Remaining impacts from fishing
The Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report 2019 identified that fishing continues to negatively affect the health and resilience of the Reef through:
- incidental impacts on species of conservation concern
- over-fishing of some species
- illegal fishing
- impacts on discarded catch
- damage to habitats.
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.
Fishing position statement
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority released its Fishing position statement
Our position is:
Fishing is a long-established and important activity in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. While fishing activities are regulated within the Marine Park, some fishing practices continue to have an impact on the Reef. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority seeks to ensure fishing is ecologically sustainable through an ecosystem-based approach and management actions that consider the cumulative impacts of fishing on all species and habitats of the Marine Park.
The Authority supports improved fisheries management through an eco-system-based approach, complementary educational programs and environmental stewardship to reduce risks from fishing to the Marine Park. Fishing is a major use of the Marine Park that provides important social, economic and cultural benefits.
Fishers rely on a healthy and resilient marine ecosystem to support their activities. However, habitats and species of the Marine Park are under unprecedented pressure from the cumulative impacts of climate change, land-based run-off, coastal development and fishing. All fishing activities are required to comply with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Zoning Plan 2003, with approximately 67 per cent of the Marine Park available for various types of fishing.
Fisheries management within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is the responsibility of the Queensland Government through the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. This includes commercial licencing, setting of total allowable commercial catch, seasonal closures, and limits to the size and number of fish kept by recreational fishers.
The Australian Government, through the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, is responsible for implementing the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Zoning Plan 2003, which identifies where various activities, including fishing, are permitted.
The the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority 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 the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority works closely with stakeholders across the World Heritage Area including:
- commercial fishers
- recreational fishers
- conservation groups
- community groups
- government agencies.
The Authority considers the following principles important to improve fishing outcomes in the Marine Park:
- an ecosystem-based approach that considers the impacts of all fishing on species and habitats
- harvest strategies that achieve long-term ecological sustainability and the recovery of over-fished stocks
- improved monitoring data, including independent verification where possible, of commercial and recreational catch
- measures that ensure species of conservation concern are not threatened by fishing activities (by-catch mitigation)
- adaptive fisheries management that incorporates climate change impacts and other ecosystem changes
- a high level of compliance with fishing rules and regulations by commercial and recreational sectors.
A collaborative assessment has improved understanding of the risks from trawling in the Great Barrier Reef. This understanding allows focused efforts to reduce risks where necessary.
Implications for communities
Commercial fishing in the Marine Park is an important contributor to Australia’s seafood industry and generates approximately $104 million annually.
Potential future declines in the health of the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem could have serious economic implications for local communities.
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.
Declines in culturally significant species can affect the Indigenous heritage values of the Reef. The Authority acknowledges the rights of Traditional Owners to fish and gather from their Sea Country as recognised in the Native Title Act 1993.