Communique 15-16 July 2021

The reappointed East Coast Inshore Working Group met 15-16 July 2021 in Brisbane. The purpose of the working group meeting was to update members on the progress on Sustainable Fisheries Strategy 2017-2027 (SFS) reform process, new research available, and harvest strategy consultation results and implementation for the East Coast Inshore fishery from 1 September 2021.

Fisheries Queensland provided an update on the implementation of the SFS, commercial fishing changes, fishery catch and effort information and a stock assessment and total allowable catch setting schedule.

Members were invited to provide a general update from their respective sectors. The commercial sector noted concerns with the upcoming reporting requirements, recreational fishing reporting and data accuracy, mesh size and net ply issues, future viability of smaller scale commercial fishers, and the high barrier for entry for new entrants in an aging industry. The commercial sector also emphasised concerns about industry mental health and wellbeing which has been exacerbated by limited support or compensation from Government.

Recreational members outlined interest in reviewing the barramundi maximum size limit, stock assessment data inputs, black jewfish management, recreational data collection and economic information improvements, and improvements to commercial logbook data validation. There were also concerns about a shift in effort to longer lived, slower growing species (e.g. lutjanidae species), as well as ‘saddleback’ bream, which members noted has recently been observed in snapper and whiting. Recreational members sought clarification that the closure of black jewfish to all sectors once a total allowable commercial catch (TACC) is reached would not apply to other species. Fisheries Queensland confirmed that only the commercial sector would be closed for other species if a TACC is reached.

The conservation member noted priority issues include protected species interactions and concerns with the draft protected species management strategy (PSMS), in particular implementing PSMS management arrangements without strong monitoring and data validation which may provide a disincentive to report interactions and prevent the PSMS from meeting its objectives. Shark depredation research, and shark species specific management, is also a priority to reduce risk of more vulnerable species. It was also noted that recording of discards following reform implementation will be a key focus as the risk of discarding and high grading may increase.

The GBRMPA member noted support for the implementation of the SFS across Queensland’s fisheries, including the benefits of the 60 per cent biomass target reference point. Improved monitoring, including implementation of independent data validation is a priority for GBRMPA going forward, which is important for understanding and mitigating the impacts of protected species interactions and assists in accounting for discards which is also a concern for GBRMPA.

Fisheries Queensland provided an update on the public consultation results for the draft east coast harvest strategy and PSMS, noting there was good representation from the consultation across regions and sectors. Feedback from consultation has been considered and used to inform development of the final harvest strategy, PSMS and harvest strategy policy and guidelines, to be released in the coming weeks. Fisheries Queensland noted that many responses related to specific management issues that were outside of the scope of the consultation and will be addressed with the working group over time.

Fisheries Queensland then presented a refresher on the draft harvest strategy key components, including objectives, sectoral allocation, and decision rules. Working group members discussed the difference between the harvest strategy reference points and those used by the Status of Australian Fish Stocks (SAFS). Members also discussed concerns with the objective to monitor localised depletion, particularly questioning how to measure and manage localised depletion. Recreational members questioned how sectoral shares were determined, how they will be reviewed and updated, and noted that catchability of a species can be affected by fishing pressure in an area, and could impact on a sectors ability to take their sectoral share. Members expressed concern with the overcatch decision rules, in particular for regions that have low species TACC’s (e.g. spotted and school mackerel). Commercial and recreational sectors expressed concern that there are no undercatch provisions. The working group requested clarification to the rebuilding strategy process for species approaching the limit reference point. Fisheries Queensland noted that following consultation feedback there were clarifications but no major changes made to the draft harvest strategy.

Fisheries Queensland presented the PSMS and emphasised an initial key focus of developing best practice management for the fishery and a continual improvement process. Members highlighted the importance of fisher training to ensure that best practice standards can be learnt, adopted, and met. An emphasis on improved data collection and validation of interactions is a key focus of the PSMS, and regional workshops commencing in August will be undertaken to understand and develop regional specific management. Fisheries Queensland explained the escalating measures for fishers and explained that the individual accountability approach was designed to ensure that responsible fishers are not penalised. Members supported a focussed discussion at the next meeting on protected species management and key steps going forward and suggested inviting representatives from the Department of Environment and Science. A commercial member noted they have engaged Oceanwatch to assist Industry in developing Industry Codes of Practice and best practice management, which was well received by the working group.

Fisheries Queensland updated members on Wildlife Trade Operation (WTO) for the fishery, including the recent revocation of the fishery’s accreditation and the process for reapplying for WTO accreditation. The working group noted that a separate WTO application was recently progressed for the ocean beach fishery operating under K symbols which was approved on 21 May 2021. The commercial sector supported pursuing WTO accreditation for the line and tunnel net sectors of the fishery in the short term.

The working group noted a presentation on the ecological risk assessment (ERA) process and recent level 2 ERAs completed for the east coast inshore fishery. The conservation member noted that narrow sawfish was a high-risk species in the ERA, but not included in the PSMS’s list of prioritised species, and it should be considered for inclusion. The working group noted that ERAs only consider management arrangements in place at the time of the assessment, and the next ERAs for the fishery are likely to see a shift in risk ratings downwards after the implementation of harvest strategy and PSMS.

Animal Science Queensland provided an update on black jewfish research. Preliminary data shows that the black jewfish released in an acoustic tagging study have demonstrated good post capture survival (>85%) when released using release weights. The recreational sector suggested that education on using release weights through social media would be beneficial. The working group noted that spawning period research suggests that November to February is the key spawning period on the east coast and that October may also be an important reproductive month. The working group discussed preliminary management implications from this research, including the merit of introducing a spawning closure. It was noted the research is still underway, and management action based on this research is unlikely to occur until the research is finalised and published.

The working group discussed key fishery rule concerns. The commercial sector emphasised concerns with mesh and net ply changes being introduced from 1 September 2021. Recreational members highlighted reviewing the barramundi maximum size limit and black jewfish management. Fisheries Queensland noted regional workshop expressions of interest will be advertised soon where some of these regional specific arrangements will be further discussed, and a summary of the outcomes will be reported to the working group.

Fisheries Queensland presented the methodology and outcomes from the BDO social and economic indicators report for commercial and charter fisheries, and noted that an interactive dashboard is available on the department’s website. The working group noted that BDO have been contracted to continue this project as well as work focused on providing comparable social and economic information from the recreational sector alongside the commercial and charter sectors. It was noted that collecting social and economic information for all sectors will help inform management of our fisheries in the future while pursuing ecological objectives. The conservation member asked if export value is measured in the survey and if it can be improved as this is an important indicator, particularly in the context of WTO accreditation.

Fisheries Queensland presented the methodology and results of the 2019-20 statewide recreational fishing survey. The results include recreational harvest, participation, effort and expenditure and a range of other data. The recreational sector expressed concerns with the methodology and accuracy of the information collected, as well as emphasised an increase in recreational fishing during the COVID-19 pandemic, and suggested discussing options for alternative data collection in future. The results of the survey are available via a dashboard on the department’s website. Fisheries Queensland also explained and answered questions on the boat ramp survey program.

Fisheries Queensland provided an update on the new standardised commercial fishing reporting requirements that will commence on 1 September 2021. Working group members asked questions regarding the reporting process, including pre-trip notices, logbook, prior reporting and weights notice  completion timeframes, accurate weights and certified scales, and landing location requirements. Specific scenarios were discussed for the tunnel net and ocean beach fisheries, and the ability to retain reported catch across multiple days fishing, with further discussion and resolution to these issues required. The working group then noted an 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.

QBFP provided an update on enforcement activities and offences in the east coast inshore fishery. New enforcement powers were discussed, including entry to premises and powers to produce an image or writing from an electronic device (e.g. mobile phones). Black marketing and product substitution was noted as priority areas for the QBFP, and the department has made significant progress towards investigating and prosecuting these offences. QBFP requested working group members champion the importance of compliance in key areas such as vessel tracking and black marketing.

The next meeting will be held in November 2021 and will discuss protected species management and next steps, independent monitoring and data validation, regional harvest strategy progress, shark depredation research, localised depletion monitoring, barramundi size limits, stock assessment processes and sectoral share processes going forward.

The East Coast Inshore Fishery Working Group members are: Fisheries Queensland (Chair – Kimberly Foster, Principal Fishery Manager – Tony Ham, Senior Fishery Manager – Ryan Keightley, , Commercial fishing (Allan Bobbermen, Nathan Rynn, Benjamin Coyne, Daniel Atherton ), Post Harvest (Matt Vujica), Indigenous Representative (Brian Singleton) Recreational fishing (John Bennet, Ken Davis, Kim Martin, Phil Laycock, Rhyce Bullimore), Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (Tom Hatley), Animal Science Queensland (Sam Williams), Working group observers: Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol (Robert Marsh Brett Depper ), Conservation (Simon Miller AMCS).