More than 120 reef species are taken in this fishery that is concentrated between Cooktown and the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and made up of a commercial and recreational (including charter) sector.

The most common species include coral trout, red throat emperor, red emperor, tropical snappers, reef cods and some pelagic species (including Spanish mackerel).

The fishery targets whole dead, filleted and live fish. The latter is growing rapidly due to the high prices paid on Asian markets, with more than 50 per cent of the commercial reef line catch now destined for the overseas live fish market.

Management

The Reef Line Fishery is managed by the Fisheries Queensland under a Management Plan. Until the introduction of a quota system in July 2004, the fishery was managed under a limited entry system.

With the introduction of a quota system, commercial catches were capped at a Total Allowable Catch of 3061 tonnes per year for coral reef fish and 619 tonnes per year for Spanish mackerel.

Commercial operators in the fishery eligible for a RQ or SM endorsement were allocated Individual Transferable Quotas based on their catch history.

The new system caps the level of harvest in the Reef Line Fishery, while providing greater flexibility for the operators in trading their quota.

Seven species are prohibited from commercial take for conservation concerns, iconic values or ciguatera concerns. Legal size limits also apply to many species.

Access and gear restrictions also apply under the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park zoning arrangements.

Information on the recreational take in the Reef Line Fishery is less available, with surveys of recreational fishers estimating the recreational catch of coral reef finfish species at 2494, and 406 tonnes for Spanish mackerel.