Spotted mackerel ring netting update

The recent commercial netting activities in Moreton Bay, initially raised on social media, has triggered a reaction from many recreational fishos.

With most of these anglers having fished the bay for years, they no doubt saw the damage ring netting did to fish stocks back in the 1980s – which has taken years for the fishery to recover from.

Before I continue, I want to make it clear that ring netting for spotted mackerel is currently legal in Moreton Bay and is subject to a total allowable commercial catch quota – which for zone 4 Moreton Bay is about 25 tonnes.

Unfortunately, as it appears from recent correspondence, I and many other recreational anglers have obviously missed the legislative amendments that took place in September 2021 as part of the ‘‘East coast inshore fishery harvest strategy: 2021-2026’.

While no excuse, many of us were probably paddling very hard to keep our businesses afloat at that time and missed this amendment.

To gain some clarity on the issues, I raised it with Fisheries Queensland and received a response from its executive director Dallas D’Silva as follows…

In September 2021, the East coast inshore fishery harvest strategy was implemented, and more competitive total allowable commercial catches were introduced for species such as spotted mackerel.

Historically, this species had a 140-tonne TACC along the coast, with only logbooks to record the progress to that total.

Spotted mackerel have been more targeted by the net fishery in this area from that initial date as is evidenced in the 2022 year. Note that 2023 only includes logbooks until June, so is a partial fishing year.


Since the change, the TACC was reduced to 48 tonne for the whole east coast, with much more improved reporting.

The TACC for management region 5 (south of the Great Barrier Reef) was set at 20,650kg and was based on proportion of historical harvest at the maximum of 48,000kg.

In these legislative amendments and as a commitment within the harvest strategy policy, input controls were relaxed for certain parts of the fishery as red tape reduction.

Two input controls that were relaxed from the Fisheries Regulation 2008 was that spotted mackerel could not be targeted by net and, if caught incidentally, had a possession limit set at 15 within the one trip – this significantly reduced the opportunity to ring net spotted mackerel due to the large aggregations they form.

As a result of that September 2021 change, spotted mackerel have been more targeted by the net fishery in this area from that initial date as is evidenced in the 2022 year I have provided below and is still well below historical levels caught by the line and net fishery.

Please note 2023 only includes logbooks until June, so is a partial fishing year. netting

East coast inshore catch quota for the Queensland spotted mackerel fishery as at February 14, 2024.


Please note this has not been a new legislative amendment introduced in this structural adjustment process.

There are potential risks remaining with this fishery in terms of potential impacts on fishing aggregations.

We will continue to monitor the fishery against the harvest strategy and a future stock assessment, and address issues through the working group, expert panel and fishery stakeholders.

While this cleared up some of the concerns of the legality of the action, it did raise others – such as the breakdown of the working groups, consultation period, when the next review will be and how this decision was arrived at given the decrease in numbers of fish caught between 2019 and 2021.

I’m still researching answers to these questions and will let you know as soon as I do.

Due to our print deadline, I wasn’t able to provide further information on this here.

Though, one item I did find was the ‘Schedule of performance monitoring, assessment and review’ – page 17 of the ‘East coast inshore fishery harvest strategy: 2021-2026’ – which details a review of the assessment and monitoring activity for spotted mackerel in Year 4 (2024).

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