Communique 18-19 July 2017

Meeting Objective: The Coral Reef Fin Fish Fishery Working Group met to review the current decision rules for coral trout, ahead of the setting of coral trout quota for the 2018 season. The review occurred because of concern from commercial fishers and other stakeholders about the responsiveness of the decision rules to fishery issues.  

Meeting Outcomes

The working group requested further analysis of key components of the decision rules to better inform which parts need to be amended, in particular:

  • How should the average catch rate be calculated? The current rules calculate the average catch rate based on the reported catch from the last two calendar years.  A number of other models (one year, or best two from the last three years) will also be analysed to compare and inform the setting of this rule.
  • Should the target catch rate of 25 kg per dory per day be maintained? The working group noted that this target is currently based on commercial aspirations of viability. However, future information on drivers of fishery profit would better inform setting of a more appropriate target.
  • Should the limitations on quota changes be maintained? The rules currently restrict quota changes of less than 50 tonnes or more than 200 limits unless exceptional circumstances apply.  

Fisheries Queensland will provide the working group with additional advice out-of-session in relation to the above dot points before the end of August 2017.

During the discussion on the current decision rules a number of other fishery matters were also raised.  Key areas to note were:

  • A need for better communication to improve community understanding of commercial fishing rules to ensure sustainability of this fishery and improve to commercial fishers’ understanding of the history of the quota system for this fishery and operating a business within a quota managed system.
  • Concern about the recreational take of a number of longed lived species (such as red emperor and nannygai) in the “Other Species” quota category.  It was also noted that an Ecological Risk Assessment should be considered in developing a harvest strategy for the fishery.
  • Concern about progress particularly expediting harvest strategy implementation and how the harvest strategy process relates to removal of input controls. The working group also noted that improved data on recreational take as well as economic information on the commercial sector would better inform the setting of decision rules and support moving to a harvest strategy for the whole fishery.

Fisheries Queensland will provide the working group information on revised harvest strategy timelines and monitoring programs at the next meeting.

In addition, the working group received presentations on the following topical matters:

  • Fisheries Queensland provided an update on the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy.  The working group noted that the Coral Reef Fin Fish Fishery is in a good position to transition to a harvest strategy compared to other Queensland fisheries.  There was considerable discussion about the roll out of the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) with the working group noting that Fisheries Queensland is trialling smaller units more suitable for line dories. Fisheries Queensland is also partnering with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to pool $2.2 million in funding to assist with the roll out.  The working group recommended that further engagement with industry be undertaken and that VMS should also be trialled on charter and recreational vessels.
  • The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority provided an update on the coral bleaching event currently effecting the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The working group noted the areas of greatest concern were in the northern and central areas of the reef.     
  • Professor Morgan Pratchett from James Cook University presented his research into the effects of climate change on coral trout and possible adaption options.  Key points were increased water temperature can alter the lifecycle (breeding, growth) of coral trout and that the northern areas of the fishery that experienced higher temperatures are likely to be more impacted than the southern areas of the fishery. It was noted that a higher biomass assists in providing greater stock resilience.   
  • Dr Natalie Dowling from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) updated the working group on her project of developing triple bottom line harvest strategies that balance environmental, social and economic objectives for multi-sector fisheries. The working group will be working with the project team to develop a harvest strategy for the Coral Reef Fin Fish Fishery.   

Next Steps

Fisheries Queensland will provide detailed analysis of the decision rules to enable a follow up working group meeting in October 2017 to finalise recommended changes to the current decision rules.  

If changes are recommended, Fisheries Queensland will undertake targeted consultation about the proposed changes in November 2017. This will allow revised decision rules to be finalised this year and applied to the setting of the coral trout quota for the 2018 season.