Communique 12-13 June 2018

Role of the working group: is to provide advice on the operational aspects of managing Queensland’s east coast inshore fishery and the development of a harvest strategy consistent with the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy.

The fourth meeting of the east coast inshore working group was held in Brisbane over 12-13 June 2018. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss consultation feedback on the east coast inshore fishery reform and to recommend a management package for further analysis.

The meeting was preceded by a visit to the Supafin seafood processing facility that processed mullet. Members were impressed with the facility and the fact that every part of the mullet was used, including the roe, fillets, frames and other parts. The working group also visited two tunnel net operations in Moreton Bay and saw how selective the operation could be. The working group was interested in whether it might be practical in other areas and some of the challenges that may be associated with trialling it outside of the traditional fishery area.

Fisheries Queensland provided an update on the implementation of the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy 2017-2027.

Results of the consultation on the discussion paper were presented. This included the results of the online survey, face to face meetings, social media polls and email responses. They noted that the level of engagement in the discussion paper was disappointing and that further work is still needed to better engage and educate stakeholders in the reform process.

Working group members were shown consultation feedback on the east coast inshore fishery reform and Act amendments. Members noted there was general support for the proposed Act amendments including more than 90% agreeing enforcement powers of fisheries inspectors and penalties to address serious fisheries offences should be strengthened. A report compiling the results of the survey will be made publicly available in coming months.

A commercial rock lobster fisher from Victoria attended the meeting and presented on his experience in travelling around the world and visiting other fisheries, including the British Columbia Groundfish Fishery which had some parallels and learnings for the east coast inshore fishery.  He noted that the successes in other fisheries often came from clear ownership of fishing rights, 100% monitoring, clear accountability and auditing. He also noted that working together across sectors to build consensus on the fishery objectives and reforms was critical to establish and maintain a sustainable and defensible fishing industry.

Department of Environment and Science staff presented on a project underway to try and satellite tag snubfin and humpback dolphins. The working group noted the challenges in the project and discussed some of the information needs for the inshore fishery to minimise interactions with these species from all sectors through continually improving practices.

Fishery objectives

The working group noted there was generally good support for fishery objectives. Feedback received through public consultation included minor improvements to wording; questions about biomass targets and estimates; and the recommendation to include or refine an additional objective on habitat modification and agreed to include an additional objective based around habitat protection and rehabilitation. The working group agreed to refine fishery objectives out of session, taking into account the feedback provided throughout public consultation. The final fishery objectives will be endorsed by the working group at the next meeting.

Management Units

Members noted that there was general support for splitting the fishery into regions, as long as there was still flexibility for commercial fishers to move between regions. The working group generally agreed to maintain the 6 proposed regions and boundaries that were in the discussion paper, but that more work was needed to explain the purpose, which was to manage to the stock level and also confirm specific boundaries. The working group agreed that the important principles for setting boundaries should include:

  • ensure boundaries align with logbook gridlines;
  • allow commercial fishers to maintain business flexibility;
  • based around biological stocks;
  • reduce social conflict where possible;
  • avoid boundary line through major population centres.

The working group agreed the six regions were suitable for setting regional catch limits, while still allowing for more specific management rules to be trialled for specific areas within a region moving forward (eg Moreton Bay and other areas)

Biomass Estimates and Proxies

The working group was provided with a presentation on the range of indicators that could be used for harvest strategies, ranging from catch data, to standardised catch rates, to simple off the shelf models, to more complex stock assessment models. The working group was impressed by a prototype of a new dashboard tool for data visualisation which clearly and succinctly shows a range of catch and effort data across Queensland including commercial and recreational data, as well as length and age information. Members agreed good data are  a key requirement in improving modelling confidence and welcomed electronic logbooks, improved data validation and compliance. The working group suggested that the Illegal Unreported Unregulated catch estimates should be included in modelling

Management Options

Members reviewed feedback from public consultation to assist in narrowing down management options which may be considered for further analysis by Fisheries Queensland. The working group agreed to progress  with further investigation of Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACCs) and Individual Transferable Quotas (ITQs), given the low level of support for Individual Transferable Effort units (ITEs) during consultation and its inability to meet management objectives to manage catch. It was noted that GBRMPA was not in favour of this and support ITE as a management system allowing for protected species to be protected by directly managing the amount of time nets are left in waters and the challenges in a variable multi species fishery.

The working group considered a tiered-approach to manage the commercial catch of target species:

  1. ITQ
  2. TACC
  3. Triggers in harvest strategy

As a minimum members supported triggers in the harvest strategy and TACCs to manage commercial catch. Triggers would be in place for low volume, low risk species which would be closely monitored and move to TACC management if triggers were met (eg catch doubles or catch composition changes etc). All key target species would be managed under TACCs. However, there was some discussion as to whether these TACCs should also be individually allocated as ITQs.

Some members felt ITQs should be immediately implemented for key species, while others felt there should be a regional TACC with an additional trigger set in the harvest strategy. If the trigger was met (e.g. hit TACC two years in a row; stock falls below 40% biomass or another agreed trigger) the species would become managed under ITQ. The working group requested Fisheries Queensland complete an in-depth analysis of both options. This is to include an assessment of how they meet the management objectives; economic analysis assessing what management costs may be passed along to fishers for each approach and a data analysis as to how they may work under different scenarios.

A similar management structure was considered for the recreational fishery.  It was agreed there is no need to immediately change to existing limits for species where possession limits already exist.

Where species do not have a an existing limit a general possession limit of 20 for each species was supported (similar to freshwater). A bait fish limit could be considered for bait species requiring higher limits. Total Allowable Recreational Catch limits would be in place for key species and translated through individual species possession limits and adjusted if needed through the harvest strategy over time. Boat limits were generally supported for priority black market species, e.g. prawns, barramundi and black jewfish. Boat limits would be principally set as two - three times the species possession limit where required.

The working group also agreed to review size limits at the next meeting based on updated science and recommended an independent review of suggested minimum and maximum sizes.

Protected Species

The working group discussed alternative gear types and supported further investigation and trials of gear types like tunnel netting and arrow traps.  FQ will further investigate these and other possible innovative gear technologies.

The working group supported identifying high risk areas/activities through the ERA process and tailoring management to these areas.

The working groups also supported:

  • A best management practice program (industry led) which included promoting training, practices, inductions for new entrants etc)
  • Temporary closures, triggered through the harvest strategy
  • Better data on interactions and movements
  • Better monitoring including utilising digital observers.

The working group also felt it was worth considering the benefits that have been seen from using 6.5inch mesh size in the Gulf of Carpentaria and whether this could be extended to the east coast to improve selectivity.

The working group had mixed views on a net free north, but agreed to look in more details at the costs and benefits of the proposal.

A further working group meeting was scheduled for late August / early September to draft harvest strategies and review proposed regulatory changes.

The East coast inshore Working Group members are: Fisheries Queensland (Chair – Claire Andersen), commercial fishing (Ben Gilliland, Mark Ahern, Nathan Rynn, Margaret Stevensen and Allan Bobbermen), recreational fishing (Steve Morgan, John Bennett, Mick McDade and Nathan Johnston), seafood marketing (Matthew Vujica), conservation (Nick Heath), research (David Welch) and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (Thomas Hatley).