Improvements in fisheries management

Government agencies and commercial and recreational fishers are working together to ensure continuous improvement in fishing gear and methods.

Zoning

The rezoning of the Marine Park and the adjoining Queensland Marine Park provided considerable safety buffers for a range of fish species taken by commercial and recreational fishers and improved protection for species of conservation concern. This has taken place on conjunction with other measures such as Dugong Protection Special Management Areas.

Reducing by-catch

Turtle excluder devices and various by-catch reduction devices in prawn and scallop trawl nets have significantly reduced the amount of bycatch (non-targeted species) impacted by trawling in the Marine Park. For example, the compulsory use of turtle excluser devices seems to have helped stop the decline of loggerhead turtles.

Reducing impacts on the seabed

Fishery management arrangements and the zoning plan assist spatial management by ensuring that prawn and scallop trawling takes place in suitable habitats. This includes generally muddy, silty or sandy areas that are naturally dynamic, regularly disturbed naturally and therefore able to cope with such mobile fishing methods that contact the seabed.For example, following the rezoning of the Marine Park in 2004, trawling was restricted to 34 per cent of the Great Barrier Reef Region; however, trawling only takes place in about six per cent of this area each year.

Applying biologically-based size limits

Minimum (and in some cases maximum) size limits provide protection to target species to ensure that recruitment into the fishery is sustainable.

Implementing closed seasons and spawning closures

Closures for barramundi and spawning closures for reef fish help ensure fish can spawn and reproduce without the pressure of targeted fishing at critical times. Effective protection for pelagic species such as Spanish and grey mackerel is more difficult as they are generally only catchable in commercial quantity when they are aggregating to reproduce. There is reasonable consensus emerging that further research is required to determine the status of these pelagic species in particular as they are subject to increasing recreational and commercial fishing pressure.

Management orientated research

This is helping facilitate and improve our understanding of fisheries and their interaction with the ecosystem to facilitate ecosystem-based management.

Information for management

Monitoring and stock assessments are completed for a limited number of target species, based on the potential risk of over fishing to the species. These reports and assessments have indicated that populations of some species are under pressure including grey mackerel, Spanish mackerel, garfish, snapper and black teatfish (a sea cucumber).