Action to rebuild Spanish mackerel fishery for future generations

Published Wednesday, 14 September, 2022 at 02:00 PM

Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries and Minister for Rural Communities
The Honourable Mark Furner

New fishery management arrangements for Spanish mackerel will be introduced from October this year, helping to restore depleted stocks and protect good jobs in the fishing industry for generations to come.

The changes will mean two three-week closed seasons in waters off the state’s north starting in October 2022, and two three-week closed seasons in southern waters starting in February 2023.

Commercial fishers will have a reduced Total Allowable Catch each year starting next July, while recreational fishing for Spanish mackerel will be permitted the other 46 weeks of the year with a bag limit of one per person or two per boat.

Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries and Minister for Rural Communities Mark Furner said the new arrangements would give certainty to commercial, charter and recreational fisheries while striking a balance between rebuilding stocks and allowing better controlled access for fishers.

“Based on extensive feedback and expert scientific advice, we will use a combination of measures to ensure more fish are left in the water each and every year,” Mr Furner said.

Key management changes include:

      • Adjusting the total allowable commercial catch to 165 tonnes for the 2023 fishing season starting on 1 July 2023.
      • Changing the recreational in-possession limit to one fish per person, or two fish per boat with two or more recreational fishers on board from 1 July 2023. (The boat limit does not apply to licensed charter fishing trips.)
      • Removing the extended charter trip limit from 1 July 2023, which currently allows recreational fishers to take twice the in-possession limit for charter trips longer than 48 hours.
      • Developing a new smartphone app for recreational fishers to voluntarily report their Spanish mackerel catches on the east coast and shark depredation; and
      • Introducing a new education and awareness program promoting best practice catch, release and handling techniques for recreational fishers.

In line with the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy 2017-27, a new East Coast Spanish Mackerel Fishery Harvest Strategy will underpin future decision-making for this important fishery.

More than 780 submissions were received during the second round of consultation and nearly 70% of respondents preferred Option 1 rather than Option 2, which included fishery closures of up to 12 weeks.

Mr Furner thanked the 780 plus submitters to the 2nd and final discussion paper, including working group members, industry bodies, recreational fishers and other stakeholders that provided valuable input.

“We support a sustainable Queensland fishing sector, which is why we have spent much of the past year consulting with commercial, recreational and charter fishers,” he said.

“Spanish mackerel are key part of a healthy marine ecosystem, and a large part of the fishery operates in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

“With the most recent stock assessments showing Spanish mackerel stocks had fallen to just 17 per cent, doing nothing was not an option.

“These carefully-considered new management actions are not a ‘set and forget’ approach— Spanish Mackerel stocks will continue to be monitored annually through a combination of measures including catch rates and stock assessments using the most up to date data.

“In addition, the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation is supporting a new three-year Spanish mackerel research project, which will be led by researchers from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

“The project will focus on the impact of shark depredation and environmental influences on the fishery, exploring the application of emerging genetic approaches for estimating stock abundance using the close-kin-mark-recapture method, estimating post-release survival and enhancing catch rate standardisation.”

Seasonal closures in detail

The changes to management regulations include a northern seasonal closure in east coast waters north of 22˚S (slightly north of Clairview) for two three-week periods (six weeks total) around the new moons in October and November each year.

The 2022 closures will provide vitally important protection for spawning aggregations and will run from 22 October 2022 to 12 November 2022 and 21 November to 12 December 2022.

A southern seasonal closure in east coast waters south of 22˚S will run for two three-week periods (six weeks in total) in February and March each year.

The 2023 closures will protect fish that aggregate in southern waters to feed and will run from 1 February 2023 to 21 February 2023 and 1 March 2023 to 21 March 2023.


Media contact:          Ron Goodman            0427 781 920