The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) is welcoming the implementation of reforms that will improve the sustainability of fisheries in Queensland but say more change is needed to help threatened iconic wildlife like dugongs, turtles and inshore dolphins.
Commercial fishing has been identified as a major threat to the health and resilience of the Great Barrier Reef, and these changes will help tackle some of these threats, AMCS say.
The changes will come into force tomorrow (Wednesday 1 September) and form part of the Palaszczuk government’s Sustainable Fisheries Strategy 2017-2027.
The reforms will help ensure that:
- For important species like barramundi and mud crabs, more are kept in the water which improves ecosystem resilience and delivers more profitable fisheries and better recreational fishing experiences.
- There are more local approaches to address sustainability issues, ensuring faster action to recover fish stocks without impacting all fishers along the east coast.
- All the fish caught, including those that are thrown back into the water, are reported in the large East Coast Inshore Fishery, giving fishery managers and the public an understanding of what is being caught and maintaining the integrity of catch limits.
- Sharks caught on the Queensland coast are landed in one piece, with their fins attached to their bodies. This aids identification and removes any loophole that could enable shark finning in Queensland.
AMCS fisheries spokesperson Simon Miller said the changes were a significant achievement by the Palaszczuk government.
“These reforms are welcome progress towards more sustainable fishing in Queensland and delivers aspects of modern best practice,” said Mr Miller.
“AMCS has long been advocating for sustainable catch limits for key species like mud crabs and barramundi, to ensure that more fish are kept in the water. These catch limits will benefit commercial and recreational fishers and traditional owners by ensuring healthy fish stocks and a more resilient ecosystem, and providing certainty over their access to the resource and better fishing experiences.’
However, Mr Miller said there were still areas that needed improvement.
“The recent spotlight shone on the Great Barrier Reef by the World Heritage Committee showed we should be doing all we can to help our global icon, and this includes improving protections for the threatened species found there.
“Iconic species such as dugongs, turtles, dolphins and sawfish continue to be caught in fisheries such as the gillnet and trawl fisheries. Sadly, for species like snubfin dolphins that are slow to reproduce, even the loss of a few individuals can have devastating impacts on populations and could lead to localised extinctions.
“That is why we are urging the Government to immediately get independent monitoring using cameras on all gillnet and trawl boats, so that we gain an accurate picture of just what is being caught.
“Fisheries that operate on the Reef need to be managed to a gold standard to help improve ecosystem resilience under a warming climate.”
Mr Miller said AMCS welcomed the introduction of a Protected Species Management Strategy for the gillnet fishery, but concerns remain that the strategy will not reduce the risk to protected species.
“Realistically, it does little to address iconic marine wildlife being pushed to the brink by these fishing practices. The strategy needs to be improved with the inclusion of regional thresholds for protected species deaths. If these are reached, areas should be closed to fishing to allow the populations of marine wildlife to recover.”
The changes are being introduced following years of consultation with fishery experts, commercial and recreational fishers and conservation groups, with the reforms supported by the majority of interest groups.
Notes to editors
The reforms include:
- Introducing sustainable catch limits and harvest strategies
- Breaking up large complex fisheries like the trawl and gillnet fisheries into smaller regions
- Introducing a requirement for commercial fishers to report discards in the east coast inshore fishery.
- The enforcement of rules introduced last year that require all sharks caught on the east coast to be brought to shore with their fins attached to their bodies.