Communique 26-27 July 2022

The East Coast Inshore Fishery working Group met on 26 and 27 July in Brisbane. The purpose of the meeting was to update members on the progress on implementation of the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy (SFS), present recent research on black jewfish, and shark depredation, to discuss spotted mackerel trip limits, eFisher App, sea mullet stock assessment and total allowable commercial catch (TACC) setting, king threadfin stock assessment and TACC setting, protected species management strategy, and managing discards.

Action items from previous meeting discussed at length, with some issues for follow up action (amending meeting notes to accurately reflect the conversation {sectoral positions on net mesh size and ply, as well as recognition in Fisheries Queensland documents, websites and stock assessments that some Tier 3 species “hold significant recreational fishing importance and values”}, desire for information session on stock assessment and recreational fishing monitoring methodology, process around finalising communique and meeting minutes).

Fisheries Queensland provided an update on the implementation of the SFS, on the Spanish mackerel discussion paper, and mesh size and ply ratings amending legislation.  Some working group members noted concerns regarding legislation that reverts to pre-1 September 2021, size and ply ratings, in particular the understanding that the change was not to happen until the barramundi stock assessment was released, as previously recommended by the working group. The members raised concept of a review of barramundi maximum size – to be discussed in further detail upon release of the barramundi stock assessment.

Members were invited to provide a general update from their respective sectors. Working group members expressed concerns of increased effort on other species in the east coast inshore fishery, by all sectors, following any change to Spanish mackerel fishery management. Members received the reassurance of Fisheries Queensland that catch monitoring triggers based on increased catch rates are in place to ensure effective management of species in this case. Recreational members requested the working group be provided with a comprehensive table of the annual total net harvest for all species by regional breakup, for the complete years of 2019 and 2022, then annually thereafter so that any significant changes in harvest trends and targets can be identified and appropriate responses explored in a timely manner. The commercial members overall were very pleased with functionality of eFisher App and had suggestions on minor improvements. The commercial members expressed ongoing concerns with discard of king threadfin, the setting of the king threadfin TACC and reports that quota is difficult to access.  Some commercial fishers expressed concern regarding technicalities of reporting, logbooks and monitoring.  Commercial members suggested a desire to fillet fish at sea, the same as RQ and SM holders, to make operations more efficient and safer. Commercial fisher members expressed the desire to be able to retain catch, concerns with delays associated with need for weights notice prior to return to fish, reports of a good sea mullet season by most fishers, and concerns regarding small TACC’s restricting some fishing operations. All members supported progressing discussion of the concept of tagging for traceability, commercially caught black jewfish bladders. The conservation member provided an update of the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) GoodFish Sustainable Seafood Guide, as well as update on AMCS and James Cook University Species of Conservation Interest (SOCI) mapping that identified high risk hot spots. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) member provided an update on this years’ mass bleaching event and continued scrutiny of fishing activities in the GBRMPA World Heritage Area.

A Fisheries Queensland member provided the members with an update and overview on the eFisher App, as well as demonstrated to members use of the app.

The Working group were presented with an overview of recent research including the preliminary results of the black jewfish research project and shark depredation. The research member provided an overview of research priorities and sought feedback from members on what projects are most important and highest priority. Some of the high priority items included more work on SOCI species, improved recreational catch data, maximum economic yield estimation for fisheries and historical catch and stock abundance information. The Department of Environment and Science representative strongly supports further research on gear trials to reduce SOCI interactions.

The members were provided with a summary and overview of the sea mullet stock assessment. Some members indicated desire to have a NSW representative present to hear discussion. Members noted that the estimated biomass is around 37%, which is above maximum sustainable yield (33%), but trending down. The members considered the sea mullet stock assessment and application of harvest strategy decision rules to allocate the TACC for the 2023 season. Most members recommended retaining current total allowable catch for Management Region 5 for the 2023 season, (noting the deviation from existing Harvest Strategy) pending agreement with NSW joint jurisdictional approach, however the Conservation Member noted concerns regarding current harvest potentially causing further stock depletion and therefore a bigger potential adjustment when the target reference point is settled pending discussion with NSW.

The members were provided with a summary and overview of the king threadfin stock assessment and noted that all east coast assessment regions were close to or above 60% biomass. The members considered the king threadfin stock assessment to determine TACC setting for the 2023 fishing season. General consensus between members, was to maintain proposed TACC with 50/50 catch share allocation (for review in 2023 to consider discard data and 2022 total commercial catch). Members acknowledge the impact of current allocations to Management Region 5 with some concern.

The members were provided with data of reported threatened, endangered or protected (TEP) species interactions pre and post September 2021, and continued improvement on implementation of the Protected Species Management Strategy (PSMS). Some members expressed concerns that known or suspected mortalities did not appear to be reflected in reporting interactions. Members discussed the need to improve confidence in the data recording of TEP interactions via implementation of a data validation program. OceanWatch representatives provided an overview of their Responsible Fisher Training program to members. Members agreed that further relevant, reliable data of commercial fishing TEP interactions is required, Fisheries Queensland improve communication and education with industry, about obligations in reporting TEP interactions, encourage participants to engage in programs such as the OceanWatch program, and to continue compliance focus on non-compliant operators. The conservation member also recommended that further actions (e.g additional spatial protection) are required to reduce the risk to some TEP species, consistent with the objective of the PSMS.

The members were provided with an update on reporting by Fisheries Queensland.  Fisheries Queensland undertook that further discussion/work is required in the reporting concerns in the N10 fishery (weights notices, co-carrying fish and combined fishing operations). 

Working group members were provided with a summary and overview of several methodologies implemented by other jurisdictions and countries to manage discards and over/under quota situations.  Members discussed various scenarios and identified some key concepts for members to discuss with their peers, for further discussion at the next working group meeting.

The commercial take of spotted mackerel was discussed by members, with particular focus around the concept of introducing commercial possession limits once a threshold percentage of the TACC is reached. Members recommended the re-introduction of the 50 fish in-possession trip limit for net fishers once 50% of the TACC has been reached in a management region.

Members were provided with an update that Management Region 3 school mackerel TACC was reached and exceeded on 23 July 2022. The members discussed the strict application of Harvest Strategy Decision Rules and concluded that in this circumstance, that they were prepared to recommend a 1:1 deduction in the 2023 regional TACC season, based on the 2022 over catch.  The reasoning for this was unique and situation specific.

Members were reminded that the intentional or reckless harm to fish is an offence under the Fisheries Act 1994.  This includes unlawful treatment to crabs during the release process from commercial nets.

Commercial members expressed a desire to be able to fillet Tier 1 species for remote operational efficiencies and safety (e.g. forced to return to port in poor weather).  Fisheries Queensland recommends that industry participants seek data regarding conversion factors prior to further discussion.  Members noted there is a maximum size limit for barramundi, which may complicate this issue.

Members noted that several agenda papers (Catch Share Process, Black jewfish TACC setting, Shark and Ray size limits and the Compliance Report) were not addressed in session, due to time constraints.  Fisheries Queensland undertook that some of these papers will be addressed via online telecommunication style meetings in coming months.

The East Coast Inshore Fishery working group members are: Fisheries Queensland (Fill in Chair – Michael Mikitis, Principal Fishery Manager – Tony Ham, Senior Fishery Manager – Jeffrey Ikin, Fishery Manager – Cherelle Broughton, QBFP – District Manager - Brett Depper and Investigator - Robert Marsh, Agri-Science Queensland – Samuel Williams), commercial fishing (Jason Thomson, Benjamin Coyne, Daniel Atherton, and Nathan Rynn), recreational fishing (John Bennet, Ken Davis, Kim Martin, Rhyce Bullimore and Phil Laycock), seafood processor/wholesaler (Matt Vujica), conservation (Simon Miller), Department of Environment and Science (Alastair Freeman, in lieu of Justin Meager) and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (Thomas Hatley).

Apologies for this meeting were: Allan Bobberman, Ben Gilliland and Brian Singleton.

Please note: The conservation member finalised their comments after the meeting, as agreed with other working group members. Only minor changes were made.