Communique 24 January 2022

The Coral and Marine Aquarium Fish Fisheries working group met for the eighth time online on 24 January 2022 and welcomed the new chair. The working group (WG) endorsed the meeting minutes for meeting number six and meeting seven. An update on action items from previous meetings was given. Fisheries Queensland (FQ) continues to keep industry regularly informed of the current season’s harvest levels. This is to try and meet the Wildlife Trade Operations (WTO) requirement for this season.

The WG recommended a list of species / genera to be included in the coral logbook for the 2023 fishing season to be sent to licence holders for consultation. This change is required as CITES requires reporting to either species or genera level. As a consequence, only corals listed in the logbook will be able to be harvested. The list will be sent out to the coral fishing industry for consultation.

FQ advised that preliminary analysis has been undertaken that supports electronic reporting to be in place for the 2022-23 fishing season. This will require voluntary participation of fishers to test and support delivery of the system. The option to continue using the current reporting framework will still be in place to facilitate transhipment.

FQ gave an update on what legislative options were available to meet the harvest limits set out in the current Coral WTO export approval conditions. To have Individual Transferrable Quotas (ITQ) in place for some corals a significant subordinate legislation change is required which takes up to 18 months. Options were explored by FQ to determine if an ITQ could be put in place by another means for the 2022-23 fishing season, however nothing suitable was able to be put in place. Legally enforceable harvest limits will be in place for all corals allowed to be harvested as required by WTO conditions. These harvest limits will be under a competitive catch situation for the 2022-23 fishing season.

Industry expressed significant disappointment regarding the inability of the department to implement ITQ next season. The WG recommended that the coral fishing industry should be provided an opportunity to suggest possible input controls including triggers to slow down race to fish scenarios for the 2022/23 season. A consultation paper with suggested options will be released to the industry in the near future. This will require industry to provide feedback quickly to ensure arrangements are in place to meet WTO requirements.

Although ITQ’s cannot be put in place for the 2022/23 fishing season, FQ is working on getting ITQ’s in place for the 2023/2024 season and the WG recommended a list of species to be put out for consultation to industry for consideration.

Consultation feedback and final options will be taken to the WG for recommendation.

Fisheries Queensland presented (de-identified) historic data for all licences for the period 2016 – 2020 so the WG could see the significant issues associated with potentially using the data to work out ITQ allocation. The members of the WG at the meeting agreed that the data was not reliable enough to use to work out a history-based reallocation of current quota to species/genus level. The consultation paper will include other viable options for consideration.

FQ provided a quick update on the Ecological Risk Assessment process for the fishery which has begun with a vulnerability assessment. There are currently no concerns with meeting timeframes.

FQ gave an update on the Acropora Project procurement, which is a requirement of Condition 5 of the WTO coral export approval. The costs have likely increased substantially, requiring additional governmental approval processes. Following the tender process FQ will liaise with industry on a 50/50 cost sharing arrangement The final project proposal will be sent to the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment to confirm it will meet their requirements. It is noted that this project will be heavily reliant on industry participation.

In summary the consultation paper that is soon to be released for quick turn-around, will include:

  • harvest species list for 1 July 2022 onwards
  • species list for ITQ for the 2023/24 season
  • possible input controls for the 2022/23 season to slow the race to fish.

The Coral and Marine Aquarium Fish Fisheries Working Group members are: Fisheries Queensland (Chair – Michael Mikitis, Jenny Keys, Imraan Esat), Environment (Jessica Stella (GBRMPA)), commercial fishing (Daniel Kimberley, Don Gilson, Lyle Squire, Ros Patterson), science (Randall Owens, Morgan Pratchett).

Apologies: Graeme Broughall (QBFP), Dean Pease, Darren Brighton (present for the first half of the meeting).