Media Release Fisheries

Senators support better environmental outcomes for fishing in the Reef

December 5, 2018

The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) and Humane Society International (HSI) today welcome the Australian Senate’s support for reducing fishing impacts on our World Heritage Great Barrier Reef.

A Senate motion put forward by Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson called on the Environment Minister, Melissa Price, to use her powers to reduce the Reef fisheries’ toll on our threatened marine wildlife like dugongs, sea turtles and hammerhead sharks.

The Queensland government manages the east coast net fishery, which is Queensland’s largest fishery, running adjacent to the entire east coast. It mainly uses gillnets to target endangered hammerhead sharks, other shark species, barramundi and mackerels.

Tooni Mahto, Campaign Manager at AMCS said, “Fishing in our Great Barrier Reef should be managed to gold standards, but at the moment we’re not even making the podium. We know that our fragile, threatened sea life like dugongs, unique snubfin dolphins and sea turtles are incidentally caught and drowned in fishing nets, in numbers that could wipe out their local populations in some parts of the coast.

“Sharks are a crucial part of the Reef’s delicate ecosystem, yet we’re catching them in unsustainable numbers.  At a time when the Reef is under more pressure than ever from climate change, it needs all the help it can get. Australia can do better than this. We must improve the performance of this fishery”.

Lawrence Chlebeck, Marine Campaigner at HSI said, “It’s unacceptable that endangered hammerhead sharks are caught in our Great Barrier Reef fishery and sold for their fins and flesh. We have no confidence that fishing isn’t driving the ongoing decline of hammerhead sharks in our oceans. Without significant improvements to the management of this fishery, the outlook looks grim for these species.”

The Greens motion was supported by the Australian Labor Party (ALP), the Centre Alliance, the United Australia Party, Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party and Independent Senator Tim Storer.

“We are calling on the Minister for the Environment to do the right thing for our fragile Great Barrier Reef, and use our national laws to reduce fishing impacts on our unique and important Australian sea life,” said Mr Chlebeck.

For Media contact:

AMCS Ingrid Neilson 0421 972 731

HSI Ben Vozzo 0450 258 057


Additional information:

  1. The Queensland-managed East Coast Inshore Fin Fish Fishery is currently undergoing assessment for accreditation as a Wildlife Trade Operation under the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act in order to allow the fishery to continue exporting product. The federal Environment Minister, Melissa Price, can attach conditions to the accreditation.
  2. Investigations by AMCS and WWF-Australia suggest the number of protected species caught in the fishery is under-reported by commercial fishers.
  3. Snubfin dolphins are a species unique to Australian waters, and are listed as ‘Vulnerable’ on QLD Environment laws. All cetaceans are protected under national environment laws.
  4. Sharks can still be legally finned at-sea (their trunks or fillets must also be kept) in Queensland fisheries despite recommendations by the Threatened Species Scientific Committee to introduce a “fins naturally attached” policy – world’s best practice whereby sharks can only be finned once landed at port.