You can’t beat common sense fisheries policy

Posted in Industry News

Senator Whish-Wilson (Australian Greens) plan to undermine the Queensland net fishery failed on Wednesday 12 September. The Senate did not a support a change to current arrangements that allow the sustainable take of Hammerhead Shark. So what facts and figures helped win the policy debate in favour of Queensland net fishers?

So let’s discuss industry value.  Based on the ‘Australian fisheries and aquaculture statistics 2016’ produced by the reputable Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES):

  • The Queensland net fishery is worth (farmgate / beach price) is estimated $22.4 million of the $66 million of fish harvested by commercial fishers.
  • The catch volume for net caught species alone in 2015/16 was approximately 5,500 tonnes of sustainably harvested local, iconic fish species such as Barramundi, Blue and King Threadfin.

A media release from Seafood Industry Australia’s (SIA) CEO, Jane Lovell regarding a great win for industry on September 13: Iconic Queensland fishery saved


The debate in the Senate is worth watching and / or reading the Hansard extract – Senator Whish-Wilson motion to disallow

You can view the debate here:


Below is the logic for why Senator Whish-Wilson’s motion to disallow would have led to the start of detrimental outcomes for industry.

Potential Impact 1 – A successful disallowance motion would lead to Hammerhead Sharks listed as ‘Endangered’ in the GBR

The Federal Government was considering listing scalloped Hammerhead Sharks as threatened species under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) (the EPBC Act).  If Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks are listed, then Great and Smooth Hammerhead sharks would also be listed due to their similarity.  Before the motion to disallow was raised, Hammerheads were listed as ‘conservation dependent’ which has led to stricter management of the take of the species in Queensland, New South Wales, Northern Territory and Western Australia. The current ‘conservation dependent’ category listing allows the take of Hammerhead Sharks while still providing protections to ensure their sustainability.

If the motion was successful, listing these species in the ‘endangered’ category of threatened species in the GBR would have significant implications for Queensland’s commercial fisheries. It would make them no-take in Commonwealth waters and prohibit export of Hammerhead Sharks taken from Queensland waters. As it is difficult for net fishers to avoid Hammerheads as a result of multi-species fisheries, this would have a significant impact on the fisheries on the East Coast and the Gulf of Carpentaria and result in a high level of discarding.

Potential Impact 2 – Significant impacts on Queensland commercial net fishing

Under an ‘endangered’ listing, Hammerhead Sharks would become a no-take species in Commonwealth waters. All fishers operating in Commonwealth waters would be required to take all reasonable steps to avoid interactions with Hammerhead Sharks. Export of Hammerhead Sharks taken from Queensland waters would be prohibited and export approvals for other species in Queensland net fisheries could have been at risk due to the risk of incidental catches of Hammerhead Sharks.

The only way to avoid interactions with Hammerhead Sharks would be to avoid the use of certain types of apparatus (simply stated commercial fishing nets) in the GBR so targeting School and Grey Mackerel, Threadfin Salmon and Barramundi would be out of the question as Hammerheads congregate with these commercially harvested species.

So why did common sense prevail?

Reliance on science – Threatened Species Scientific Committee

This committee, independent of government and industry, examined scientific evidence, not political or conservation rhetoric and determined that under specific management arrangements an ‘endangered’ species determination was not warranted.

The Committee is established under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and is independent of the Federal environment department and recommended that Sphyrna lewini (Scallop Hammerhead) be listed in the Conservation Dependent category.

The Committee considered the management arrangements to be implemented by the Queensland and Northern Territory governments under their respective state/territory legislation for Scalloped Hammerhead as a ‘plan of management’ for the purposes of paragraph 179(6)(b) of the EPBC Act.  The Committee evaluated these management arrangements and considers that they could be effective in halting further decline and supporting recovery of Scalloped Hammerhead in order to maximise its chance of survival in nature. Therefore, the Committee judged that Scalloped Hammerhead had been demonstrated to have met the requirements of paragraph 179(6)(b) of the EPBC Act and is eligible for listing as Conservation Dependent.

Industry Advocacy

The association and Seafood Industry Australia coordinated contact with Senators and were assisted in this task by harvest and post-harvest fishers.  Margaret Stevenson and David Caracciolo have kindly given me permission to publish their advocacy on this issue.

Click here for Margaret Stevenson (wild harvest) email to Senators

Click here for David Caracciolo (post-harvest) email to Senators



Australian fisheries and aquaculture statistics 2016

Fisheries (Hammerhead Sharks) Amendment Regulation 2017 explanatory notes

Threatened Species Scientific Committee Listing Advice Scalloped hammerhead

Author: Eric Perez, CEO – Queensland Seafood Industry Association

Note: On behalf of the association I would like to thank Jane Lovell, CEO of SIA for her assistance in helping to engage industry and Senators.  I would also like to thank Nathan and Travis Rynn, Ben Gilliland,  Neil Green, Margaret Stevenson and David Caracciolo as well as commercial fishers in Queensland and across Australia that helped us achieve a positive outcome.

Image: Queensland Seafood Industry Association

The content of this post is provided for information purposes only and unless otherwise stated is not formal QSIA policy. The information on these posts are provided on the basis that all persons accessing the information undertake their own responsibility for assessing the relevance and accuracy of it.

Queensland Commercial Fishing Under Threat