Commercial fishing and zoning

Commercial fishing is the largest extractive activity in the Marine Park, harvesting about
15,000 tonnes of seafood each year. It contributes to the economies of many Queensland coastal communities.

Types of commercial fishing

There are five main types of commercial fishing activities in the Marine Park.

Trawl fisheries

The trawl fisheries are Queensland's largest commercial fishery. Trawlers fish in the Marine Park primarily using otter trawl nets which sweep the seabed in inter-reefal areas, and between coral reefs and the mainland coast, to catch prawns, scallops, bugs, squid and other marine life.

Zoning restricts trawling to the General Use (Light Blue) Zone in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Zoning incorporates Queensland Government trawl closures in the Habitat Protection (Dark Blue) Zone.

State fisheries management arrangements include limited entry, effort restrictions, spatial and seasonal closures, as well as restrictions on the gear that may be used and the species that may be retained.

Line fisheries

Line fisheries include the tropical coral reef finfish fishery (also called the reef line fishery), the rocky reef finfish fishery and trolling. These fisheries use hook and line to catch fish such as coral trout, emperors, snappers and mackerels.

In relation to line fishing and trolling

  • Line fishing is allowed in the General Use (Light Blue) Zone and the Habitat Protection (Dark Blue) Zone
  • Limited line fishing is allowed in the Conservation Park (Yellow) Zone
  • No more than one dory is to be detached from its primary commercial fishing vessel in the Conservation Park (Yellow) Zone and the Buffer (Olive Green) Zone
  • No dory is to be detached from its primary commercial fishing vessel in a Marine National Park (Green) Zone
  • Trolling is allowed in the General Use (Light Blue), Habitat Protection (Dark Blue) and Conservation Park (Yellow) Zones
  • Trolling for pelagic species is allowed in the Buffer (Olive Green) Zone.

Under Queensland fisheries legislation there are limits on the types of gear that may be used, quota limits, possession limits and size limits on fish species.

Net fisheries

Netting by commercial fishers occurs in coastal waters and some offshore waters. The main species targeted are barramundi, king and blue salmon, shark, mullet and small mackerel species.

Netting may occur in the General Use (Light Blue) Zone and Habitat Protection (Dark Blue) Zone. Bait netting may occur in these zones as well as in the Conservation Park (Yellow) Zone.

Trap fisheries

These fisheries use apparatus such as crab pots and dillies to catch blue swimmer crabs, mud crabs and spanner crabs in inshore coastal and offshore waters. Crabbing is the only kind of trapping permitted 'as of right' in the General Use (Light Blue) Zone and Habitat Protection (Dark Blue) Zone.

Limited crabbing in the Conservation Park (Yellow) Zone restricts the number of apparatus that can be used to four per person.

Dive-based harvest fisheries

The dive-based harvest fisheries involve the collecting of aquarium fish, coral, tropical rock lobster, trochus and sea cucumber. These fisheries require a permit under the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Zoning Plan 2003. State fisheries management measures include limited entry, quotas and fishing gear and area restrictions.

Managing commercial fishing

The Queensland Government is responsible for managing commercial fishing in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Management arrangements for commercial fisheries include:

  • Limits on the number of fishing licences
  • Seasonal closures
  • Restrictions on fishing vessel size
  • Restrictions on the length, mesh size and number of nets used
  • Limits on the number of hooks used
  • Limits on the number of traps such as crab pots and dillies used
  • Limits on the total allowable catch restrictions on the size of fish.

Commercial fishers should also familiarise themselves with the Special Management Area requirements.