Communique 4 July 2022

Role of the panel: The Sustainable Fisheries Scientific Expert Panel (the Panel) was established in 2017 to provide independent expert advice to the Minister responsible for fisheries and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries on best practice fisheries management and implementation of the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy 2017-2027 (the Strategy). The advice of the Panel aims to reflect the underlying principles of the Strategy and national fisheries objectives.

A meeting (Meeting 15) of the Panel was held via videoconference on 4 July 2022, with the Hon. Mark Furner MP, Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries and Minister for Rural Communities, representatives from DAF and the Panel. Bob Gee, Director General of DAF, opened the meeting with an Acknowledgement of Country.

The purpose of the meeting was for Fisheries Queensland to provide a general update, discuss enhanced communication and collaboration with the Panel, and to provide an update on the results of the Spanish mackerel public consultation.

Minister Furner thanked the Panel for its leadership role and guidance over the last 5 years.  At the half-way point of the 10-year reform, more than two thirds of the reforms have been implemented. This is a significant achievement given the challenges that COVID-19 has posed to engagement and the community more generally.  It is an opportune time to reflect on past, present and future reforms.

DAF has committed to developing a forward work plan with the Panel as part of continued implementation of the Strategy. The Panel noted the significant investment by the Government in funding the implementation of the Strategy to date and encouraged consideration of structural adjustment to assist in social, economic and environmental outcomes being optimised.

The Panel wishes to work closely with all stakeholders going forward through existing engagement processes and maintain an independent oversight and advisory function.

The appointment process to fill vacant positions on the Panel is underway, with experts in ecosystem-based fisheries management, independent data validation, threatened species, and Traditional Owner engagement. It is anticipated this will be completed later in 2022 pending Queensland Government consideration. During 2022-2023, the mid-term review for the Strategy will commence, and the Panel’s close involvement in this review is welcomed.

DAF provided an update on the implementation of the Strategy, noting there will be a focus on independent data validation for commercial fisheries, management of Gulf of Carpentaria fisheries, Rocky Reef Fishery, Spanish Mackerel Fishery, and a review of fees and levies.

The results of the first round of Spanish Mackerel public consultation were discussed, and advice for analysis and future consultations was provided by the Panel. The importance of carefully designed survey methodologies used in collating public feedback were highlighted by the Panel.

Fisheries Queensland outlined two possible management options to rebuild Spanish Mackerel fishery;, the Panel recommended that a single preferred management option may need to be proposed with a strong rationale for the decision., The Panel expressed its support for consideration of more conservative catch limits to achieve a faster rebuild.

The Panel raised the issue of stakeholders challenging fisheries stock assessments and were pleased to note that DAF welcomes scrutiny and is committed to continual improvement in all aspects of the assessment process.  The Panel recommended that the population and participation forecasts for recreational fishers in relevant fishery sectors should be considered when determining changes in potential recreational fishing effort in the future.

The Panel noted that while recreational and charter fishers may have alternative target species, commercial and Traditional Owner fishers have fewer alternatives. This impact should be considered when assessing future management actions that impact their fishing access.

It was noted that Commonwealth Government legislation relating to Wildlife Trade Operation (WTO) conditions for export fisheries have additional requirements that need to be met and separate approvals may also apply for fisheries even though they do not export, where they operate in Commonwealth waters.  

Training and development for working group members was discussed, to improve technical participation in working groups, governance and behaviours in line with the DAF engagement charter were noted. Further liaison will occur between the Panel and DAF prior to the release of the final Spanish Mackerel discussion paper. The Chair closed the meeting and thanked members for their attendance.