Communique 25-26 October 2018

The purpose of this meeting was to discuss expert panel feedback on the recommended management package, bycatch and protected species reforms, considering effort caps and allocation and starting harvest strategy development.

The working group considered correspondence received from industry members and recognised their concerns. The current proposal for this fishery will allow T1 operators the flexibility to move between zones and there is no conversion factor proposed initially.  Allocation would be based on the last 10 years history allowing most operators to continue to do what they have done.

The meeting noted the preliminary information from the 2018 fishery independent scallop recruitment survey has been completed. Three vessels sampled 333 sites between Yeppoon and Double Island Point over 29 nights. The data from the survey will now be entered, checked and analysed and made publicly available in early 2019.  It will inform an updated stock assessment which will be completed in early 2019. Initial observations from sampling staff indicate juvenile scallops were present throughout the survey area. In general, staff encountered more scallops than last year particularly the sampled areas between Hervey Bay and Yeppoon. Some tows yielded in excess of 4000 scallops, and were from both inside and outside of the scallop replenishment area’s. Information will be sent out to all trawl fishers in the next week.  Members reiterated their ongoing concerns about rebuilding of the stock and their view that the winter closure should have been extended.  Fisheries Queensland advised that all the scallop management arrangements would be reviewed in early 2019 once the stock assessment is updated to determine if further action is needed to recover the stock and inform the longer term harvest strategy.

Fisheries Queensland provided an update on the implementation of the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy 2017-2027 and progress on the Bill to amend the Fisheries Act 1994. The working group noted the progress report on implementing the Strategy and in particular that work to improve engagement was identified.  The working group raised concerns about the proposed costs and polling rate associated with the trawl fishery moving to paying for polling on 1 January 2019.  Fisheries Queensland has agreed to look at ways to reduce polling costs, look at alternative providers to support existing trawl units and provide information on why trawl needs to be at 15 minute polling intervals.  The working group suggested an alternative option might be for Fisheries Queensland to hold the account with the polling providers and bill trawl fishers the cost of vessel tracking.

Sean Pascoe attended the meeting as a member of the Sustainable Fisheries Expert Panel (Expert Panel) to provide feedback on the proposed management options. Sean advised that the Expert Panel believe the proposed management regions provides an important balance between flexibility to move while improving control on trawl effort.  The Expert Panel have emphasized the need for management to be robust because there is a lot of variability between each of the proposed management regions.

The working group discussed measures required to reduce bycatch and Species of Conservation Interest (SOCI) interaction and habitat impacts.  The working group noted the need for continual improvement in managing bycatch and SOCI in the trawl fishery.  Risk assessments have found that since the introduction of bycatch reduction device’s and turtle excluder device’s some high risk species are now a lower risk from trawl fishing which is a positive outcome.  However, there are still a number of high risks species (sea snakes, small sharks and ray) and habitats that require consideration in the harvest strategies and managing effort is a direct way to minimise these risks.  The working group agreed to focus on better reporting, information and innovation to minimise interactions for high risk species and investigate opportunities for new gear trials.

The working group considered the Expert Panel’s advice on setting the initial effort caps based on current effort levels.  The working group recommended that effort caps be set at or below Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) in line with the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy targets with each harvest strategy to establish a scheduled transition to Maximum Economic Yield.  GBRMPA indicated their concern about a potential increase in effort within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and that caps set at MSY are much higher than current effort and may increase/reintroduce ecological risks.  The working group noted that each management region should be consulted on the effort cap as part of the harvest strategy.  It was noted that the Southern Inshore Region effort cap would need to be informed by the results of the next scallop stock assessment scheduled for early 2019.

The working group recommended the following approach for allocating east coast trawl effort units into the four regions:

  • Active effort units would be allocated based on history using a 10 year history period
  • Unused effort units would be allocated based on halfway between equal split and fleet average (36%-Southern Offshore; 21%-Southern Inshore; 21%-Central; 22%-North)

For Moreton Bay, there was no consensus on the preferred allocation approach and instead a number of options were outlined:

  • Option 1: 50/50 split between M1/M2 based on 10 year history.  M1 75 base plus proportional history.  M2 Equal Split (213 nights). Preferred by M1 fishers
  • Option 2: M1/M2 based on 10 year history. M1 50 base or max nights fished. M2 Based on existing access (260 nights). Preferred by M2 fishers
  • Option 3: M1 history based allocation of existing effort units (East Coast or Moreton Bay).  M2 history based allocation.

Option 1 & 2 include existing M1 effort units being managed on the east coast. Another alternative was for M1 to nominate the split of their existing effort units between Moreton Bay and East Coast.

The working group recommended a number of regulatory changes be progressed to support the reforms and development of harvest strategies, including:

  • Remove the existing 70 Hull Unit requirement while retaining 20 meter maximum vessel length.
  • Remove maximum horsepower limit to improve efficiency and compliance challenges.
  • Extend Effort Unit Conversion Factor (EUCF) beyond 70 hull units based on the existing CSIRO work.  Establish a periodic review of fishing power as part of harvest strategy and longer term consider if the EUCF should be based on each management region.
  • 2 for1 T1/T2 on new boats replacement policy.
  • Move to AMSA Certificate of Survey measurements to standardise, improve reliability and scrutiny of measurements.
  • Flexible closures (time/spatial) as a tool for harvest strategies
  • Remove Moreton Bay boat replacement policy while retaining 14 meter maximum vessel length.

The working group reviewed an example harvest strategy and felt that there should be an aspiration to move to more real time and responsive management decisions and co-management with industry.  The working group noted that regional workshops would be established over coming months to help develop the harvest strategies and review current controls/rules, logbooks and reporting.

The next working group meeting is scheduled for February 2019 to discuss scallop management, continue to develop harvest strategies and reviewing proposed regulatory changes.