The Queensland government is already failing to implement new fisheries reforms introduced on 1 September, risking the recovery of depleted and overfished saucer scallops, the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) says.
A recent management decision, quietly announced to stakeholders five days before new reforms are fully implemented, closed two regions to scallop fishing, but left the second largest region, an area off Fraser Island and the Southern Great Barrier Reef, open to scallop fishing.
AMCS fisheries spokesperson Simon Miller said the Queensland government had fallen at the first hurdle, making a last minute concession following pressure from the fishing industry to keep this fishery open.
“The scallop stock in Queensland is in dire straits, overfished to dangerously low levels of 12% of their original levels,” said Mr Miller. “If this was a koala, there would be a widespread outcry and a push for it to be fully protected.
“Continued scallop fishing in this area will at best slow down the recovery of this perilously overfished species and may stop it from recovering altogether.
“The Queensland government has tried reducing the fishing pressure for this species in the last few years, but it hasn’t been enough, and scallop numbers continue to tumble. The Queensland Government needed to close all regions to scallop fishing to really support its recovery.”
Mr Miller said the management decision for the scallop fishery is in direct contravention of the harvest strategies introduced on 1 September.
“The Queensland government’s own guidelines state that a fishery should be closed when a stock is below 20%. But scallops have been below 20% in Queensland for around a decade.
“With the spotlight of the world on the Great Barrier Reef due to the World Heritage Commitee’s recent scrutiny, continued fishing of a depleted species is just not acceptable. The public expects fishing on the GBR to be at gold standard, and the continued fishing of a depleted stock is far from best practice.
“Well managed fisheries and healthy fish stocks are crucial to build the resilience of the Reef in the climate crisis, and scallops have been shown to be particularly susceptible to warming waters. For this species to have a chance in a warming climate, we need to build stocks rapidly up to sustainable levels. The Queensland Government must properly implement their new policies and make scallops a no-take species throughout Queensland to give scallops a chance to recover.”