Communique 17 February 2022

The Gulf of Carpentaria Inshore Fishery (GOCIF) working group met for the second time on 17 February 2022 online. The purpose of the meeting was to finalise the agenda items from the first meeting, update any actions from the previous meeting and provide further updates on the fisheries ecological risk assessments, social and economic information as well as new presentations on recreational fishing data and current biological monitoring programs in the GOCIF. The planned shark research presentation was deferred until the next meeting. The working group recommended that both indigenous representative positions on the working group be filled for future meetings and it would be desirable that representatives cover the different regions within the Gulf.

The working group were presented with an overview of the Queensland Ecological Risk Assessment (ERA) process, including the framework, methodology, risk drivers and results from the Level 2 ERA completed for the Queensland GOCIF. Members noted that ERA’s are not sustainability assessments and they are designed to reflect issues in the fishery such as risks to species and data deficiencies across all aspects of the fishery. Members noted that the risks identified in the ERA’s will be considered when developing harvest and protected species management strategies for the GOCIF. Updated ERA’s will be completed after the reform process is completed and will be refined over time to reflect changes in management and research which is likely to result in changes to species risk ratings. Members discussed the importance to consider historic research that has been undertaken in response to previous ERA’s completed in the Gulf of Carpentaria and agreed to send all relevant research to Fisheries Queensland for consideration as part of the reform process. Members discussed the current reporting requirements for the commercial industry and identified the current logbook reporting methods and validation of Threatened, Endangered and Protected species (TEP) interactions was a major issue for the GOCIF. A working group member updated the group on an electronic monitoring trial in the GOCIF to develop a cost-effective e-monitoring system for use in Queensland fisheries. The trial will commence in 2022.

The working group was provided with a presentation on the social and economic indicators from the GOCIF, including how to use the online dashboards, the results of the 2018–2019 BDO EconSearch report as well as the estimates of recreational fishing expenditure from the statewide recreational fishing survey and the boat ramp survey program. Some working group members supported collecting the economic data for the fishery and providing the data publicly. There are concerns in the commercial fishing industry around the publication of information that may allow an individual’s fishing activity to be identified. The charter members raised concerns over data accuracy and integrity stating a perceived difficulty in providing accurate responses to the complex questions being asked and possibly providing caveats around these concerns.

The working group were presented with an overview of the recreational fishing data recorded in the GOCIF including information from the statewide recreational fishing survey and the boat ramp survey program. Recreational participation in Queensland was estimated at 943, 000 fishers in 2018/2019 dropping to 660,000 participants in 2019/2020. Members recommended collecting additional information on shark catches and depredation and sawfish interactions in the Gulf. Some members discussed the extent of effort creep in the recreational fishery and the importance to consider this as part of future surveys and data analysis.

The working group was presented with an overview of the biological monitoring data collected and findings for barramundi, king threadfin and Spanish mackerel harvested in the GOCIF. This presentation included what biological information is collected and how it is used for stock status and as inputs into stock assessment modelling. Information on how net selectivity and catch rate calculations were used in the barramundi and king threadfin stock assessments was also provided. Working group members noted the information presented and discussed issues around the effect of mesh size on fishing mortality across different sizes of fish and the ability to target different species using different mesh sizes. A commercial member questioned the ability of the stock assessment to define targeted effort on king threadfin. Fisheries Queensland advised that these issues will be important discussions in future meetings regarding reform options.

In general business the research member asked about what research is being undertaken in the Queensland Gulf of Carpentaria Finfish Fishery and Fisheries Queensland advised they would take this as an action item for next meeting. The working group requested a presentation from Northern Territory Fisheries on their current reform process.

The next meeting is planned for late March or early April (likely to be held in Karumba) and will focus on a review of the fishery’s key issues, current management arrangements, addressing concerns over the management of protected species, management action for king threadfin and to begin the initial development of a harvest strategy. The working group noted that a dedicated meeting to address protected species management issues will be held in the future.