T4 Fishery Workshop 13 August 2021

An online workshop was held with T4 fishery stakeholders on 13 August 2021. The purpose of the workshop was to provide advice on the Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) for the 2022 fishing season based on stock assessment results and in line with the approved harvest strategy. The workshop also provided advice on a new independent observer protocol and industry agreed to engage a suitable contractor to meet the reporting requirements for the 2022 fishing season.

The workshop noted the stock assessment outputs that were presented in June 2021 and estimate the spawning biomass of the eastern Australian stout whiting stock to be 42% of unfished biomass. Industry noted the recommended biological catch outputs to rebuild to 48% biomass by 2027 and Queensland’s average proportional harvest of the stout whiting stock. Based on the harvest proportion estimates, 46% of the recommended biological catch can be allocated to the T4 fishing sector.

RBC * Qld T4 proportional harvest = T4 TACC

2786 * 0.46 = 1281 t

Industry supported the TACC being set at 1281 tonnes for the 2022 fishing season, in accordance with harvest strategy rules. Industry again raised the significant bycatch from the T1 sector as an issue. The workshop discussed bycatch reduction devices (BRDs) used in other prawn fisheries and supported work to prioritise a research project that would identify a suitable BRD for use on T1 vessels when operating in the shallow-water component of the eastern king prawn fishery where stout whiting exists. Fisheries Queensland advised that they had raised this as a research priority with Animal Science Queensland and would look for opportunities to progress this project. The workshop recognised that the potential loss of prawns would be the biggest barrier to identifying a suitable BRD to address this issue. Industry recommended that the project should also measure any reduction in soft or broken prawn by excluding stout whiting, or any reduction in the processing/sorting time by excluding stout whiting to demonstrate the economic benefit to T1 fishers.  

The workshop discussed a draft independent observer protocol in accordance with the fishery’s new Data Validation Plan and to fulfil independent data collection and validation conditions of the Wildlife Trade Operation (WTO) accreditation. The protocol identifies the number of shots that must be observed over the course of the season and where (north vs south) and when (day vs night) they must be observed based on historical fishing activity. The workshop noted that reporting requirements would include information on retained catch, discarded catch, threatened, endangered and protected species interactions and any shark and ray interactions. Industry endorsed the draft protocol and committed to engaging a suitable contractor to undertake this work for the 2022 fishing season.

The workshop discussed legislative timelines and processes for transitioning existing trip limits into annual quotas; amending the fishery area to within 20 fathoms; and introducing the southern fishery closure to legislation. Fisheries Queensland advised that the legislative process for these reforms is outside of the harvest strategy decision rules and requires consultation or consideration by government. The workshop discussed implications that Industry should be aware of in progressing an amendment to the fishery area. Industry advised that this remains a priority for them and expressed frustration at the delay in progressing these changes. Fisheries Queensland advised that these changes are on the legislative program to progress at the next available opportunity, however it is unlikely that these changes could be implemented ahead of the 2022 fishing season.

Industry noted that southern closure is currently issued under general fisheries permits (GFPs) which expire in September 2021. Due to recent changes to the fisheries legislation, Fisheries Queensland is no longer able to issue GFPs for this purpose and it would require legislation amendment to establish a consistent fishing rule. Industry advised they are committed to the southern closure and the benefit it provides to the stout whiting biomass and would continue to sit out of the southern fishery area between 20 September – 1 April each year on a voluntary basis. Fisheries Queensland recognised the proactive support from industry to continue management arrangements that are in the best interest of the fishery.

The workshop agreed to continue working together to implement the observer protocol, develop a plan for a BRD trial and to progress other fishery reforms.