Communique 15 December 2021 – Meeting 6 (special purpose)

Objectives of the Vessel Tracking Working Group (from Terms of Reference):

To provide operational advice and recommendations to:

  1. Support the review of the implementation of vessel tracking.
  2. Support the review of the effectiveness of the current administration of vessel tracking.
  3. Provide options and advice to improve the ongoing management and administration of vessel tracking.

Key Feedback from Special Purpose Meeting 6:

The Vessel Tracking Working Group (VTWG) met for the sixth time from 11am-1pm on Wednesday, 15 December 2021. This meeting was a special purpose meeting to discuss a single agenda item – alternative vessel tracking unit and provider arrangements.

The item was carried forward from the previous VTWG meeting (due to a shortage of time) as it was identified as a priority input to the Post Implementation Review work being undertaken by Price Waterhouse Coopers and Fisheries Queensland.

In considering this item the Chair noted:

  • Vessel tracking costs and supplier arrangements relating to units and polling requirements has been consistently identified by industry members as a priority issue and the subject of various discussions at VTWG meetings.
  • That VTWG discussion and feedback on possible alternatives to current arrangements will be considered in the Post Implementation Review being conducted by Price Waterhouse Coopers with Fisheries Queensland. Noting that a consultation report is currently being developed (VTWG members were briefed on key findings of the PIR and the process involved at the last VTWG meeting).

Four options which Fisheries Queensland sought to explore as possibilities to replace current arrangements were discussed:

Option A – Status quo with a review of existing approved unit and provider list

  • Fisheries Queensland to determine list of approved units and associated airtime provider
    (status quo).
  • Fishers to choose a unit and provider from the approved list and establish a contract with the airtime provider (status quo).
  • Fishers pay for their own polling (status quo).
  • Fisheries Queensland review current list of approved units and provider with stakeholder input and update the list (new).

Option B – Standards based approach

  • Fisheries Queensland to provide a set of minimum requirements for vessel tracking units and provider that would include – polling frequency of 5 or 15 minutes depending on fisheries and ability for polling data to be integrated to Fisheries Queensland platform (Trackwell).
  • Fishers can purchase any units available. Under this option Fisheries Queensland would not maintain a list of approved units and airtime providers.

Option C – AFMA-style model

  • Fisheries Queensland to establish a contract with an airtime provider.
  • Fisheries Queensland to determine a list of approved units that can be hosted by the airtime provider.
  • The cost of establishing and administering the contract will be recouped from fishers.
  • Fisheries Queensland will pay for airtime and recover cost from fishers via licence fees.

Option D –Contract between Fisheries Queensland and providers

  • Fisheries Queensland to determine list of approved units and associated airtime providers through a tender process.
  • Fisheries Queensland to establish a contract (service level agreement) with providers to ensure an appropriate level of service is provided to program participants and that the fees for services are approved by Fisheries Queensland.
  • Fishers to choose a unit and provider from the approved list and establish a contract with the airtime provider.
  • Fishers pay for their own polling directly with providers.

In addition to the four options provided, Fisheries Queensland repeated the offer for industry members to propose other alternatives, which it is open to considering with industry.

Key points in the VTWG discussion and feedback on options are summarised below.

Costs to commercial fishers:

  • Industry members expressed dissatisfaction with being asked to comment on options which were not fully costed – Fisheries Queensland provided desktop costings and discussed some costing assumptions.
  • Fisheries Queensland suggested that it would make these assumptions about the costs of the different options as follows: Option A would have similar costs to the current situation; Option B similar costs or dependent on market price of particular units; Option C, provided costs based on an AFMA style model, it can be assumed the cost will be in that ballpark or higher; Option D will be subject to a procurement process to determine costs based on the market.
  • Costs to change arrangements were discussed. Industry members asked what Fisheries Queensland and the GBRMPA are willing to fund in putting in place new/changed arrangements. Fisheries Queensland indicated that its position of ‘no additional cost to Government’ related to the future state if there are changes made to the current arrangements. Any changes should not result in higher ongoing administration/management costs for Government.
  • Industry members stated there should be no increased cost to industry arising from changes in the approach used. It was stated that the benefits of vessel tracking other than for compliance do not largely flow directly to commercial fishers but to other stakeholders.
  • Industry members acknowledged that both Fisheries Queensland and GBRMPA had provided costs to Government for administering and managing vessel tracking. However, they clearly stated that the cost to Government is not of interest to the industry.
  • It was suggested that Fisheries Queensland consider cost sharing whereby fishers pay for the units and Government pay for the polling costs.

Vessel Tracking Benefits to commercial fishers:

  • Industry members expressed, as they had at the previous meeting, that while they accept Vessel Tracking is a compliance requirement, they do not consider unit and polling data provides any other benefits to commercial fishers.
  • Claims that have been made by other stakeholders of social license and research benefits were not accepted by industry members.

Industry member feedback on the options:

  • Industry members indicated that they saw Option A as effectively the status quo, which is not meeting their needs and is not working, therefore is unacceptable.
  • In relation to Option B, which proposes that Fisheries Queensland define minimum standards and fishers select equipment and providers which meet these, there was discussion about minimum standards and Fisheries Queensland stated the standards will be for polling at 5 or 15 minutes depending on the fishery, and data that integrates with the Trackwell system. Under Option B Fisheries Queensland will not seek to determine technical specifications or equipment.
  • In relation to Option C, modelled around the AFMA approach, industry members submitted that the costs seem to be borne by commercial fishers while the benefits are achieved for other stakeholders. This option was described by industry members as cost shifting which was not of benefit to commercial fishers.
  • Option D proposes Fisheries Queensland takes a greater role than it currently does by being directly involved in contractual arrangements, which it currently is not, with suppliers and providers. Industry member comments on Option D was a lack of confidence that Fisheries Queensland or industry members have the technical knowledge to select appropriate equipment.
  • Fisheries Queensland clarified that the industry would not be expected to determine units and providers under Option D. This would occur through a tender process with a service level agreement between providers and the Department to provide additional support to industry. Option D was put forward in response to industry concerns at meetings about the relative resources and bargaining power of individual fishers versus a Government agency in contract arrangements, and in mitigating price gouging risks.
  • Industry members noted that any procurement process needs to be transparent to industry and with industry involved in some manner.
  • There was further discussion in response to questions about how a service level agreement may operate under Option D and how it may assist industry.
  • Fisheries Queensland stated that it would be established within a Government procurement process, it would seek to provide service standards including how pricing will operate and how price adjustments will be managed over time. It will also provide a basis for Fisheries Queensland to be involved in monitoring and resolving concerns about service levels for fishers (eg. responsiveness). This is a new role that Fisheries Queensland is not currently involved in.

Industry members did not express preferences regarding any of the four options proposed.

Industry members did not express preferences regarding the role that Fisheries Queensland may undertake in the future if there are changes to current arrangements, noting that Options A-D suggest a greater or lesser role for Fisheries Queensland in unit selection and provider arrangements in the future.

Industry members asked Fisheries Queensland if they had a preferred option and Fisheries Queensland indicated it did not, rather it was open to exploring alternatives seeking to address the concerns that have been raised by fishers and through the VTWG.

Industry members clearly stated they were not comfortable indicating preferences as they considered they had insufficient information (particularly regarding the costs of alternative arrangements) to make an informed judgement.

Industry members requested that alternative arrangements be canvassed with industry more widely through the consultation on changes to be carried out by Price Waterhouse Coopers and Fisheries Queensland through the Post Implementation Review in the New Year.

Next Meeting

The next meeting of the VTWG is to be set for the New Year.