Communique 18 September 2019

The Sea Cucumber Fishery working group met for the fourth time in Cairns on the 18 September 2019.

Role of the working group: The Sea Cucumber Fishery working group will provide advice on the operational aspects of managing the Sea Cucumber Fishery and the development of a harvest strategy consistent with the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy. The current focus is the harvest of sea cucumber and export of processed product primarily to the Asian market.

The working group accepted the previous meeting minutes and noted the progress of the meeting action items.

Fisheries Queensland provided an update on the regulatory changes that commenced on 1 September 2019.  The working group welcomed the changes to make white teatfish a no take species for non-commercial fishers and the new boat limits to better manage black marketing of sea cucumber species. Working group members noted that a number of proposals outlined in the discussion paper are still being considered and further regulatory amendments are expected before the end of 2019. This would include reviewing the administration framework (licensing, quota certificates and management arrangements) for this fishery to support the harvest strategy.

The working group reviewed the draft harvest strategy and further developed reference points and decision rules for each of the operational management objectives. Members agreed that three tiers of management would be appropriate (Tier 1 for black and white teatfish, Tier 2 for Burrowing Blackfish and Tier 3 for remaining species). Further work is required to refine the reference points, targets and decision rules as well as implement the recommendations from the Sustainable Fisheries Expert Panel.  The working group agreed to finalise these components out of session ahead of expected consultation later in 2019.

Fisheries Queensland and Industry members agreed to progress a scope of works for developing a suitable modelled assessment of white teatfish, black teatfish and burrowing blackfish out of session.  The working group noted that it would be ideal to have a suitable modelling solution available for when the harvest strategy commences for the 2020 fishing season.   To support management of burrowing blackfish and simplifying harvest rules, Industry agreed to work with Fisheries Queensland to investigate whether it was possible to establish separate species-specific quota management.

Industry provided an update on an upcoming burrowing blackfish survey that will be conducted in October, weather permitting.  The survey will be carried out by divers using traditional transects that will be compared to ROV-based surveying concurrently.  Subject to results, Industry is looking to move to more innovative and cost-effective survey methods.

The working group noted the listing of white teatfish and black teatfish in Appendix 2 of CITES.  Fisheries Queensland will work with Industry to understand what may be required of the fishery.

The working group was concluded with a discussion around the next steps needed to finalise the harvest strategy for the Sea Cucumber fishery, ready for finalisation in 2020.

The next working group meeting is tentatively scheduled for March/April 2020.

The Sea Cucumber Fishery Working Group members are: Fisheries Queensland (Chair- Kimberly Foster), commercial fishing (Chauncey Hammond, Rob Lowden, Rhys Bennett (apology), Ben Cochrane, science (Timothy Skewes) and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (Randall Owens).