Communique 17-18 October 2017

The coral reef fin fish fishery working group met in Brisbane to define a set of fishery objectives with the assistance of the FRDC Triple Bottom Line (TBL) Project team and to review the decision rules for coral trout.

The working group was provided an update on the harvest strategy development process and the working group’s role to provide advice, under the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy. The members noted that a harvest strategy will apply to all sectors (commercial, charter, recreation and indigenous) and a worked example was provided for coral trout. Members talked about a range of influences on the fishery, and noted that these need to be a consideration within the harvest strategy framework. Fisheries Queensland will guide the working group through the harvest strategy process with the assistance of the FRDC TBL project. The project will provide access to economists, scientists and fishery management experts.

The FRDC TBL Project team facilitated a discussion to start identifying objectives to underpin the harvest strategy for the coral reef fin fish fishery. The working group discussed a range of possible social, economic and ecological objectives for the fishery. Setting fishery objectives is an important step to set out the direction and aspirations for the fishery. The fishery objectives will be finalised out of session to enable further consultation with all stakeholders later in 2017.

Fisheries Queensland presented an update on the implementation of vessel tracking under the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy. The members identified issues relating to the operationalisation of vessel tracking including the ability to transfer between vessels and data confidentiality protocols. Further consultation on business rules will be undertaken with all stakeholders later in 2017.

Fisheries Queensland provided information on the Monitoring and Research Plan, which outlined how the research aligns with priorities for management. Members noted the recently expanded boat ramp surveys will produce trends in recreational catch rates, which can be used in lieu of a more formal estimate of catch. Members noted that a combination of data sources will better inform the development of a harvest strategy. Fisheries Queensland advised the working group that it has added a number of coral reef species to the boat-ramp monitoring program to improve the biological data on key species in the fishery. Fisheries Queensland expects that the working group will likely identify additional information and research needs to underpin a harvest strategy for the fishery – these requirements will be discussed more as part of developing the harvest strategy.

Trends in the beach and lease price for coral trout was discussed. The working group noted that while there has recently been more stability in the beach price of coral trout, the current price is still low compared to the price of quota, indicating suboptimal economic conditions. The members noted that better marketing, access to new markets, improved sorting of coral trout and increased communication may improve economic performance. Working group members will discuss mechanisms to improve marketing of coral trout out-of-session, and provide an update at the next meeting. Given the commercial contribution of coral trout to Queensland (over $30m), the collection and use of social and economic data would be informative in harvest strategy development.

The working group members reviewed the commercial catch and effort data and discussed the decision rule for setting coral trout quota and its response to using different average timeframes and in response to severe weather events. In discussing the decision rules, the working group noted the health of the Great Barrier Reef and its impacts on reef fish stocks and other influences from events like cyclones, high temperatures and bleaching events are important considerations. The working group noted that changing the decision rules now would not address the economic concerns of commercial fishers in the short term, subsequently recommending retaining the current decision rules and prioritising the development of the harvest strategy to improve management and address a range of concerns for all sectors. Despite the recommendation not to make changes to the current decision rules, the working group discussion has identified a number of issues to kick-start the harvest strategy process.

The working groups’ aim was to ideally have a harvest strategy in place for the 2019 season.

The working group discussed the effectiveness of current input controls for the fishery. Members noted that in quota-managed fisheries there is generally less of a need for input controls. The members noted that a number of input controls will be revised while the harvest strategy is being developed, so that once vessel tracking and a harvest strategies become operational input controls can be removed. Further discussion at the next meeting is required before review priorities can be identified for the development of legislative proposals and broader consultation in 2018.

Further out-of-session discussions on a number of matters including the FRDC TBL Project will occur prior to the next formal working group meeting, scheduled for February 2018.

The Coral Reef Fin Fish Working Group members are: Fisheries Queensland (Chair- Kimberly Foster, Sian Breen, Tom Roberts), commercial fishing (Chris Neil, Gareth Andrew, Terry Must and Mathew Squires), recreational fishing (Dan Kaggelis and Jason Bradford), charter fishing (Raymond Gleeson) and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (Darren Cameron), Queensland Boating & Fisheries Patrol (Bob Russell), Research (Andrew Tobin) and Conservation sector (Jim Higgs).