Communique 13 March 2018

The Sea Cucumber Fishery working group met for the first time in Cairns on 13 March 2018.

The working group was provided an overview of the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy (the Strategy). The members discussed the key policy objectives and how the working groups input will be used to inform the future management of the Sea Cucumber fishery.

Fisheries Queensland provided an outline of the current status of the fishery. The working group provided minor changes but otherwise agreed that the information provided was correct. The working group noted that the fishery is considered well managed and sustainable in accordance with the Status of Australian Fish Stocks process.

Fisheries Queensland provided information on the Monitoring and Research Plan and Social and Economic Monitoring, which outlines where the initial investment in monitoring and data under the Strategy will be focused. Working group members highlighted the need to maintain confidentiality of data for fisheries with limited numbers of licence holders. It was noted that the majority of assessment and monitoring undertaken for this fishery has been funded by industry. It was identified that improved monitoring and research through the use of technology would be considered an advantage for this fishery and would support the development of harvest strategies.

The working group discussed the Queensland Harvest Strategy Policy and Queensland Harvest Strategy Guidelines. The members noted that a harvest strategy would provide more certainty by outlining predetermined management actions based on agreed indicators for fishery performance. The working group noted the establishment by industry of the rotational zoning plan provides a sound basis for developing a harvest strategy for this fishery. As part of the process further consultation with broader fishery stakeholders will be undertaken.

The working group members discussed issues in the Sea Cucumber fishery. Members noted the need to overview current historical input and output controls and the need to highlight Wildlife Trade Operations requirements within the harvest strategy. Working group members agreed on the need to formalise the existing industry driven rotational zoning plan for the operation of the Sea Cucumber fishery into the Harvest Strategy and Fisheries legislation.

The working group noted that commercial harvest boats would require vessel tracking by the end of 2020 and was shown an example vessel tracking unit. The members identified that all operators currently use vessel tracking in this fishery.

To start the harvest strategy process, the working group was asked to identify key fishery objectives to set out the direction and aspirations for the fishery. The following draft objectives were recommended by the working group to:

  • ensure sustainability for target species
  • minimise risk of localised depletion
  • demonstrate there is no unacceptable risk to sustainability and ecosystem resilience
  • achieve long term wildlife trade operations accreditation
  • third party fishery accreditation
  • maximise value of commercial product
  • maintain Stewardship across industry
  • recognise the social benefits of the fishery to the community
  • ensure fisheries management is meeting the expectations of community
  • improve data to support better management decisions
  • manage fishing effort to improve social-economic benefit and minimise the risk of overfishing
  • reduce complexity of fishing rules.

The members discussed management review options that would enable the fishery to be managed to achieve these objectives. The working group agreed that a review of all licence conditions and Queensland legislation is necessary, with a specific focus on which input and output controls are still relevant for the fishery. Working group members agreed that verification of the current industry adopted trigger reference points for certain sea cucumber species remains valid. A strong focus on aligning harvest fishery quota management with other commercial fisheries was considered to be of benefit into the future.

The working group discussed industries previous application to increase the total allowable catch of black teatfish. The working group members agreed to request a review of the stock assessment report by the Sustainable Fisheries Expert Panel and advice on increasing the total allowable catch under a precautionary approach included within the development of a harvest strategy for this fishery.

The working group was concluded with a discussion around the next steps that need to be taken for transitioning the Sea Cucumber fishery to a harvest strategy framework.

The next working group meeting is scheduled for late June to refine the objectives, management review options and starting to develop the operational components of a harvest strategy. Fisheries Queensland will be seeking the views of all stakeholders throughout the process.

Sea cucumber fishery working group members

  • Fisheries Queensland (Chair-Kimberly Foster)
  • commercial fishing (Chauncey Hammond, Rob Lowden)
  • Rhys Bennett (apology)
  • Ben Cochrane (apology)
  • science (Timothy Skewes)
  • Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (Randall Owens).