Commercial and recreational fishing make valuable contributions to regional economies.
The current management system evolved over time to manage and share access to Queensland's fish stocks; however it is complex and inadequate to deal with the modern challenges faced by Fisheries.
In March 2014 MRAG Asia Pacific was commissioned to undertake a wide-ranging review of fisheries management, using a Review Team led by Professor Glenn Hurry, and comprising Duncan Souter, Tom McClurg and Dr Michael Sissenwine.
As part of the review, the Review Team conducted extensive consultation with stakeholders including 16 public meetings from the Gold Coast to the Torres Strait, with over 500 attendees in total. In addition, around 280 written submissions were received from fishers, environmentalists, government agencies and others.
A number of key messages stood out and were common across all sectors:
- a clear Government policy framework which sets out clear goals and the main 'rules of the game'
- clear, unambiguous legislation
- healthy fish stocks and aquatic ecosystems
- secure rights to a sustainable share of the catch
- more timely, transparent, responsive decision making
- a clear framework for resource sharing
- better information on which to manage stocks and ecosystem impacts
- clear structures through which stakeholders can have their say on the future management of fisheries
- stronger, smarter compliance
- sufficient resourcing to meet management needs.
The report charts a new course for fisheries management in Queensland. The framework proposed sets out a clear central strategy for the management of fisheries, based on maximising benefits from the use of Queensland's fish stocks, and is supported by a fisheries management system of integrated components that work together to achieve the objectives of the strategy.
The proposed strategy is guided by the principle that:
"Queensland will receive maximum benefit from the use of its fish stocks where harvesters are provided with secure access rights to a share of the sustainable catch, and they are allowed maximum flexibility to enjoy benefit from those rights without compromising the opportunities available to current and future generations".
Recommendations for the design of a future fisheries management system capable of supporting the strategy are structured around the eight main components of a 'good fisheries management system' highlighted by the Review Team through a 'best practice' review of Australian and international jurisdictions, namely: (a) policy, legislation and decision making, (b) allocation and harvest controls, (c) monitoring, information collection and assessment, (d) management of non-target species and ecosystems, (e) compliance, (f) stakeholder participation, (g) performance review and (h) resourcing. These recommendations are listed below.
The proposed reforms aim to deliver:
- for commercial fishers, a more stable, transparent and strategic operating environment, based on more secure harvesting rights and greater individual flexibility around how those rights are used
- for recreational fishers, greater recognition for anglers in the fisheries management process including setting aside for the first time an explicit share of the key target species for the exclusive enjoyment of recreational anglers, as well as a setting up a 'common currency' framework which allows for ongoing, market-based adjustment of sectoral shares over time
- for customary fishers, greater recognition of traditional use rights and the establishment of a framework that can accommodate determinations outside of the Fisheries Act (e.g. Native Title) where they arise
- for future generations and the environment, the maintenance of stock sizes of key species at levels 'thicker' than that capable of producing maximum sustainable yield (MSY) in order to reduce levels of risk and maintain the resilience Queensland's aquatic environment.
For each fishery, the main current challenges and a proposed future operating environment has been set out. Recommendations have also been made on a number of matters both in scope and out of scope including the future management of freshwater fisheries, Queensland's future involvement in Joint Authorities, the interaction between fisheries and marine parks planning and the structure and functions of Fisheries Queensland in the context of the proposed changes.