Commercial and non-commercial use
Figure 5.11 Catch of sea cucumbers, 1991–92 to 2010–11 Since the closure of the black teatfish fishery, a number of other sea cucumber species have been targeted in the fishery. The three phases of ‘teatfish’, ‘diversifying’ and ‘new species’ represent changes in the catch composition of the fishery. The blackfish group includes predominantly burying blackfish (Actinopyga spinea) and a small amount of blackfish (Actinopyga miliaris).
Source: Eriksson et al. 201330
Several marine-based aquaculture operations (fishes, pearls and sponges) have been proposed or have begun in the Region over the past two decades but none are in operation at present, primarily due to economic or environmental sustainability issues. There are some land-based aquaculture operations in the adjacent catchment (see Section 6.4.1). Catch and effort in the commercial trawl, net, line and pot fisheries have fluctuated over the last couple of decades (Figure 5.12), with annual catches and fishing effort lower in recent years compared to historical peaks. Factors influencing these patterns include abundance of resource species, management arrangements, weather events such as cyclones, market demands and other external factors (such as foreign exchange rates and fuel prices).
Catch in the main seafood fisheries fluctuates: it has generally been lower in recent years.
Figure 5.12 Trends in major fisheries, 1990–2012
Annual commercial fishing catch and effort for the Great Barrier Reef Region from 1990 to 2012 for the four major fisheries. Source: Data is based on commercial fisher logbook records. A day of fishing effort has not been standardised over time and does not account for changes in fishing power (such as technology advances and fishing efficiency). Source: Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and
Forestry (Qld) 201328
For example, the areas affected by cyclones such as Hamish in 2009 and Yasi in 2011 are reported to have significantly reduced catch rates of coral trout. This can have flow-on effects on other areas. After cyclone Hamish some active commercial live coral trout fishers moved their operations northward away from the cyclone-affected areas.32 The commercial catch rates of coral trout, though recovering in some areas, have generally remained depressed since these cyclones.28 There have been changes in the distribution of annual catch within the four main commercial fisheries in the period 2009 to 2012, compared to 2005 to 2008.28 Areas where catch has changed by around 50 per cent or more include: • Trawl — catch increased in the deep-water trawl area adjacent to the Swain Reefs; inshore areas adjacent to Gladstone; the area adjacent to Mackay; Bowen; and offshore Hinchinbrook. Decreases occurred in the southern Great Barrier Reef and Capricorn–Bunker Group area; the Burdekin and inshore Hinchinbrook regions; and slightly in all trawlable areas north of Cooktown.