- Eat Less
- It is likely the majority of sand whiting available for sale are from low impact fishing methods.
- A precautionary amber rating has been applied because it is difficult to confidently rate this fishery as green Better Choice due to unclear government reporting in QLD. With fisheries reforms currently underway in QLD, there is a strong likelihood that this rating will improve in the future.
- Stocks of sand whiting appear healthy.
- Sand whiting is mainly caught in beach seine and tunnel nets in coastal waters operating off the eastern coast of QLD.
- Interactions with turtles, dugongs and sharks are likely to occur in these fisheries, although there is a lack of information on threatened species mortalities. As fishing is small-scale and fishers are generally present at the nets during fishing, endangered wildlife can be released alive, so it is unlikely that threatened species mortalities are resulting in population depletions.
Note: Moreton Bay tunnel netters have developed a code of conduct to protect threatened species, fishing is low impact and would result in a green rating. Moreton Bay tunnel net caught sand whiting can be identified by the ‘Moreton Bay Fresh’ label.
QLD East Coast Inshore Fin Fish Fishery (258t in 2015)
This assessment is based on the current impact of fishing for sand whiting 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. The ‘Eat Less’ rating for QLD is a result of the way in which this sector of the QLD fishery is reported and managed, and there are considerable opportunities for this rating to improve following the fishery reform process.
Data from the fishery indicates that sand whiting stocks are healthy, and as recent catches are similar to historical levels it is unlikely that the stock is overfished. There are indications the stock is ‘fully fished’, which means no additional fishing should occur in order to protect the stock.
Sand whiting is mainly caught in beach seine and tunnel nets in coastal waters of a QLD-managed fishery operating off the eastern coast. Interactions with turtles have been recorded in fishing operations, although it is not clear from fishery reports how many interactions or turtle deaths have occurred. Interactions with dugongs and protected species of shark are also likely in these coastal fisheries, but there is a lack of current information on bycatch across the entire geographical range of the fishery. The small scale of most of the fishing operations and the fact that fishers are present at the nets during fishing means endangered wildlife can be released alive.
The fishing methods used to catch sand whiting have minimal impacts on marine habitat. In addition, the fisheries operate in areas that are afforded some protection by marine parks.
Independent fishery observer programs are an important method of verifying protected species interactions, as well as other fishery impacts, such as the type and volume of discarded catch. Unfortunately the QLD Government has closed the observer program for all QLD managed fisheries in 2012. In the intervening six years, there has been no independent monitoring of the impact of this fishery. It is likely the beach seine and tunnel net fisheries in QLD pose minimal risk to endangered wildlife.
A code of practice has been developed for one sector of the fishery that operates in Moreton Bay. The code of practice details how to avoid interactions with dugongs, turtles and sharks, and devices to allow turtles to escape from tunnel nets are mandatory. Moreton Bay tunnel net-caught sand whiting score a green or ‘Better Choice’ rating, and the product can be identified by the ‘Moreton Bay Fresh’ brand label.