Commercial fishing and post-harvest seafood industries
Outcomes of the Great Sandy Marine Park Zoning Plan review includes changes that will impact some commercial fishers and businesses reliant on commercial fishing, such as seafood processors.
In particular these impacts will result from the new and expanded Marine National Park (green) zones, Conservation Park (yellow) zones and Habitat Protection (dark blue) zones and the prohibition of large mesh gill nets and ring nets from the Conservation Park zones within Baffle Creek, Elliott River, the Burrum River system, the Great Sandy Strait and Tin Can Inlet.
Detailed information is available in the Decision Regulatory Impact Statement and summarised below.
In developing the final zoning plan, consideration was given to locating zones, aligning their boundaries and implementing management initiatives in a manner that would minimise impacts on areas of high commercial trawl, pot, line and harvest catch as much as possible, while also delivering the conservation objectives of the review.
Key objectives of the zoning plan review were to address conflict between recreational and commercial fishing sectors regarding the management of net fishing within the designated Great Sandy Area waterways and to improve the protection of vulnerable habitats and threatened species throughout the marine park. The zoning plan changes to address these objectives will result in significant impacts to components of the commercial net fishery (specifically fishing with large mesh gill nets and ring nets in parts of the park).
In view of the reduction in catch of inshore finfish that will result from zoning plan changes affecting the use of commercial gill nets, consideration was also given to retaining a supply of local inshore finfish to the public. This has been facilitated through the retention of those net fishing methods that pose a lower risk to threatened species (e.g. tunnel netting).
The following decisions to be included in the final zoning plan are relevant for commercial fishing and businesses reliant on commercial fishing.
Commercial fishing – net
- Removal of the designated Great Sandy Area and prohibition of the use of commercial large mesh gill nets and ring nets in the Conservation Park (yellow) zones within Baffle Creek, Elliott River, Burrum River and the Great Sandy Strait, and within the new Habitat Protection (dark blue) zones at Dayman Spit and in the Cherwell River and upper reaches of the Burrum River.
- Retention of tunnel netting and set pocket netting within the existing fishery areas defined under fisheries legislation, within the yellow zone of the Great Sandy Strait/Tin Can Inlet and Mary River respectively.
- Expansion of the green zone network from 3.9% of the area of the park to 12.8%.
- Extension of the yellow zone boundaries seaward at the mouths of Wathumba, Coongul, Awinya, and Coonarr Creeks and along the foreshore in an approximate 500m wide strip between Wathumba Creek and Rooney Point.
- Establishment of a new, and expansion of the existing, designated Go Slow Areas in key dugong and turtle habitats. In particular, the expansion of the Go Slow Area at the mouth of the Burrum River and amendment of the Go Slow Area between Sandy Cape and Rooney Point to apply year-round rather than seasonally.
- Retention of commercial bait (small mesh) net fishing within the yellow zones of Baffle Creek, Elliott River, Burrum River and the Great Sandy Strait and all other yellow zones in the marine park (as per the standard yellow zone provisions).
Commercial fishing – trawl, line, pot and harvest fisheries
- Additional and expanded green, yellow and dark blue zones within Hervey Bay and offshore from K’gari.
- Extension of the boundary of the designated Turtle Protection Area to approximately five kilometres offshore (compared to the current 1.8 kilometres offshore), where trawling is prohibited between 1 November and 31 January, adjacent to the Mon Repos turtle rookery.
- Prohibition of beam trawling in the yellow zone of the lower reaches of the Mary River.
- Additional and expanded green zones, which may impact some commercial line fishing grounds where both pelagic and reef species are targeted.
- Restriction of line fishers to the use of a maximum of two handheld rods/lines and two fishing hooks per fisher in all yellow zones. This is a reduction in the number of rods/lines/hooks currently allowed to be used in the waterways of Baffle Creek, Elliott River, Burrum River and in the Great Sandy Strait/Tin Can Inlet (from three rods/lines and six hooks) and an increase in all other yellow zones (from one line/one hook).
Pot (crab) fishery
- Additional and expanded green and yellow zones will impact some mud crab and blue swimmer crab pot fishing grounds however, impacts have been minimised by limiting the extent and location of green zones in primary crabbing areas.
- Retention of commercial crabbing as a non-conforming use in the yellow zones of Baffle Creek, Elliott River, Burrum River and in the Great Sandy Strait/Tin Can Inlet, and no longer requiring a marine park permission.
- Additional and expanded green zones in the Susan River and near River Heads.
- Modification and consolidation of the existing green zones at Turkey, Bookar and Walsh Islands into one green zone.
- Modification of the zoning over the western portion of Turkey Island and the small area southwest of Turkey Island from green to yellow zone, which will allow commercial crabbing to occur as a non-conforming use in those areas.
Blue swimmer crab
- Additional and expanded green zones, particularly within central and southern Hervey Bay.
Marine aquarium fish (MAF) fishery
- Additional green zones over some MAF collecting areas (e.g. Four Mile Reef, the reef at Pialba and over Teebar ledge in Tin Can Inlet).
- Continuation of a non-conforming use provision (with permission) to allow MAF collection in the Little Woody Island green zone, but limited to apply to only those fishers who can demonstrate a history of catch from the area since 2006.
- Exemption of licensed MAF fishers from No Anchoring Area rules within new No Anchoring Areas at Gables Point and Gatakers Bay (near Point Vernon), to allow fishers to anchor while undertaking collection activities.
- Continuation of a non-conforming use provision (with permission) that allows specific coral fishery licences to collect within a small section of the expanded green zone north of Woody Island, but limited to the sole purpose of supplying coral for display in the Reef World Aquarium in Hervey Bay.
- Implementation of a new non-conforming use provision (permission not required) to allow for the continued collection of yabbies within the yellow zone of Baffle Creek, Elliott River, Burrum River and Great Sandy Strait/Tin Can Inlet by fishers holding specific yabby fishery licences. This will maintain existing access for these fishers despite the removal of the designated Great Sandy Area.
- Prohibition of the commercial bloodworm fishery from the yellow zone of Baffle Creek, Elliott River, Burrum River and Great Sandy Strait/Tin Can Inlet. Noting that the use of digging implements, such as those used for collection of bloodworms, is already prohibited within the declared Fish Habitat Areas that that extend over most of the area of these waterways.
- No zoning changes are being implemented over the marine park’s ocean beaches, therefore no impacts on the beachworm fishery are expected.
- The commercial catch across all fisheries within the marine park will potentially be reduced by $2.5–$3.0 million annually.
- Within the marine park, the changes to the zoning plan are expected to lead to a:
- 67% reduction (by weight) in fin fish net catch
- 8% reduction (by weight) in blue swimmer crab catch
- 18% reduction (by weight) in mud crab catch
- 11% reduction (by weight) in line fishery catch
- 12% reduction (by weight) in trawl fishery catch.
Support for directly impacted fishers and businesses
A commercial fisheries impact mitigation package is currently being developed to mitigate the impacts to commercial fishers and to provide support to post-harvest seafood businesses and impacted workers in the commercial fishing sector that are directly affected by the changes.
This package will consider the broader impacts associated with the Great Barrier Reef net fishing changes announced on 5 June 2023.
Implementation of the package will occur during the second half of 2023, prior to the final zoning plan taking effect.
Further information about the commercial fishery impact mitigation package is available on the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries website.