Fisheries regulation overhaul to support Queensland’s economic recovery

Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries The Honourable Mark Furner

A major fisheries regulation overhaul will cut red tape for the commercial fishing industry, protect export jobs and set Queensland on the path to more profitable and sustainable fisheries.

Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner said the regulations were an important measure to support the industry through the COVID-19 recovery, with provisions to protect the state’s export approvals under Federal Government sustainability requirements.

“Despite the easing of COVID-19 restrictions as we implement Queensland’s $8 billion plan for economic recovery, the commercial fishing industry continues to face significant economic hardship,” Mr Furner said.

“We are acting to support the industry’s recovery by reducing red tape and making changes to meet conditions of Commonwealth Government environmental and trade approvals.

“This will ensure exports continue for nearly a dozen of our key fisheries, which support nearly 1,400 fishing businesses and more than 4,000 regional jobs.

Streamlining measures include:

  • at-sea processing in the Gulf of Carpentaria for certain species
  • crab and lobster meat processing to allow business diversification
  • increased incidental shark catch limits for commercial line fishers
  • clarifying various definitions such as fish measurement requirements
  • standardising trawl fishery closure times to better align with fishery operations
  • increasing the number of crab pots allowed in blue swimmer crab fishery
  • clarifying and standardising primary and tender boat requirements to remove unnecessary restrictions
  • permitting fishing in both the coral and aquarium fisheries to support diversification
  • removing distance requirements for tenders
  • streamlining existing commercial catch reporting requirements.

Changes to protect and maintain export approvals and improve efficiencies include:

  • dividing fisheries into management regions and establishing sustainable commercial catch limits
  • establishing quotas for mud crab, blue swimmer crab, barramundi, grey mackerel, king threadfin, school mackerel and whiting
  • implementing effort units for Moreton Bay Trawl and reallocating existing East Coast Trawl effort units to management regions
  • establishing shark form requirements for the East Coast Inshore fishery
  • allowing fishing in multiple crab fisheries at the same time
  • amending maximum mesh size and ply ratings for certain net fisheries
  • permitting commercial use of lift nets in certain fisheries
  • requiring bycatch reduction devices in the mud crab fishery
  • improving commercial catch and effort reporting requirements.

Other changes to protect and maintain export approvals will commence in September 2021.

“There are no changes for recreational or charter fishers in these regulations,” Mr Furner said.

Queensland Seafood Marketers Association President Marshall Betzel said overall strategic reform was something that industry needed to have a defined future.

“The QSMA is hopeful that regulation change and the reduction of red tape will play an important part in providing not just a sustainable supply of seafood products to the consumer, but also create a long-term vision for growth in the Queensland seafood industry,” Mr Betzel said.

North Queensland commercial fisher Nathan Rynn said retaining our WTO export approval was vital for exporting fish bladders, shark fins and fish roe, and keeping our small businesses profitable.

“All of these products are high value and exporting allows us to use as much of the fish as possible,” Mr Rynn said.

“This is a win/win for everyone and worth millions to the Queensland economy each year, as well as the jobs created. “The commercial industry will see the removal of investment warnings on different fisheries and symbols and this will allow investment in businesses with some security. “Continuation of the working groups and reforms won’t be without teething problems, which industry will want to adjust and fix along the way.”

Mr Furner said he was writing to the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment seeking support to reinstate export approvals for the East Coast Inshore Fishery and to extend other export approvals while these reforms are implemented.

Commercial fisher Peter Jackson said industry welcomed the certainty that a decision on these fisheries reforms would bring for commercial fishers.

“It’s been more than a decade of discussion for the crab fishery and the changes provide a framework for a future generation of commercial fishers,” Mr Jackson said.

Mr Furner said completion of the reforms would enable investment warnings in place since 2011 to be removed and create a more positive investment environment for economic recovery, business resilience and diversification.

Associate Professor Ian Tibbetts, Chair of the Sustainable Fisheries Expert Panel – who reviewed the harvest strategies – said importantly the harvest strategies outlined pre-agreed rules for managing the harvest of all sectors and adjusting catch limits to ensure sustainable harvest over time.

“For the majority of the species in these fisheries, initial catch limits will be similar to the current level of catch being taken by commercial fishers and will therefore continue to support jobs in the industry,” Associate Professor Tibbetts said.

Mr Furner said fishers could now have their say on draft harvest strategies for some of our most popular species.

Industry has been telling us Queensland needs more responsive decision-making while providing certainty about what would happen under different fishery performance conditions,” he said.

Feedback on the harvest strategies will close in late 2020.

Final harvest strategies and declaration of commercial catch limits are expected to be in place in early 2021, in time for the new fishing regulations that will come into effect on 1 September 2021.

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