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- Gillnets catching barramundi also catch significant numbers of protected and vulnerable wildlife as bycatch, including turtles, dugongs and hammerhead sharks.
- Fisheries managers in QLD have reported discrepancies between protected species interactions reported in fishery logbooks and those recorded by independent observers. There is a high probability protected species bycatch is higher than reported in fishery logbooks.
- The fishery observer program in QLD was cancelled in 2012, meaning there is no independent record of the impact of the fishery on threatened species. Observation of the fishery is considered essential to the management of a sustainable fishery.
- There are no formal stock assessments of barramundi in QLD. Stocks appear healthy, although concerns remain about management arrangements to ensure healthy stocks and about poor recruitment of young fish into barramundi populations.
- QLD fisheries are currently undergoing broad reforms that should improve this ranking in the future, provided that the reforms deliver the strong and effective management necessary to support sustainable fisheries.
- QLD East Coast Inshore Fin Fish Fishery and Gulf of Carpentaria Inshore Fin Fish Fishery (717t 2016)
Barramundi is caught mainly using gillnets in two Queensland-managed fisheries operating off the eastern and Gulf coasts.
This assessment is based on the current impact of fishing for barramundi in QLD-managed fisheries. A reform of QLD fisheries is currently underway in order to modernise the management framework, demonstrate sustainability, improve the profitability of the industry and meet community expectations. AMCS will review the sustainability of the fishery following the fishery reform process.
The health of barramundi populations has not been formally addressed using stock assessments in QLD. Fishing effort (how much fishing can take place) is managed by measures such as fishery closures at certain times and in certain areas.
The indicators the fishery uses to monitor stocks of barramundi suggest QLD’s stocks are healthy; for example recent fish catches are similar to those of long-term catch records. However, there are concerns about poor recruitment of young barramundi into the population, and that current management arrangements are insufficient to manage the seven distinct stocks of barramundi that occur in QLD waters. Net-free zones implemented in three areas along the east coast should afford some protection to the affected stocks.
In both fisheries a number of threatened species are caught as bycatch, including green, loggerhead, flatback and leatherback turtles, inshore dolphins, dugongs, sawfish and a number of shark species, including hammerhead sharks. Even low levels of snubfin and humpback dolphin deaths will have a significant impact on their populations in QLD, and it is highly likely that fishing activity is resulting in the decline of populations in some areas.
Fisheries managers in QLD have also reported inconsistencies between fisheries logbook records and information from independent observers, including differences between the number, rate and type of protected species interactions. There is a high probability that protected species bycatch is higher than reported.
Sectors of both fisheries also target some shark species, despite a lack of information on their stock status. There is limited information on much of the basic biology of many of the targeted species, e.g. their age at maturity, frequency of reproduction and number of young. This lack of knowledge is particularly concerning as shark species are generally long-lived, slow to mature and produce few young, making them highly vulnerable to population depletion as a result of fishing activity. Sharks are also apex predators that are essential to maintaining healthy marine food webs.
Independent fishery observer programs are an important method of verifying protected species interactions. Unfortunately the QLD Government closed the observer program for all QLD managed fisheries in 2012. In the intervening six years, there has been no independent on-vessel monitoring of the fishery’s impact, which is unacceptable for fisheries operating in the ecologically sensitive regions of the Great Barrier Reef and the Gulf of Carpentaria. In addition, for fisheries that interact with threatened species, there is no record of actual protected species interactions over time, the ecological impacts of the fishery cannot be measured or managed.
QLD fisheries are currently undergoing broad reforms that should improve this ranking in the future, provided that the reforms deliver the strong and effective management necessary to support sustainable fisheries.