There has been quite a lot of discussion about possession limits across the recreational fishing network recently and I just wanted to reiterate a few important points (and dispel a few pieces of misinformation that seem to be getting around):
- NO DECISIONS HAVE BEEN MADE. There continue to be comments that Fisheries Queensland has already decided on what is going to happen in relation to the fisheries reform process currently underway. I can assure you this is not the case and we have had some great ideas and feedback through the consultation process already that will be invaluable as we try and refine the reform options towards the end of the year.
- THERE ARE NO WHOLESALE REDUCTIONS TO BAG LIMITS PROPOSED. The only bag limit reductions that have been proposed through the discussion papers is for mud crab (particularly to address blackmarketing issues) and blue swimmer crab (which has no limit currently). In relation to inshore species, the discussion paper clearly states that there are no major sustainability concerns for any of the main targets species and that the only proposal at this stage is to simplify existing possession limits. We have sought people’s views on a general possession limit or total possession limit as a possible way of simplifying limits. When talking about a general possession limit (X for every species unless specified), there would always be exceptions (eg low limits like the current barramundi, or higher limits for species like bait, bream, whiting etc). An example of this type of approach is in place in the NT (see: https://nt.gov.au/marine/recreational-fishing/possession-limits-for-fish). There is no proposal on what a total possession limit might be. We are running a few facebook polls this week to get an idea of people’s preferences around general or total possession limits, so it will be interesting to see people’s views on how they think we can simplify things.
- CHANGES TO POSSESSION LIMITS WILL REQUIRE GOVERNMENT APPROVAL. The proposed changes to the Fisheries Act would allow Fisheries Queensland to adjust possession limits, only if it is outlined in a pre-agreed harvest strategy that has been approved by the Minister after public consultation on a draft. Any changes would have to be based on science and changes in biomass or other sustainability indicators. The possession limits could go up and down depending on the performance of the stock (a bit like commercial quota). One idea through the consultation has been to have a total allowable commercial catch and a total allowable recreational catch in the harvest strategy and adjust these according to the sustainability of the stock while keeping the same proportional catch shares between sectors. Fisheries Queensland would not be able to make random decisions on possession limits outside of a harvest strategy, this would still be a matter for the government to consider. The Minister would also still have the option under the proposed Act amendments to direct Fisheries Queensland to make a different decision. This would be like a call-in power, so if the community was extremely concerned about a declaration made by the Chief executive, the Minister could make a different decision and publish a reason for that different decision.
- THE WORKING GROUPS ARE NOT THE ONLY WAY TO HAVE A SAY: The working groups are only advisory and don’t have a decision making role. The decisions on the final reforms will be made by the government, taking into account all the advice from the working groups, expert panel and broader consultation, including online surveys, face to face meetings and facebook polls we have been doing. Thank you to those people who have come along to face to face regional appointments or already filled in a survey. Don’t forget to fill in a survey before this Sunday 20 May, when the surveys close. You can find them here: https://www.daf.qld.gov.au/business-priorities/fisheries/sustainable-fisheries-strategy/fisheries-reforms
Executive Director, Fisheries Queensland
Department of Agriculture and Fisheries