Queensland’s peak seafood body says new state government reductions to Spanish mackerel quotas that come into effect today are “nonsense”.
- Recreational fishers now have a bag limit of one Spanish mackerel per person or two per boat with more than two people on board
- From today, the total catch quota for Spanish mackerel in Queensland will be reduced to 165 tonnes
- Queensland’s peak seafood body says the government’s stock assessment, which the changes are based on, is wrong
The key management changes include a decrease in the recreational possession limit, the removal of the extended charter trip limit, and an adjustment of the total allowable commercial catch for the 2023 fishing season.
Fishers and representative organisations have opposed the Queensland government changes since they were announced last September.
“I think it’s a lot of nonsense, to be frank,” Allan Bobbermen, the chief executive officer for the Queensland Seafood Industry Association (QSIA), said.
“I think really it’s politics interfering with fisheries management.”
But the Queensland government has defended its decision, citing evidence that the Spanish mackerel population has reduced.
“There was a comprehensive stock assessment done in 2020, 2021, which showed that the biomass on the east coast was … about 17 per cent,” Dallas D’Silva, executive director of Fisheries Queensland, said.
“That showed that the fishery was depleted, and action needed to be taken to rebuild the stocks.
“The stock assessments are based on lots of different data inputs from the commercial fishery, from our age-length monitoring, our krill surveys at boat ramps, and from information provided by fishers as well, which shows that the catch rates have been steadily declining for some time.”
What changes when I go for a fish?
The three key management changes impact recreational and commercial fishermen.
For recreational fishers, the possession limit is changing from three to one fish per person or from six to two fish per boat with two or more recreational fishers on board according to the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.
The extended charter trip limit has also been removed, which previously allowed recreational fishers to take twice the in-possession limit for charter trips longer than 48 hours.
For commercial fishing, the total allowable commercial catch has been adjusted to 165 tonnes for the 2023 fishing season, down from the previous 578 tonnes.
Since its introduction in 2004, approximately 50 per cent of the total allowable commercial catch of 578 tonnes has been used each year according to the department.
Mr D’Silva said the department was implementing the measures to “rebuild the fishery”.
“We don’t want to see the Spanish mackerel fishery crash or become severely depleted to a point where it won’t recover and rebuild,” he said.
“It’s really all about protecting these fisheries for our kids and their kids so that we can ensure we’ve got sustainable fisheries into the future.”
But Allan Bobbermen, a generational fisherman and holder of the last Spanish mackerel licence in his north Queensland coastal town of Cardwell, said the decision contradicted the industry’s understanding.
“We were always told that the fishery was healthy but now we find out that the stock assessment’s model says that’s down around 17 per cent, which left us all scratching our heads because we know the fish are there,” he said.
“Surely they [Fisheries Queensland] must think, ‘We’ve got this wrong somewhere.'”
He said the changes impacted an industry that he believed was far from its prime.
“We had Spanish mackerel fishermen that solely relied on the Spanish mackerel for their income,” he said.
“Now it’s all gone. It’s really sad. All those iconic people are gone,” he said.
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