East coast inshore finfish

This is Queensland’s largest fishery in terms of number of operators and includes commercial, recreational and Indigenous fishers operating in tidal rivers, estuaries and along the foreshores and adjacent waters.

The commercial net fishery comprises some 300 fishing vessels operating in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and landing around 2800 tonnes per year, valued at $15 million.

The key target species is barramundi, but other commercially valuable species include threadfin salmon, small mackerels (grey and school mackerels) and tropical sharks.

Most of the species taken by the commercial net sector are for domestic consumption. A smaller commercial line fishery also operates for school and spotted mackerel.

Although highly variable from year to year, catches in the commercial East Coast Inshore Finfish Fishery range from 6000 to 7500 tonnes per year.

The recreational take for some of the inshore finfish species is higher than the commercial catch.

Management

The East Coast Inshore Finfish Fishery, managed by Fisheries Queensland, has been a limited entry fishery since 1984.

Revised management arrangements were introduced on 1 July 2009. Principally they tightened up net attendance rules and gave formal direction to the shark component of the fishery.

Commercial operators are authorised to use specialised gear within prescribed areas. Gear limitations include restrictions on the number of nets, net design, length and mesh size. There are also rules about the deployment and attendance of nets.

Legal size limits, designed to protect the spawning capacity of stocks, apply to many species in both the commercial and recreational sectors. For barramundi, there is a closed season during summer that applies to all sectors.

Within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, net fishing is permitted only within the General Use (light blue) and Habitat Protection (dark blue) zones. Bait netting is permitted also in the Conservation Park (yellow) zone. Since 1997, 15 Dugong Protection Areas, in which netting is restricted or prohibited, have been established in the Marine Park.

Amendments to commercial netting rules in Bowling Green Bay Species Conservation (Dugong Protection) Special Management Area

Amendments to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Regulations 1983 were introduced in December 2011 to increase protection to dugong within the Bowling Green Bay Species Conservation (Dugong Protection) Special Management Area.

The rule changes further restrict commercial net fishing within the existing Species Conservation (Dugong Protection) Special Management Area.

Clarification of rules in Dugong Protection Area Bs for net fishing

Amendments to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Regulations 1983 give greater protection to dugong in and around headland areas, by restricting the use of set mesh nets in certain parts of particular Dugong Protection Area Bs.

The changes are a technical amendment to clarify long-standing existing netting rules, by providing clear definitions of areas around headlands where the use of offshore set nets is prohibited to reduce the risk of incidental catch to dugong.