Marine aquarium fish and coral fisheries working group

Communique 7-8 March 2019

The Marine Aquarium Fish and Queensland Coral Fisheries working group met for the fourth time in Brisbane on 7 and 8 of March.

The working group reviewed the draft harvest strategy and fishery objectives.  A key focus was on refining the reference points and decision rules for Tier 1 and Tier 2 species in this fishery. The management of Scolymia and Euphyllia as Tier 1 species in the harvest strategy was robustly discussed, particularly the ecological, economic and social importance of these species.  All members agreed to maintain Scolymia australis as a Tier 1 species and move all Euphyllia species to Tier 2 reflecting the different harvesting and risks to these species.

Members identified that industry needs to commit to develop field surveys to inform the harvest strategy, particularly for Tier 1 species, and to make better use of the existing fisheries catch data. The working group noted that there is an existing commitment to undertake surveys to support the FRDC approved project “Establishing baselines and assessing vulnerability of commercially harvested corals across northern Australia”, which would contribute important science information for the harvest strategy. It was also noted that if these are not completed within agreed project milestones the funding would likely be lost. Pro-vision Reef undertook to seek commitment from operators to complete the surveys in the nominated areas.

The working group listened to presentations from Workplace Health and Safety’s Dive Unit and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority that outlined the rules and regulations relating to boating and diving safety. Fisheries Queensland also presented an update on the vessel tracking and the requirements that will apply to coral (D symbol) and marine aquarium fish (A1 only) harvest fisheries from 1 January 2020.

Fisheries Queensland provided the working group with an update on the regulatory review and outlined changes that relate to the harvest fisheries including; primary and tender vessel lengths, tender limits in the coral fishery, tender and primary attendance distance, the separation of fishing authority and quota allocations in the coral fishery and standardisation of all quota managed fisheries reporting requirements.

All members were asked to review the current logbook and reporting requirements for the Queensland Coral Fishery and provide comment to Fisheries Queensland where changes could be made to better inform the harvest strategy decision rules. Members agreed that all Tier 1 and 2 species as well as noted ‘driver’ species (species important to consumers) should be reported to a species levels with accurate weights and numbers in the logbooks.

The working group discussed the current coral quota categories and the proportion of Acroporidae and Pocilloporidae corals reported in the ‘Other’ coral quota category. Fisheries Queensland agreed to draft possible reference points and decision rules in the harvest strategy to ensure that harvesting is not an unacceptable risk to species from these Families.  The working group noted that industry-funded science and surveys would assist in managing perceptions around the harvest of these species.

Fisheries Queensland discussed with the working group the current definition of aquaculture and how it potentially captures some post-harvest practises being used by commercial coral fishers. It was noted by the working group there was increasing interest in aquaculture of corals. The working group discussed options for excluding certain activities involving the cultivation of marine aquarium fish and coral collected under a harvest licence as aquaculture. Based on this advice Fisheries Queensland will develop an interim policy to provide clarification on what activities would be considered aquaculture.

The working group was concluded with a discussion around the next steps that need to be taken for transitioning the Marine Aquarium Fish and Queensland Coral Fishery to a harvest strategy framework and the proposed industry regional workshops in May 2019. Industry agreed to attend workshops where possible and suggested Brisbane, Mackay and Cairns as suitable locations.

The next working group meeting is tentatively scheduled for May.

The Marine Aquarium Fish and Queensland Coral Fisheries Working Group members are: Fisheries Queensland (Chair- Kimberly Foster), commercial fishing (Darren Brighton, Alan Cousland, Alexander Doll (apology), Ryan Donnelly, Nicholas Dos Santos (apology), Daniel Kimberly (apology), Robert Lowe, Ros Paterson, Lyle Squire, science (Morgan Pratchett) and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (Randall Owens).