Communique 5-6 March 2018

The third meeting of the crab fishery working group was held in Brisbane over 5-6 March 2018. The purpose of this meeting was to endorse a discussion paper outlining management units and reform options for the fishery. The discussion paper will be distributed for broader stakeholder feedback at the end of March.

The meeting endorsed the previous meetings minutes, and noted the Queensland Fisheries social media statistics for the previous crab working group communique (15 December 2017) reached 5,805 people.

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.

Crab fishery monitoring and research update was presented to the working group. Working group members were advised that Fisheries Queensland had conducted a beam trawl survey for blue swimmer crabs in 2017 from the Gold Coast to Hervey Bay to look at blue swimmer crab recruitment. This data may inform a harvest strategy for the blue swimmer crab fishery. Fisheries Queensland boat ramp survey project results noted that 3485 interviews were conducted with people who caught either mud crabs or blue swimmer crabs in 2017. Retained catch numbers for mud crabs was 4500 and 3800 blue swimmer crabs.

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 crab fishery.

Fisheries Queensland presented an update on the status of Ecological Risk Assessments, noting that draft ERA guidelines were being reviewed by the Expert Panel. Working group members will be engaged throughout the ERA process.

Subject to a number of amendments, the working group endorsed a draft discussion paper which outlines the proposed objectives, management units and reform options.

The proposed management units for the crab fishery are:

  • Gulf of Carpentaria mud crab
  • East coast mud crab; and
  • Blue swimmer crab (all Queensland waters).

The discussion paper proposes a number of management reform options, including ITQ’s, symbol amalgamation, and ongoing adjustment of recreational limits in line with harvest strategy objectives. It was noted that no decisions have been made and that the discussion paper is simply the basis for an initial round of engagement. Consultation feedback from the discussion paper will inform the working group when they are formulating advice on preferred reform options and implementation plan, including allocation if relevant, for review by the Sustainable Fisheries Expert Panel in July 2018.

Fisheries Queensland outlined the range of commercial sector allocation options available for use when allocating fisheries entitlements. Working group members noted general principles for use in an allocation process:

  • Consistency with fishery objectives;
  • Fairness and equity;
  • Increased benefits.

The working group identified the following issues as important when considering allocation:

  • recognise current entitlement in the fishery
  • minimise wealth re-distribution
  • the need for validated historical catch (if used)
  • recognise previous investment warnings
  • quota entitlement to be in line with other fisheries i.e. in perpetuity
  • minimum and maximum quota holdings.

The working group did not consider any changes to the current single sex harvest policy is appropriate until a management framework and harvest strategy is in place.

A joint session with the Sustainable Fisheries Expert Panel was held after 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.

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

The Crab Working Group members are: Fisheries Queensland (Chair- Mark Doohan), commercial fishing (Ben Day, Peter Jackson, Anne Tooker and Keith Harris), recreational fishing (David Bateman, George Bennetts, Wayne Bonham, Michael Detenon) and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (James Aumend).