Communique 19-20 July 2018

The fourth meeting of the trawl working group was held in Brisbane on 19 and 20 July 2018. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss consultation feedback on the trawl fishery reform and to recommend a management package for further analysis and advice from the Sustainable Fisheries Expert Panel.

Mr Ted Woodham joined the group as a member in recognition of the need to ensure consideration of special arrangements applying in the Moreton Bay fishery.

Fisheries Queensland provided an update on the implementation of the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy 2017-2027. Actions completed under the Strategy included the release of ERA guidelines; release of a reallocation policy and tenders being awarded for automation of commercial fishing information and a commercial fishing app.

Members were advised that the Government had decided not to extend the winter scallop closure this year due to concerns over effort shift into Eastern King Prawn fishery and recent signs of recovery in the scallop fishery. The scallop season opening will remain at 1 November in 2018. It was noted that formal advice will be provided to all trawl authority holders in the next month. The Government will review whether further action is needed once an updated stock assessment is released later in 2018/early 2019. Some non-commercial members of the working group were of the view that further management action is required to rebuild the scallop stock in a timely fashion. It was noted that the scallop decision reinforces the need to develop and implement harvest strategies that establish pre-determined reference points and responses.

Results of consultation on the discussion paper were presented. This included information from the online survey, face-to-face meetings and email responses. There were 72 responses to the online survey on trawl fishery reform, with a broad range of responses. The working group felt this was a poor response rate and recommended better engagement platforms be used for future consultation; noting the survey was simply one method of consultation. The working group generally agreed small group meetings were productive and well-received, but were open to the idea of holding additional port meetings in the future as a means of Fisheries Queensland explaining some of the background and concepts better.

Annie Jarrett, CEO of the Northern Prawn Fishing Industry, attended the meeting and presented on the experience of fishing rights and reform in the Northern Prawn Fishery (NPF). There were a number of parallels and learnings for the Queensland east coast trawl fishery, particularly focusing on setting a shared vision and objectives and making hard decisions early.

The working group noted consultation provided minimal feedback on the draft management objectives. Management objectives were endorsed by the working group, noting they are overarching fishery objectives with more specific operational objectives to be developed for each of the harvest strategies.

The working group noted consultation feedback did not oppose the proposed management regions, as long as there was still flexibility for commercial fishers to move between regions. The working group endorsed the proposed management regions, however a small number of fishers felt a simpler model would be for North and South management regions (in addition to Moreton Bay).

The working group discussed three management options, based on feedback from consultation, including:

  1. Effort caps for each region – unallocated units
  2. Effort caps for each region – units allocated to regions (conversion factor adjusted only if required)
  3. Effort caps for each region – units converted to nights and allocated to regions

During consultation, Option 1 (unallocated effort caps) received the majority of support through port meetings and emails. However, the online survey responses showed a slight preference for Option 2 (Effort caps allocated to regions), albeit with some concerns about the impact of conversion factors applied during the allocation process. Option 3 (Effort caps converted to nights) was a new idea not included in the discussion paper. In addition to these, the working group requested further discussion on options for buybacks as a precursor to implementing any management option.

The working group discussed the implications of each of the management options in terms of satisfying the trawl fishery and Sustainable Fisheries Strategy objectives. Members also discussed the need to recognise the context within which considerations on the reform process are made. It was noted that members should be aware of the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy, the operation of the fishery in the GBRWHA and the Commonwealth approval process when considering possible reform options.

The working group agreed that more work was needed to reiterate the drivers for reform to industry, explain to individual fishers about the allocation process and how effort caps would be set. In particular, fishers should be advised that the effort caps are likely to be set at or above current effort levels based on the best available information from previous stock assessments which suggest most of the prawn stocks are fished at or below maximum sustainable yield already.  However effort may be adjusted as part of the harvest strategy. A conversion factor would not be applied when allocation occurs. The working group felt that the risk of latent effort being activated would be reduced as a result of the allocation of effort units to the regions.

Recommended management package

Members agreed to the following recommended management package for consideration by the Expert Panel, noting that further analysis and investigation is needed in some areas:

  1. Implement 5 management regions (See Attachment 1)
  2. Effort caps for each region, to be adjusted through harvest strategy if needed (See effort cap estimates in Attachment 2). Not all members supported the implementation of regional effort caps.
  3. Allocate existing effort units to regions based on history (and equal allocation for inactive units). This was the general preference of the working group, but some members supported not allocating effort units and instead using conversion factors or other methods to slow fishing effort as it approaches the effort cap.
  4. Consider removing the 70 hull unit limit (while maintaining the 20 metre maximum limit). Review and extend the existing hull unit / effort unit relationship.
  5. To address the working group’s concerns around the unused T1s, implement a 2:1 T1 surrender for new boats and/or a buyback of T1s to establish an appropriate fleet size.
  6. Consider removing the current horsepower limit.
  7. Ensure there is flexibility for timing of opening/closing seasons as part of the harvest strategies. This could include new closures in certain areas as suggested in consultation but would require more discussion as part of the harvest strategy development.
  8. A further Moreton Bay meeting would be held to discuss the option to establish a new Moreton Bay symbol and effort cap for Moreton Bay. Convert all Moreton Bay fishers to effort units. The working group agreed to absorb the M1 units into the T1 fishery meaning M1/T1 fishers could retain their east coast entitlement as well as access Moreton Bay. Remove the boat replacement policy once effort units are established.
  9. Develop a harvest strategy for Moreton Bay bugs. A stock assessment to be prioritised.
  10. The working group supported the recommendation of the crab working group that the trawled blue swimmer crab catch to be limited to 10% of the total allowable commercial catch. This would be constrained through trips limits, triggers to reduce trip limits when coming close to the 10% and no take once reach the limit.
  11. Recreational boat limit on prawns of 2 times the individual possession limit (similar recommendation to the inshore working group) to help address black marketing.

The working group received a presentation on the range of indicators that could be used for harvest strategies, ranging from catch data, to standardised catch rates, to simple off the shelf models, to more complex stock assessment models. The information will help develop the harvest strategies later in 2018.

A further working group meeting was scheduled for September to consider the Expert Panel advice on the recommended management package, start drafting harvest strategies and review proposed regulatory changes to support implementation of the reforms.

The trawl working group members are: Fisheries Queensland (Chair – Scott Spencer), commercial fishing (Richard Taylor, Jim Newman, Neil Mogensen, Barry Ehrke, Steve Murphy, Nick Schulz, Glen Duggan, Scott McLay, Bill Marsh, Ted Woodham and Kev Adams), Conservation representative (Jim Higgs), recreational fishing (David Bateman) and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (Rachel Pears).

Attachment 1 - Proposed Trawl Management Regions

Attachment 1 – Proposed Trawl Management Regions

Attachment 2 - EXAMPLE ONLY.
Regional Effort Unit usage, estimated Effort Caps and total regional allocation totals for the East Coast regions (source: Trawl Fishery Discussion Paper)

Northern trawlCentral trawlSouthern inshore trawlSouthern offshore trawl
Total effort units used (active) in 2017290 873340 276182 253789 727
MSY effort unit estimate500 000550 000N/A1 000 000
Allocation Estimate using equal allocation of unused572 744585 098565 098960 841

Note: The allocation estimate shows the total number of effort units that would be allocated to each region using a 10 year history period and allocating unused units using an equal split between regions.