Communique 29 August 2017

The Sustainable Fisheries Expert Panel met for the first time today in Brisbane. The meeting was presided by Associate Professor Ian Tibbetts.

The Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, the Honourable Bill Byrne MP, attended the start of the meeting and outlined his aspirations for the Panel. He reiterated the importance of independent scientific advice to complement the advice of stakeholders, which will be provided through the fishery working groups and other consultation mechanisms. He reaffirmed the government’s desire to move towards more evidence-based decision making in fisheries management.

The Panel had a full agenda, which focused on setting the groundwork for successful implementation of the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy.  The Panel strongly welcomed the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy and noted that the rate of progress will be dependent on collaboration and willingness of stakeholders to work together to deliver reforms in the timeframes set out.

The Panel considered a draft Monitoring and Research Plan, which outlined initial monitoring priorities for additional funding, including independent surveys of scallops, biological monitoring of other coral reef species, shark, mangrove jack in the Gulf of Carpentaria and blue threadfin.  The Panel endorsed the Monitoring and Research Plan in principle subject to a number of comments being incorporated.  These included better flagging long term costs of monitoring, collecting further information on interactions with protected species and better identify monitoring and research partners. With the scale and importance of recreational fishing to Queensland, the Panel expressed keen interest in mechanisms that might enhance the collection of relevant data.  The value of additional data will come in the long term trends and the panel agreed there needs to be a long term commitment to the program. The Panel reviewed an initial prototype of a new information dashboard which they were impressed by and recommended that data be available in multiple formats so that it can be used by innovators and technology developers and that it might eventually incorporate citizen science data.

The Panel also discussed potential approaches to data validation and noted the Advance Queensland innovation challenge currently underway to develop automated monitoring through things such as sensors and cameras.

A draft Guideline on Harvest Strategy Development was provided to the Panel for review. The guideline will be used by working groups when developing harvest strategies for all Queensland fisheries by 2020. The Panel felt there was a need for a short policy statement to outline the key policy objectives to complement the guideline. The Panel reviewed the guideline and suggested some structural changes.  They felt that the bycatch / byproduct / protected species interaction information should sit outside the harvest strategy and be part of the ecological risk assessment process instead.  The Panel agreed that harvest strategies should include controls on all sectors and take into consideration the social and economic objectives.  Harvest strategies will continue to evolve over time, but the Panel agreed that a template would also be useful for consistency. Fisheries Queensland will provide a draft policy statement, guideline and template to the Panel out of session in the next few weeks before the first working group meetings in October.

The Panel reviewed information on the trawl, crab and east coast inshore fisheries and provided feedback on the status documents.  The Panel felt they were good documents for discussions with working groups about the current state of the fishery and for use as a basis to commence looking at reform options.

The Panel noted that development of harvest strategies would also commence this year for the coral reef finfish fishery, the east coast beche-de-mer fishery, the coral fishery, the aquarium fishery and the east coast tropical rock lobster fisheries. These fisheries have some of the basic elements already in place and can easily transition to harvest strategies, and have the support from industry sectors to do so.

The Panel undertook a multi-criteria analysis to help prioritise harvest strategies in all remaining Queensland fisheries. The assessment considered sustainability issues, achievability of preparing a harvest strategy and socio-economic drivers. Based on the assessment, the Panel agreed that the next highest priority fisheries for harvest strategies to be completed were rocky reef (snapper, pearl perch); Gulf of Carpentaria inshore fishery (barramundi, threadfin); and spanner crab and stout whiting (the latter two can more easily transition to harvest strategies and provide demonstration cases).

The Panel supported and provided comment on a process and criteria to consider proposals to reallocate access to fisheries resources between sectors as per the action in the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy to develop a Resource Allocation Policy. The Panel agreed that it was important to consider the benefits and impacts on all sectors and the community to ensure that any proposal went through a consultation process with affected parties. It was noted that targeted consultation with stakeholders would occur on a draft policy before being considered by the Minister.  The Panel also indicated it was important to develop guidance material on how to allocate individual fishing rights (e.g. quota).

Finally, the Panel endorsed the proposed approach to regional management, including piloting the approach in Moreton Bay starting in 2018 with a new stakeholder working group.  While finer scale management was supported, the Panel noted that getting the balance between too much complexity and associated costs would be challenging. The Panel noted that the regional management approach does not mean a net free zone for all of Moreton Bay, but could lead to more regionally specific arrangements. It was noted that regional management would not impact marine park zoning and provisions.

Overall, the Panel welcomed the positive progress made in such a short period of time.

The Sustainable Fisheries Expert Panel will meet again in December 2017.

The members of the Sustainable Fisheries Expert Panel are: Associate Professor Ian Tibbetts, Dr Cathy Dichmont, Mr Ian Cartwright, Associate Professor Daryl McPhee, Dr Michelle Heupel, Dr Nadine Marshall, Dr Sean Pascoe.