Communique 1 December 2021

The Coral and Marine Aquarium Fish Fisheries working group met for the seventh time online on 1 December (Day 1) and will again meet on 10 December 2021 (Day 2).

The working group (WG) discussed condition 7a of the Wildlife Trade Operations (WTO) approval. It was mentioned that DAF had sent a letter to all coral fishers stating that the Queensland Government is unable to put any limits on this year’s catch and it was up to industry to come together to keep catch under control. Industry confirmed there is an industry led voluntary no-take for species of concern that have already reached the catch limit that will apply from 1 July 2022, and numerous fishers have committed to no longer taking these species of concern. It was also noted that there are some challenges attempting to meet this voluntarily. The WG requested that Fisheries Queensland (FQ) promote the fact that the fishery is doing everything it reasonably can to meet this condition. To facilitate this, Fisheries Queensland will continue to send letters out to fishers keeping them informed of the level of catch for any species of concern. The WG recommended that DAWE be invited to the January 2022 WG meeting.

FQ discussed different options for implementing the new harvest limits for the 2022-2023 season. Options included Prescribed Competitive Catch (PCC), Individual Transferable Quota (ITQ) or a combination of the two. The WG felt that a combination of PCC and ITQ was probably the best with species of concern found in Attachment B plus some other important species to be ITQ’d, and the rest PCC. The WG will look at species that they consider should be ITQ’d (including the Attach B Species). The WG will discuss these species at the 10 December meeting ahead of public consultation with fishers in the new year.

FQ provided a range of samples of indicative quota amounts for the 2022-23 fishing season for Acropora spp. and Cycloseris cyclolites based on a proportional quota allocation option. For C. cyclolites, a current specialty quota holding of 1.2 tonne could have an allocation of approximately 11.99 kg and this will be the same for other species that have been given 600 kg total quota under the WTO. These types of scenarios will influence decisions about whether a species should be managed by an ITQ or PCC.

The WG discussed that if ITQ is going to be used, how would it be implemented? WG members stressed that the process needed to be fair and all options considered. FQ advised that the allocation process used had to maintain relative economic position of authority holders. It was noted that allocation processes apply to authority holders and not to lessees. The WG agreed that two options would need to be looked at – quota allocation based on catch history or proportional quota holding. It was agreed that equal quota allocation (e.g. 600 kg divided by the number of licence holders) would not be considered. It was noted that there was no current proposal for a minimum quota holding.

FQ reiterated that there are major concerns with catch history in this fishery and do not think it can be used but committed to look at the catch history of a 4-year period from 1 July 2016 and provide information on what are the issues with the data at the January WG meeting.

Some members raised addressing latent effort as part of the allocation process. The WG agreed to discuss latent effort further at the January WG meeting when the allocation process approach is narrowed down ahead of consultation. FQ noted that if latent effort was to be looked at and removed, the process is a complicated one and would likely take over 9 months. The WG stressed the importance of the fishery legislatively meeting the catch limit requirements by 1 July 2022. However, opinion is divided as to whether there should be a push to have some ITQ in place by 1 July 2022 to avoid a competitive fishing situation that could occur under a PCC.  It is recognised by all that it is highly challenging to meet this timeframe.

GBRMPA representative gave an update on the annual GBRMP Pre-summer workshop held on 23 Nov 2021. Sea surface temperatures on the Reef were 1-2 degrees higher than long term averages, which increases the likelihood of bleaching. The Bureau of Meteorology declared a La Niña, the climate driver typically associated with wet conditions for eastern and northern Australia over summer. The WG wanted to encourage coral and MAFF fishers to download the Eye on the Reef App so they can provide information to GBRMPA on the health of the reef. It will also help the coral fishery meet the WTO condition number 9 – dealing with disturbances on the reef. The GBRMPA representative will provide compliance updates in future meetings in relation to Marine Park permit conditions.

FQ provided an update for the scheduled ecological risk assessment for coral and advised it was currently on target to meet condition 8 of the WTO.

WG members raised concerns about the current sale docket requirements for the MAFF and Coral fisheries. An agenda paper will be added to the January WG meeting to discuss the issues and QBFP will be advised that there are specific challenges regarding weighing product.

It was resolved to continue coral fisher updates over TEAMS monthly, rather than fortnightly after the 9 December meeting so that the FQ team can focus on meeting WTO deliverables.

The Coral and Marine Aquarium Fish Fisheries Working Group members are: Fisheries Queensland (Chair – Kimberly Foster, Danielle Stewart, Jenny Keys, Samantha Miller, Graeme Broughall (QBFP)), Environment (Jessica Stella (GBRMPA)), commercial fishing (Daniel Kimberley, Darren Brighton, Dean Pease, Don Gilson, Lyle Squire, Ros Patterson), science (Randall Owens, Morgan Pratchett - apology).