Communique 19 February 2018

The second meeting of the east coast inshore working group was held by teleconference on 19 February 2018. The purpose of the meeting was to check in on some of the proposed fishery objectives, management units and reform options that would be included in a discussion paper for broader stakeholder feedback. A draft of the discussion paper would be provided at the next face to face meeting on 7 March 2018.

Members requested clarification of a statement recorded in the previous communique, which suggested that there aren’t any significant sustainability concerns about target species (e.g. barramundi, threadfin, mackerels, whiting, mullet etc.) for the east coast inshore fishery. Some members felt there are species where not enough information is available, including species specific data for shark, to determine whether or not there is a sustainability concern and that while the main target species are sustainable, many species remain ‘undefined’. Members felt that this should be considered in the management reform decision-making process.

The working group discussed a set of draft objectives to guide the development and implementation of harvest strategies for the east coast inshore fishery. The objectives were based on those identified by members at the first east coast inshore working group meeting, while also taking into consideration relevant strategic objectives outlined through the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy 2017-2027 (the Strategy) and consistency with objectives identified for other fisheries. Working group members noted the high number of draft objectives, which capture the complexity and high number of stakeholders. Working group members discussed the draft objectives and recommended that further amendments were required prior to them being released for consultation. Members noted that these initial objectives should remain high-level, with more specific operational objectives to be defined as harvest strategies are developed.

Two of the objectives identified in the first meeting (rehabilitate fisheries habitat; flexibility in state marine park zoning plans) were unable to be linked to the broader objectives identified under the Strategy. Despite their importance to fishery productivity and management, it was noted that these areas are outside of the Department’s control and the scope of this working group. Members expressed an interest in engaging with other agencies responsible for these areas to ensure fisheries habitat is protected and fishing perspectives are considered by other agencies.

Working group members discussed possible reform options for the east coast inshore fishery, including possible management units. There was general agreement that the fishery should be split up to better manage at the regional level.  The initial discussion suggested a preference towards two offshore management units and 4-6 inshore management units:

  • Offshore north – covers shark, grey mackerel, smaller mackerels
  • Offshore south (boundary Baffle Creek) – covers shark, grey mackerel, smaller mackerels
  • Inshore Far North – barramundi, threadfin, queenfish
  • Inshore North – barramundi, threadfin, queenfish
  • Inshore Central – barramundi, threadfin, queenfish
  • Inshore Hervey Bay – barramundi, threadfin, bream, whiting, flathead, mullet
  • Inshore South / Moreton Bay - bream, whiting, flathead, mullet, tailor, mulloway

The working group undertook to consider the details of the proposed management units further, particularly the boundaries of the areas based on the stock structure (eg 5 barramundi stocks).

Additional feedback will be provided by members before the next meeting and will be used by Fisheries Queensland to refine draft management units prior to the March working group, where members will consider a final draft of management units.

The management reform options discussed at the first working group meeting were evaluated to ensure they met the objectives of the Strategy and were suitable for the east coast inshore fishery. Fisheries Queensland provided an updated overview of management reform options to be outlined in the discussion paper, including alternatives identified out-of-session.

Management reform options aimed to improve management of target species, and also improve the selectivity of the fishery and reduce bycatch and protected species interactions. Options for consideration included:

  • Individual Transferable Quotas (ITQs)
  • Total Allowable Catches with regional triggers (Regional TACCs)
  • Individual Transferable Effort Units (ITEs) for commercial fishers
  • Review of size limits (all sectors) and adjustment of recreational possession limits in line with a harvest strategy
  • Gear technology
  • Closures

Members provided a range of feedback across all reform options, with a general consensus that the preferred option should allow for more efficient fishing which would in turn reduce the risk of SOCI and protected species interactions. The feedback will be adopted by Fisheries Queensland and presented to the working group in a discussion paper at the March meeting for endorsement, prior to broader consultation. It was noted that no decisions have been made and further feedback from all stakeholders will be critical.

The next working group meeting is scheduled for the 6 & 7 March 2017 to be held jointly with the Sustainable Fisheries Expert Panel. This meeting will aim to endorse a package for initial engagement on management units and reform options for the fishery.

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 and Nathan Johnston), seafood marketing (Matthew Vujica), conservation (Nick Heath), research (David Welch) and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (Thomas Hatley).