Communique 20 October 2021

The Freshwater Fisheries Working Group met for the first time on 20 October 2021. The Chair introduced the group, it’s role and terms of reference.  All members gave a general introduction and update from their respective sectors and/or regions.

Fisheries Queensland gave an overview of the freshwater sector and an update on current programs. Members were provided an opportunity to ask Fisheries Queensland and other members questions. The following topics were noted and discussed by members:

  • compliance with fisheries regulations, particularly in remote and regional areas,
  • signage and general advertisement and awareness of fisheries rules and pest fish,
  • fingerling supplies of Mary River Cod,
  • pest fish use,
  • recreational fishing licence,
  • vision for freshwater fishing,
  • access to freshwater bed and banks for recreational fishers (s13A Land Act 1994),
  • bow hunting in freshwater,
  • attracting younger generations and refreshing memberships of fishing and stocking groups,
  • the value of freshwater fisheries to Queensland,
  • commercial hatchery code of best practice.

The working group reviewed and discussed potential options for the ongoing use of opera house traps in Queensland. It was noted that over the past 12 months, an increasing number of state jurisdictions had either banned or moved to further restrict the use of Opera House traps and other enclosed traps used for collecting yabbies and shrimp, and the department had received numerous requests to consider complementary arrangements in Queensland.

The working group noted that since new restrictions were introduced for freshwater traps in 2015 to reduce the incidence of bycatch of air breathing mammals there have been no substantiated reports of animals becoming trapped in compliant fishing traps or evidence (through compliance and clean up exercises) to suggest that significant bycatch issues remain in the fishery. However, there have been sporadic incidents involving the use of non-compliant apparatus and/or confusion over where different apparatus can be used.

The working group supported further investigation of the need for change including gathering data on air breathing non-target species capture and fate. It was noted that Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol maybe able collect enhanced data from clean up days if possible. The working group supported considering greater consistency in relation to opening size for closed traps throughout the state. Reviewing attendance and float rules, especially outside of impoundments, were also supported to help improve compliance. Ghost fishing of other aquatic fauna was also raised as an issue for further investigation.

It was noted that any proposed changes to current management arrangements in relation to the use of Opera House traps would require significant consultation with fishing tackle retailers, the recreational fishing sector and other interested stakeholders.

Dr Susannah Leahy presented to the Working Group regarding the outcomes of a study on the contribution of stocked fish to the commercial barramundi fishery in the dry tropics region. Key findings included that wild fish constituted the major proportion of catch (>95% by number), and that stocked fish did not contribute significantly to the commercial catch. It was, however, found that stocked fish made a larger genetic contribution (parents and grand-parents). Access to freshwater was found to significantly enhance growth of juvenile barramundi.

Fisheries Queensland requested advice from the working group on the current management arrangements for Prescribed Barramundi Waterways, and the potential inclusion of waters above the Fitzroy Barrage on the list of Prescribed Barramundi Waterways. The working group were advised Fisheries Queensland’s current policy position is exemptions to the barramundi seasonal closure are only appropriate where there is no –or very limited –opportunity for downstream movement of spawning barramundi.

The working group was supportive of Fisheries Queensland developing a policy for adding and removing waterways for barramundi and bass closures for improved clarity about how prescribed waters are established. The Working Group reviewed the potential inclusion of waters above the Fitzroy Barrage and were not supportive of adding these waters to the Prescribed Barramundi Waterway list without further data. The working group noted that previous reports regarding the fish way on the Fitzroy Barrage indicated both upstream and downstream fish passage of barramundi. It was suggested that Dr Leahy’s methodology for identifying the natal origin and life history (salt and freshwater residency) may be particularly applicable for demonstrating (or otherwise) the lack of connectivity. More surveys would also be needed to conclusively demonstrate that the fishway on the Fitzroy Barrage does not pass juvenile and sub-adult barramundi.

The next working group meeting is tentatively scheduled for February 2022.

The Freshwater Fisheries Working Group members are:

Fisheries Queensland (Chair- Tony Ham, Director Management and Reform – Kimberly Foster, Principal Fisheries Manager – John Dexter, a/Fisheries Manager (Freshwater) – Thomas Hart), Agri Science Queensland (Andrew Norris), Biosecurity Queensland (Tim Lucas), Water Operators (Chris Delamont, David Roberts), Fish Stocking (Garry Fitzgerald, Ian Leighton, Joe Legrady), Recreational Fishing (Ross Williamson, Peter Delaforce, Kaidon Anderson), Water Use and Community (Chris Joseph), Aquaculture (Brett Smith, Bruce Sambell, Craig Cluff), Conservation (Merilyn Thomas), Pest Fish (Nicole Whysall), Aboriginal and Torres Straight Island Communities (Tanya Kirkegaard), Murray Darling Basin Authority (Greg Ringwood), Sciences (Stephan Gabas).