Moreton Bay Region Harvest Strategy Workshop 16 - 17 May 2019

A workshop was held in Margate on 16-17 May 2019 to discuss the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy reforms and to draft a harvest strategy for the Moreton Bay Trawl Fishery. The workshop noted the proposed management changes for the East Coast Trawl Fishery, outlined in the Directions Paper, including splitting the fishery up into five management regions, allocating effort units to each region, establishing an effort cap for each region and developing harvest strategies.

Fisheries Queensland explained the trawl fishery management package outlined in the Government’s Direction Paper. Fisheries Queensland provided an update on the recent allocation consultation - the proposed approach for Moreton Bay Trawl that was consulted on in March/April 2019 received mixed feedback. This workshop discussed allocation approaches, one new approach was supported by some members. Some member’s continued to support a similar approach to the one consulted on (50/50 split).  The workshop was advised that M1’s were having a meeting to discuss allocation options.   However no further consensus was reached on any option.  Fisheries Queensland advised that there will be a final round of consultation before a final decision is made through amendments to fisheries legislation later in 2019.

Participants felt strongly at improving the social perception of the commercial fishing industry, as well as the social and economic impacts of the reform process on commercial fishers. The lack of control over the wholesale industry and prices they pay for landed product was identified as an issue, as well as waste due to being unable to keep or sell bycatch. The workshop agreed that environmental factors strongly contributed to the productivity of Moreton Bay and must be considered in any assessment of the fishery.

Current effort in the fishery averages around 4-5,000 days. The workshop agreed to keep the harvest strategy simple and closely aligned to current operations to enable fishers to adjust to the new arrangements.

Fisheries Queensland presented an overview of how harvest strategies would be implemented in Queensland and what can be expected for the future management of this fishery. It was agreed that while the 2012 assessment will help establish the harvest strategy it does need to be updated to inform future management.  The workshop agreed the main indicators and decision rules would be focused on:

  • Set the effort cap based on the MSY estimate (10,669 days)
  • Retain the existing closures (e.g. weekends)
  • Establish a trigger to notify fleet once 80% of effort cap is reached with no immediate management action to slow-down effort
  • Review the effort cap using an assessment at least every three years with the option to bring forward an assessment if effort in the region changes substantially.
  • Monitor secondary target species (e.g. squid) to ensure catches are within historical ranges and review where there are substantial increases
  • Monitor by-product species (e.g. octopus) to ensure catches are within historical range (looking to review where there are substantial increases.

The workshop identified a number of additional regulatory changes they would like to see considered, including:

  • Introduction of exclusion zones (e.g. 500m) around trawlers to minimise interactions with other boating traffic;
  • Review trawl closures and consider applying to all sectors to protect small prawns nurseries;
  • Clarifying trip limits for trawl for blue swimmer crabs.

The workshop agreed to provide a list of species (e.g. silver biddies, goat fish) for review as part of the ‘permitted species’ list so information can be collected over the next 12 months to inform that process.  The workshop raised again, noting they have raised for some years, a desire to fish in multiple fisheries (L1 in particular) at the same time to allow fishing businesses to diversify.  Participants identified it’s difficult to avoid interactions with crab potting apparatus when operating at night and recommended that potting apparatus be lit when being set in known trawl areas.

The workshop noted that after the harvest strategy is implemented, for the 2020 fishing season, it would provide a framework for talking to fishers about the performance of the Moreton Bay Trawl Fishery and enable discussions about other adjustments to regulations to improve the fishery over time.

The workshop noted that a first draft of a harvest strategy for the Moreton Bay Trawl Region would be provided to workshop participants out of session for further feedback.  The workshop also noted that the recommendations and feedback would be provided to the Trawl Working Group, along with the other regional trawl workshops as part of the implementation of the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy.  Individual fishers will have the opportunity to provide feedback on the draft harvest strategy later in 2019 as part of the consultation process.  At a minimum, there will be an annual Moreton Bay Trawl Region meeting to discuss fishery performance and improvements to the harvest strategy in the longer term.

Workshop Participants: Fisheries Queensland (Chair, Kimberly Foster), Kev Baker, Dale Thorogood, Brett Savige, Michael Wood, Tanya Dallas, Jim Dallas, Grant Lewis, Steve Anderson, Sam Anderson, Ted Woodham.