Marine Protected Areas

Conservation groups renew call for reforms to Queensland's fishing rules

written by Oceanographic Staff

Following the release of a critical position statement from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), WWF-Australia and the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) have renewed their call for reforms to Queensland’s fishing rules.

Marine life and fragile coral reefs are continually at risk due to overfishing and illegal fishing, alongside practices such as gillnet fishing and trawling, the latter of which can cause serious damage to delicate ocean habitats.

Great Barrier Reef

Suggested reforms include independent monitoring of fishing activities, setting sustainable catch limits and instigating better stewardship of the Great Barrier Reef by fishers.

“We’re stewards of a globally significant World Heritage site that is loved the world over. It is shameful and embarrassing that we’re subjecting our Reef to such damaging fishing, particularly when it’s under such intense pressure from marine heat waves driven by global warming,” said AMCS fisheries and threatened species spokesperson Tooni Mahto. “It needs to change, for the good of the thousands of marine creatures that live in our Great Barrier Reef, for the good of our Reef tourism industry and for the good of the fishing industry. Species of shark, dugongs, turtles and dolphins are being pushed to the brink by fishing practices which are unacceptable for any parts of our ocean, let alone a World Heritage site.

“For example, species like the Scalloped hammerheads are key components of the food chain that help with the resilience of our complex Reef system. If they are driven to extinction, the domino effect on other species could be catastrophic.”

Implementation of the Queensland Government’s flagship Sustainable Fisheries Strategy 2017-27, that would go some way to reducing the risk caused by fishing on the Great Barrier Reef, ground to a halt in 2019. The government failed on its election commitments to improve the management of all fishing in Queensland.

Great Barrier Reef

“The Queensland Government fisheries reforms are needed to address some particularly threatening fishing processes that are impacting the delicate health of our Reef and the precious marine creatures that call it home,” said Simon Miller, Project Manager Sustainable Fisheries from WWF-Australia. “A key issue on the Reef are gill nets which are indiscriminate killers that have no place in the pristine waters of the northern Great Barrier Reef. It’s time to remove this outdated and unsustainable fishing practice from areas that are important refuges for dugongs and other marine wildlife.

“We’d like to see the Queensland Government establish a Net-Free North through a ban on gill nets between Cooktown and the Torres Strait to protect one of the last global strongholds for dugongs.”

The GBRMPA’s most recent five-year Outlook Report for the Reef, published last year, downgraded the ecosystem’s outlook to ‘very poor’ due to the impacts of climate change, chronic poor water quality and because pressure from fishing was threatening the future of iconic Reef wildlife like sharks, rays, dolphins and dugongs.

The AMCS and WWF-Australia are calling on the Queensland Government to pass the regulations required to deliver the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy.

Photography by Katerina Katopis and the XL Catlin Seaview Survey, via The Ocean Agency.

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