SATELLITE technology will be used to help protect Queensland’s fishing industry under final vessel tracking guidelines released recently.
Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner said vessel tracking would provide critical information to assist with on-water compliance, validating logbook data to improve the accuracy of information and assist with monitoring the sustainability of fish stocks.
“The new Vessel Tracking Policy and Guidelines set out the rules and requirements and a list of approved vessel tracking units, which describes units and data plans approved for certain fisheries, with a focus on net, line and crabbing,” he said.
“Vessel tracking will be required for net, reef line and crabbing this year, and by 2020 for other activities. “Vessel tracking is a key element of the Queensland Sustainable Fisheries Strategy 2017 – 2027 released in July 2017, paving the way for a world-class fisheries management system.”
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority chairman Dr Russell Reichelt said the Great Barrier Reef Blueprint for Resilience highlighted the Authority’s support for implementing vessel tracking on all commercial fishing vessels operating in the marine park.
“We believe vessel tracking is an important step to increasing compliance with marine park zoning rules,” Dr Reichelt said. “Given that accumulated pressures are impacting the Reef’s resilience, the benefits of protecting no-take zones by enhancing compliance are more important than ever before.”
Minister Furner said the trawl fishery has had vessel tracking for 15 years, with many commercial fishers saying it was the best thing ever introduced. “It’s helped them demonstrate the sustainability of their fishery, particularly operating in a World Heritage Area,” he said.
“The Vessel Tracking Policy and Guidelines were finalised following feedback on draft policy and guidelines released for consultation in January 2018. “Fisheries Queensland met with more than 280 people over the consultation period and received numerous responses to a survey, emails, letters and phone calls.
“The Government has addressed concerns raised in the feedback about costs, protection of people’s location data and ensuring flexibility if vessel tracking units malfunction. “The government, with assistance from the Authority, has set aside up to $3 million to help fishers pay for set-up costs.
“Fishers will be able to apply for rebates through the Queensland Rural Industry Development Authority.”
Details of the scheme will be released in coming months. “The government is also working with data providers to ensure the best possible data plans are available to reduce the costs,” Minister Furner said.
“We have also finished a trial of smaller, more affordable units and a number have been added to the list of approved units. “Price Waterhouse Coopers has been commissioned to undertake an independent audit of the safeguards in place to protect individual vessels’ tracking data.”