance (e.g. catch rates, fishing power)
  • assist with identifying ways to best manage broader ecosystem impacts of fishing and plan for the recovery of depleted snapper and pearl perch stocks
  • provide advice on emerging issues (e.g. compliance, data, legislation, research)
  • 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 three 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 three 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 three 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 two years to allow for rotation of different representatives and development of new industry leaders.

Name RepresentativeSector
Sam Williams Chair Fisheries management (Fisheries Queensland)
Chad Lunow Fishery Manager Fisheries management (Fisheries Queensland)
Simon Harmon Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol Fisheries management (Fisheries Queensland)
Vacant Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Environment
To be advised Department of Environment and Science Environment
Matthew Campbell Fisheries Scientist (Animal Science Queensland) Science
Vacant Commercial fisher Harvest
Michael Thompson Commercial fisher Harvest
Vacant Commercial fisher Harvest
Lukaasz Lukaszewicz Commercial fisher Harvest
John Gooding Charter fishing business operator Harvest
Mathew Hubbard Charter fishing business operator Harvest
Bruce Bezvidenhout Charter fisher Harvest
Jeffery Ahchay Recreational fisher Harvest
Vacant Recreational fisher Harvest
Daniel O'Connell Recreational fisher Harvest
Vacancy Indigenous representative Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
To be advised New South Wales Department of Primary Industries Observers