Remaining impacts from fishing

The Great Barrier Reef supports commercial, recreational, Indigenous and charter fishing, which target a range of species, including fish, sharks, crabs and prawns.

Fishing is the principal extractive use of the Great Barrier Reef. The Australian and Queensland governments share management of fishing and its environmental impacts .

Viable commercial and charter fishing industries depend on a healthy ecosystem as a source of seafood just as Queenslanders rely on a healthy Reef for recreation. Traditional Owners too are keen to ensure this culturally important resource remains healthy.

There are 10 major commercial fisheries in the Great Barrier Reef Region. The main commercial sectors are net, trawl, line and pot fisheries. Commercial fishing is important to both domestic and international markets.

Recreational fishing is an open-access fishery, taking an estimated six million fish in 2007 . The Great Barrier Reef offers many exciting and different fishing opportunities. This popular recreational pastime allows people to spend time on the water with family and friends, and to get in touch with the natural world.

As well as observing fishing regulations, it is important that those who fish adopt responsible fishing practices while out on the water. These practices help to protect the natural environment, maintain the ecological balance of the Reef and contribute to improving its general health.

Current state and trends

Information about fish stock trends is variable between species. The commercial catch of some species has gone down over recent years, and physical habitats are generally well protected by Zoning Plans.

The amount of fisheries product taken from different areas in the Great Barrier Reef varies for each of the major commercial fisheries. Net and pot fisheries are generally undertaken close to the coast, whereas trawling and line fishing extend further offshore.

Trends in global fisheries influence those of the Great Barrier Reef. As wild-caught fisheries throughout the world continue to be exploited, the economic value of Reef fisheries resources and the pressure to exploit them increase.

Management actions

Fisheries management within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is the responsibility of the Queensland Government through the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

GBRMPA aims to ensure understanding of and compliance with the management regimes in the Great Barrier Reef Region through public information and education programs, and the adoption of satellite-based vessel monitoring systems.

The agency is developing ongoing and effective communications with stakeholders associated with fisheries in the entire World Heritage Area.

These stakeholders include:

  • commercial fishers
  • recreational fishers
  • conservation groups
  • community groups
  • government agencies.

Through collaboration with fisheries management agencies and stakeholders, GBRMPA seeks to:

  • minimise ecological impact through developing and encouraging the adoption of new technologies to reduce the ecological impact of fishing activities
  • establish a comprehensive system of protected areas that are representative of the complex range of ecological communities found in the Marine Park (Representative Areas Program)
  • ensure adequate monitoring and assessment are undertaken to determine the impacts of fishing activities and the status of harvested stocks, non-target species and the ecosystems on which they depend
  • facilitate and support research designed to map the ecological impact of fishing activities to better inform management
  • ensure ecologically sustainable fishing activities are managed in a way that is sustainable for the long term .

Implications for communities

Fishing in the Great Barrier Reef Region is a major part of the lifestyle of regional communities. It is a significant source of employment and an important recreational activity, and it contributes to overall economic and social wellbeing.

Potential future declines in the health of the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem could have serious economic implications for local communities, as almost all of the Region's economic benefit comes from its natural resources.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders also have a close connection to the Great Barrier Reef and fishing is an important custom. This custom, along with other traditional uses and caring for sea country, reinforces Traditional Owner culture, protocols and connections to the Great Barrier Reef.