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Member for Hill, Shane Knuth, has written to the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, expressing deep concerns over the management of the Spanish Mackerel Fishery along the East Coast by Fisheries Queensland.
Mr Knuth’s office has been contacted by commercial and recreational fishers concerned at a possible closure of the Spanish Mackerel fishery in 2022.
The concerns have arisen after the inaugural East Coast Spanish Mackerel Working Group meeting on May 17 and 18, 2021 in Brisbane, and the subsequent communique issued from the meeting, published on the DAF website.
In the communique Fisheries Queensland advised the current draft biomass for Spanish Mackerel is estimated to be 17 per cent of unfished biomass.
As 20 per cent unfished biomass is the trigger point where a fishery is recommended to be closed under the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy and National Guidelines, this has obviously rung alarm bells that Fisheries Queensland could potentially close the fishery in 2022.
Mr Knuth said questions must be asked of the management of the fishery if the Biomass reading is true.
“The communique noted the commercial Spanish Mackerel harvest, since quotas were introduced in 2004, has only been on average 300 tonne annually, which is well below the total annual allowable commercial quota set by Fisheries Queensland,” he said.
“Even if an additional estimated 170 tonne annually taken by recreational fishers is included, we are still well below the annual commercial quota limit.”
Mr Knuth said the last time a stock assessment was completed by the department was in 2018, where according to the “Stock Assessment of Australian East Coast Spanish Mackerel – Predictions of stock status and reference points” released by DAF it states:
“The current Queensland total allowable commercial catch quota is 574.6 t.
“The results suggest annual harvests of around 550 t (across all sectors) will build the biomass towards the 60 per cent level, consistent with the 2027 management targets set in the Queensland Government’s Sustainable Fisheries Strategy.”
Mr Knuth, said according to DAFs own report and estimates, the fishery biomass should be near the 60 per cent level.
“My question to the Minister is how can the Spanish Mackerel fishery Biomass be under the closure trigger point of 20 per cent, if the annual quota, set by Fisheries Queensland has never been reached in 17 years?” Mr Knuth said.
“Either Fisheries Queensland have got their management since 2004 terribly wrong and should be held accountable, or the Biomass reading is incorrect, and the process and methodology used is severely flawed.”
Spanish Mackerel is the staple fish for many restaurants and fish and chip shops in North Queensland and there is increasing demand for the delicious fish in southern Queensland and interstate.
“Any closure of the fishery could have devastating effects on the North Queensland economy and the fishing industry.”
If this occurs then Fisheries Queensland should be held responsible for poor management of the fishery over the past 17 years and compensation must be paid to those affected,” said Mr Knuth.
The stock assessment is currently undergoing independent scientific peer review, which will be available in the coming months and the working group has requested more detail on projections for different rebuilding strategies for discussion at their next meeting.
Following the working group input, public consultation is planned to take place in late 2021, allowing the consideration of feedback and a decision on management action to be made ahead of the 1 July 2022 fishing season.
Mr Knuth warned against a knee jerk reaction by Fisheries Queensland.
“I am calling on the Minister to respond, intervene, and ensure that any decisions made by the department on the fishery are based on correct data and by working in partnership with commercial and recreational fishers in the region. They have a vested interest in ensuring the fishery thrives and are best placed to provide reliable information and data to the department.”
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