Communique 26 March 2018

The Tropical Rock Lobster Fishery Working Group met for the first time in Cairns on the 26th of March.

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 Tropical Rock Lobster fishery.

Fisheries Queensland provided an outline of the current status of the fishery.  The working group discussed the value of this fishery, its relationship with the Torres Strait Tropical Rock Lobster fishery and the importance of sustainably fishing to market conditions.  It was noted that this fishery has a specific allocation for indigenous commercial fishing. The working group noted that the fishery is on a 10 year Wildlife Trade Operation approval, acknowledging it as a low risk, well managed hand collectable fishery.  Recognising that this fishery operates in sensitive habitats in the remote far north, it was noted that industry developed dory-based collection practises, such as no or minimal anchoring, minimise potential for habitat damage.

Fisheries Queensland provided information on the Monitoring and Research Plan and Social and Economic Monitoring, which outlines where the initial investment in monitoring and data under the Strategy will be focused.  Working group members discussed how social and economic data could be used to benefit the Tropical Rock Lobster fishery, particularly to improve community confidence in the management of the fishery.  It was identified that there has been no scientific update since 2011. To remedy this situation as a start, a desktop exercise to review existing science, models and industry catch and size/length frequency data of both the Torres Strait and the East Coast is necessary.  This information would also inform well-founded harvest strategy development.

The working group discussed the Queensland Harvest Strategy Policy and Guideline.  The members noted that a harvest strategy would provide improved certainty by outlining predetermined management actions based on agreed indicators for fishery performance.  Fisheries Queensland will assist the working group with developing the harvest strategies and will undertake consultation with broader fishery stakeholders as development progresses.

The working group members discussed current issues in the Tropical Rock Lobster fishery.  Members noted the need to review historical input and output controls to reflect best practise for a quota managed fishery.  Also identified was the need to simplify (inconsistent bag limits throughout the State) and modernise the management framework for this fishery to include a flexible Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC).  Other issues of concern to the working group included logbook record quality, recreational fishing rules, and identifying scientific information gaps.

The working group noted that commercial fishing vessels would require vessel tracking by the end of 2020 and was shown an example vessel tracking unit. The members identified concerns around the polling frequency and potential impact on security of individual fisher (divers) data.

To initiate 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 following draft objectives were recommended by the working group to:

  • maintain sustainability for target species
  • ensure no unacceptable risk from fishing on sustainability and ecosystem resilience
  • maximise commercial economic benefits
  • maximise value of commercial product
  • foster stewardship
  • ensure fisheries management is meeting the expectations of community
  • maintain access of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for traditional fishing
  • improve data to better inform  management decisions
  • reduce complexity of fishing rules
  • maintain access for recreational fishing

The members discussed management review options that would enable the fishery to be managed to achieve these objectives.  The working group agreed that a review of all licence conditions and Queensland legislation is necessary, with a specific focus on which input and output controls are still relevant for the fishery.  A strong focus on aligning this fishery with other commercial fisheries was considered to be of benefit into the future.

The working group concluded with a discussion around the next steps that need to be taken for transitioning the Tropical Rock Lobster fishery to a harvest strategy framework.

The next working group meeting is scheduled for July to refine the objectives and management review options.  Fisheries Queensland will be seeking the views of all stakeholders throughout the process.

The Tropical Rock Lobster Working Group members are:

  • Fisheries Queensland (Chair- Kimberly Foster),
  • Commercial fishing (Mark Dean, Ean White, Brett Arlidge),
  • Recreational fishing (Kim Andersen),
  • Science (Clive Turnbull)
  • Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (Randall Owens)