Existing protection and management
The Queensland Government annually identifies strategic and operational information needs for fisheries management, informed by annual status assessments of stocks, research findings and community concerns. However, the stock status of only 29 of the 65 fisheries resources harvested on the east coast of Queensland are defined. The remainder are classified as either uncertain or undefined because there is insufficient information available to make an assessment. While there are specific programs to collect fisheries information, such as biological monitoring, recreational surveys and analysis of fisheries logbooks, they are often limited in scope and there is a lack of publicly available information on some. Anecdotal evidence suggests that interactions with ‘species of conservation interest’ are often not reported. Vessel monitoring systems are only in place for selected fisheries such as the East Coast Otter Trawl Fishery. The ways in which fisheries interact with non-target species are understood, but remain largely unquantified. There are regulations aimed at minimising or preventing interactions. Limits on participation and gear restrictions are used to address remaining risks and unknown interactions. Protection of dugong from commercial netting in areas such as Bowling Green Bay has improved. Ecosystem effects and cumulative impacts of recreational fishing are less well understood. In this sector, local depletion, particularly of some inshore species, is of concern in some areas. Illegal fishing is considered one of the greatest risks to the environmental sustainability of fishing activities in the Region. Compliance activities, undertaken by the Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol, Border Protection Command and the Marine Parks joint Field Management Program, play a significant role in managing the impacts of fishing. The resources available to agencies for the management of fishing have declined since 2009. For example, staffing resources in the Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry have declined by over one-third since 2009 and funding for the Field Management Program, which is responsible for many of the compliance activities, has been static since 2008 and declined in real terms. Regionally based liaison and regular meetings with industry representatives aid communication and help identify and address issues. Stewardship among commercial fishers is promoted through the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s pilot Reef Guardian Fishers program which, as at December 2013, involved nine operations and up to 50 fishing vessels.