QUEENSLAND’S new Rocky Reef Fishery Working Group will be asked to identify options to rebuild the snapper stock, which continues to be considered overfished.
Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner announced the new working group, which will provide advice to the government on managing fisheries including snapper, pearl perch, teraglin jew, yellowtail kingfish, cobia and mahi mahi. Mr Furner said the Queensland Government’s Sustainable Fisheries Expert Panel had considered the latest snapper stock assessment, including an independent review and agreed with the findings.
“Snapper is an iconic species and it is important that management arrangements ensure Queenslanders can continue to catch and eat a snapper into the future,” Mr Furner said. “The new Rocky Reef Fishery Working Group will now review all the information as a priority and recommend options to rebuild snapper stocks through development of a harvest strategy for the fishery.”
Mr Furner said changes to size and possession limits introduced in 2011 have not been sufficient to improve snapper stocks since the previous stock assessment in 2009.
“The latest scientific advice is that the biomass of the east coast snapper stock is 10-45% of the original biomass,” Mr Furner said. “The Queensland part of the stock, which has been considered overfished for the last six years, is potentially lower at 10-23% of the original biomass and anywhere below 20% is cause for concern.”
Sustainable Fisheries Expert Panel Chair Associate Professor Ian Tibbetts said despite uncertainty about the exact biomass level, there are clear signs snapper stocks are in poor condition.
This includes declining catches from both the commercial and recreational sector, fewer older fish in the population and declining numbers of juvenile fish in Moreton Bay recruitment surveys, particularly since 2013. “The Sustainable Fisheries Expert Panel was set up to provide independent, evidence-based advice on fisheries management and has recommended urgent and strong action to rebuild snapper stocks,” Associate Professor Tibbetts said.
“Snapper has been classified as overfished for many years and there are no signs of recovery despite management interventions, marine park closures and by-catch reduction in Moreton Bay. There may be some environmental factors such as water temperature affecting the stock, however, local action still needs to be taken.”
The Rocky Reef Fishery Working Group, made up of commercial, recreational and charter fishers and science/conservation representatives, will meet in September to consider the snapper stock assessment and options to rebuild the stock.
The group will also develop a harvest strategy for pearl perch, which is also considered to be a depleting stock.
As part of the Queensland Government’s Sustainable Fisheries Strategy, clear biomass targets have been set and harvest strategies are to be in place for all fisheries by 2020. The Stock assessment of Australian east coast snapper (Chrysophrys auratus) is available online at http://era.daf.qld.gov.au/6341
For information about the Rocky Reef Fishery Working Group, visit https://www.daf.qld.gov.au/business-priorities/fisheries/sustainable-fisheries-strategy/fishery-working-groups