Communique 19-20 October 2017

The trawl fishery working group met for the first time in Brisbane on the 19th and 20th of October.

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

Fisheries Queensland provided an outline of the current status of the fishery. The working group noted that all stocks are sustainable under the Status of Australian Fish Stocks report, with the exception of scallops. A recent stock assessment indicated that scallop biomass was approximately 6% and there was discussion about the adequacy of the management response in 2016.

The working group were concerned about the current management arrangements for scallops and specifically asked to amend the agenda to include a discussion on scallops. The working group noted with extreme disappointment the impracticality of changing the arrangements for the upcoming season. The working group has strongly recommended a change to the scallop closure be put in place early in 2018, to amend the closure to be from 1 April 2018 to 3 Jan 2019, to support the recovery of the stock. There were mixed views around also introducing a prohibition of scallop nets during the closure but the working group didn’t want this component to prevent a change to the closure time. However, some members of the working group wanted Fisheries Queensland to also include a review of the use of scallop nets during the scallop closure. The working group noted that the results of the current surveys are required to determine if further management action would also be required to rebuild the stock in the longer term. The working group requested the results of the survey be provided as soon as they are available and the Expert Panel and Government be informed of their concerns for future discussion and to inform future management arrangements.

Fisheries Queensland provided information on the Monitoring and Research Plan, which outlines where the initial investment in monitoring and data under the Strategy will be focused. The working group expressed an interest in being more involved in the design of surveys and other monitoring activities.

The working group discussed the Queensland Harvest Strategy Policy and Guideline. The members noted that a harvest strategy would provide more certainty by outlining predetermined management actions based on agreed indicators for fishery performance. Fisheries Queensland

will assist the working group to develop harvest strategies and will be consulting with broader fishery stakeholders as development progresses.

The working group discussed current issues in the trawl fishery. Members noted key issues around economic efficiency, job satisfaction, mental health and wellbeing, stewardship, return on investment, managing excess capacity and managing the ecological risk of fishing. The working group noted community expectations and will continue to manage interactions with protected species and minimise the risk of fishing on the environment.

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 working group identified the following aspirations for the fishery:

  • Ensure sustainability and look to maintain a higher biomass to improve stock resilience and economic efficiency
  • Improve economic performance by optimising catch to maximise market value as well as

improving market access and innovation.

  • Maximise social outcomes through improved job satisfaction, social acceptance of the trawl fishery and security of access.
  • Enhance management performance by simplifying management structures to improve

flexibility and ensure cost effectiveness.

The working group was then asked to identify management units which will define the scope of the harvest strategy. Noting the Strategy’s preference to manage at the stock level, the working group identified that a regional approach reflecting the key stocks would best achieve this. It was also noted that in some regions, multiple stocks would need to be managed and advice from the Expert Panel would be desirable.

There was significant discussion around the management reform options that would enable the fishery to be managed to achieve these objectives and management units. The working group considered catch quota, which is the preferred option under the Strategy. However, given the variable nature of the species and recent examples from Northern Prawn Fishery the working group recommended against catch quota at this stage. The working group discussed a range of options around the allocation or non-allocation of effort units and/or T1 licences to support the regional approach. The working group did recommend that if allocated, units should be tradable (ie through buying or leasing) to enable fishers to move in the future. The working group recommended that the regional approach with allocated effort units would be the best option presented to date to maximise economic outcomes, ensure sustainability and achieve the objectives of the Strategy, which was released by the Queensland Government in June 2017 to guide the reform of Queensland’s fisheries. The working group noted the aim for an operational harvest strategy by 2020. The working group made it clear that further discussion and proper consultation is required to set effort caps for each of the regions and identify the best approach for the individual allocation process, and this must be resolved before harvest strategies can be operational.

The next working group meeting will be in February 2018 to refine the management units and management framework options for consultation. The working group wished to emphasise that Fisheries Queensland will be undertaking further consultation with all industry stakeholders in early 2018 to talk about the options for regional management units and allocation of effort units. If needed a teleconference, in December 2017, will be held ahead of proposed consultation.

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 and Kev Adams), WWF- Australia (Jim Higgs) recreational fishing (David Bateman) and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (Rachel Pears).