We’re working with fishing industry operators and managers to build a risk management tool for the Great Barrier Reef’s Coral Reef Fin Fish Fishery, which was valued at almost A$40 million in 2009–2010.

The challenge

Environmental and economic risk

Commercial line fishing for coral reef fin fish is concentrated between Cooktown and Fraser Island off Queensland.

Most of the commercial coral trout catch is exported live.  ©Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

The catch is mainly exported live to Asia where coral trout, the main targeted species, are highly prized for their bright red colouring.

The Coral Reef Fin Fish Fishery implements world best practice fisheries management that includes:

  • marine protected areas
  • spawning closures
  • restricted fishing licenses and catch quotas.

While some 30 per cent of coral trout habitat is protected by no-take zones, the fishery still faces considerable environmental and economic risk.

Queensland's Coral Reef Fin Fish Fishery is vulnerable to extreme weather events. For example, while storms are a normal part of the Great Barrier Reef environment, cyclones as large and intense as the category 5 tropical cyclones Hamish and Yasi are historically rare, recurring every 200–300 years or more.

Cyclone Yasi caused severe damage to some six per cent of coral reef in the marine park in February 2011, and in 2009, tropical cyclone Hamish was the most destructive cyclone to hit the reef since the early 1900s.

Together these events have caused a five million dollar (more than 10 per cent) loss in value to the Coral Reef Fin Fish Fishery through fish dispersal, habitat destruction and lost opportunities for fishing.

Our response

Testing management plans

We've developed a computer-based risk management tool, which will be like a 'flight simulator' that lets ideas be tested before being tried in reality.

It will be used by fisheries scientists in Queensland to devise and test monitoring and assessment programs that improve the fishery's environmental and economic resilience.

This project has been undertaken with Fisheries Queensland, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and James Cook University, with support from the Queensland Seafood Industry Association and the Reef Line Council by facilitating a confidential economic survey. The Fisheries Research and Development Corporation supported the project.

The results

A resilient fishery

The risk management tool will improve the fishery's environmental and economic resilience, leading to an economically prosperous and ecologically sustainable fishery.

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