Measures build sustainable future for fishing industry and protect Great Barrier Reef

Published Thursday, 16 November, 2023 at 01:09 PM


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

Minister for the Environment and the Great Barrier Reef, Minister for Science and Minister for Multicultural Affairs
The Honourable Leanne Linard

  • Gillnet fishing in Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area to be phased out by mid-2027. 
  • Significant adjustment package announced for gillnet fishers. 
  • Key investments in sustainable fishing. 

Commercial fishers will receive generous financial assistance including buy backs, reskilling and financial advice following an announcement that gillnet fishing in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area will be phased out by mid-2027.

The assistance is part of a $185 million joint Commonwealth and Queensland government package, which adopts all the recommendations made by the Future Fishing Taskforce.  

The phasing out of gillnets and transition to more sustainable fishing practices is a key measure to prevent the Great Barrier Reef from being listed as “in danger” by UNESCO.

The Great Barrier Reef is a globally important habitat for species such as dugong and sea turtle. Domestically, it contributes $6.4 billion to the Queensland economy each year and supports about 64,000 jobs.

Of the $185 million joint package, the Queensland Government has committed $125 million to implement the phasing out of gillnets on the Great Barrier Reef, rezoning the Great Sandy Marine Park, and increasing protection from gillnet impacts in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

The remaining $60 million from the Australian Government is for even more independent data validation and to further reduce bycatch in high-risk fisheries.

The gillnet fishery in the Great Barrier Reef provides 2.6 per cent of the east coast wild-caught seafood harvest. 

Impacted commercial fishers will be contacted directly by Fisheries Queensland about the timeline and how the reform process applies to them.

Assistance for affected commercial fishers will include grants for licence holders to seek independent advice, structural adjustment payments, buying back gillnets and support for employees and supply chain businesses.      

The breakdown of the Palaszczuk Government’s $125 million contribution is: 

  • Around $90m to financially adjust eligible fishers and supply-chain businesses, including licence packages, relevant symbols, relevant individual transferable quota (ITQ), nets and their disposal, boat refits, ex-gratia payments acknowledging loss of future income, and support for seeking independent advice; 
  • $1.5m for reskilling and retraining grants and support; 
  • $2.25m to support employees such as deckhands and skippers; 
  • $15m to develop a whole-of-government strategy to accelerate and adopt innovative best-practice sustainable aquaculture in Queensland; 
  • $4.5m with matching Australian Government funding from the Fisheries Research Development Corporation to support an evidence-based approach to developing and trialling sustainable alternative commercial fishing gear;
  • $2.95m for developing and growing sustainable regional jobs, tourism opportunities and supporting master fishers training and threatened species protection; and
  • $1.5m for making hammerhead shark a no-take species for commercial fishers.  

Transition to the new arrangements will commence from 31 December 2023. Fisheries Queensland will contact licence holders about arrangements to access structural readjustment payments and new fishery symbols with a Q&A that will assist commercial fishers in understanding their entitlements.

The Queensland Government acknowledges the difficulties the commercial fishing industry is facing and has partnered with Stay Afloat to provide confidential mental health support and advice to commercial fishers. 

Quotes attributable to Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries and Minister for Rural Communities Mark Furner: 

“These are landmark investments that demonstrate the Palaszczuk Government’s commitment to a sustainable fishing industry supporting good jobs well into the future,” Mr Furner said. 

“This package gives the certainty that our commercial fishing industry needs to plan and be able to ensure the ongoing supply of Queensland seafood that has built a global reputation. 

“These investments will also support the ever-growing tourism and aquaculture industries that continue to play a key role in jobs growth in our regional communities. 

“Aquaculture will never replace Queensland’s wild-caught commercial fishing industry, but it does have an ongoing role to play in complementing the state’s supplies of fresh seafood while growing hundreds more good jobs for Queenslanders.

“The wild-caught fishing industry will only exist if it is in a sustainable position.”

Quotes attributable to Minister for Environment and the Great Barrier Reef, Minster for Science and Minister for Multicultural Affairs Leanne Linard: 

“The phasing out of gillnet fishing in the Great Barrier Reef and the rezoning of Great Sandy Marine Park are important reforms which will ensure these areas and the iconic species of the Great Barrier Reef are protected so they can be enjoyed by future generations,” Ms Linard said. 

“Threatened, endangered and protected species including dugongs, snubfin dolphins, turtles, sharks and sawfish can become entangled in gillnets and be injured or killed. The latest science tells us that the populations of species such as dugong cannot afford any human-induced mortalities.   

“The government acknowledged from the outset that there would be an impact on commercial fishing operators from these reforms. That’s why we are delivering this package of support that invests in the industry’s sustainability while protecting the Reef.” 

Quotes attributable to Future Fishing Taskforce independent chair John Tanzer:

“In undertaking its work, the Future Fishing Taskforce sought to balance securing improved conservation outcomes with impacts on fishers and the continued supply for locally caught seafood.

“The taskforce was always mindful of the world heritage values, the wellbeing of the individuals and communities impacted and the substantial public investment being made.

“More than 100 submissions were received during the public consultation period, around 75 per cent of which were from commercial fishers. Expert scientific advice was  considered in regard to endangered, threatened and protected species. Advice was also provided by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.”

“All feedback received was considered in both the development of the structural adjustment package and in the mapping of the net free areas."

Further information:

Gillnetting is one form of fishing in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area to catch the main commercial species such as barramundi, king threadfin, shark and some species of mackerel. In all over a 100 different species are taken by commercial nets in inshore waters.  

Threatened, endangered and protected (TEP) species including dugongs, dolphins, turtles and sawfish can become entangled in gillnets and be injured or killed.  

Globally, many countries, even in areas that are not World Heritage-listed, have restricted or banned the use of gillnets due to concerns over interactions with sea birds, turtles, dolphins and other marine mammals.  

The Australian and Queensland Governments announced the framework of these changes on 5 June 2023.

More information is available at Great Barrier Reef gillnet fishing phase out | Environment, land and water | Queensland Government ( and Future Fishing