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A meeting of the Coastal Line Fishery Management Advisory Committee (CLFMAC) was held in Darwin on 20 August 2008. Key issues of discussion and matters arising are set out below for information.

1. Status of the fishery
The jewfish catch for the commercial sector of the Coastal Line fishery in 2007 was reported as -181 t, forming almost 85% of the total commercial catch. Harvest from this sector has decreased since 2004, thought to be due to a drop in market demand.

Catch of jewfish from the Fishing Tour Operator (FTO) sector in 2007 was estimated at -34 t. Significant increases in licence activity and reef fishing hours has been observed over the last decade.
The catch of jewfish from the wider recreational sector was last estimated in 2000/2001 at -214 t. It is possible that the current recreational harvest of jewfish may now well surpass this figure, given the increases in the NT population, enhanced access and improvements in fishing technology.

The bulk of the catch in the fishery by all three sectors, and the most popular and frequently utilised locations for jewfish fishing are all in a relatively small area within a -150 km radius of Darwin. Increased fishing activity in this zone, particularly on jewfish, has the potential to cause localised depletion of stocks. Concerns were expressed that fisheries for black jewfish in India and elsewhere in Australia had not been sustained once heavy fishing pressure had been applied.
A stock assessment for jewfish populations in the Darwin zone has not yet been possible because the standard catch and effort based assessments were unreliable due to the aggregating behaviour of jewfish. This lack of a reliable stock assessment and the history of fishing impacts on jewfish supported adopting a precautionary approach to management of the Coastal Line fishery stocks in the Darwin zone .

1 . In considering the above information, the CLFMAC raised specific concerns about the impact of fishing on the most accessible jewfish aggregation areas, the catches of jewfish by commercial fisheries other than the Coastal Line fishery, the potential for reintroduction of traps in the Coastal Line fishery and the need for better information on golden snapper stocks that are a major target for the recreational sectors.

2. Future Management
Resource sustainabilitv
The CLFMAC acknowledged that the Coastal Line fishery is very much a multi-sector fishery. The stocks of jewfish and golden snapper within about 150 km of the Darwin region are relatively vulnerable to overfishing and localised depletion because of the multi-sector nature of the fishery. Jewfish, in particular, are also vulnerable because of the way in which they aggregate in a number of discrete areas. Because of this behaviour there will be little advance warning from the catch rate data that an aggregation is in decline and likely to be overfished.

The CLFMAC noted that jewfish and golden snapper, being the two dominant species in the fishery, should be used as the primary indicator species for fishery management purposes, although the lack of information on the golden snapper stocks was of concern.

Effort Control
The CLFMAC agreed that there was a need to rationalise the gear entitlements currently permitted in the commercial fishery to minimise potential problems from latent effort. There was general agreement that trapping was a significant issue for the future of the fishery as a whole. It was also accepted that some rationalisation of the number of droplines and/or hooks permitted would be useful to reduce the risk of over-fishing and localised depletion.

Commercial members agreed to seek wider industry input on the matter and report back to the next meeting on what industry believes would be a reasonable and practical complement of gear for each licensed boat in the fishery, particularly in the high use fishing areas around Darwin.
Transferabilitv of commercial licences

The CLFMAC discussed this issue, noting previous Government commitments to make all licences in the fishery fully transferable once licence numbers reached 65. The CLFMAC also noted the potential for latent effort to be activated. If this occurred in the Darwin zone, it could threaten the sustainability of fish stocks in key fishing areas.

The CLFMAC agreed that future management should focus on keeping the catch by all sectors at a sustainable level, and that the effort reduction to

2. Achieve this would be best addressed once further information on the overall take by all sectors, including other commercial fisheries, is available.

Recreational possession limits
The CLFMAC strongly supported the more conservative approach proposed by the Amateur Fishermen’s Association of the NT to further reduce the personal possession limit from five jewfish to two. The issue of future boat limits was also discussed and will be considered further by the CLFMAC.
Stakeholder interaction

The CLFMAC noted that there are several fishing areas including Charles Point and Channel Point, where jewfish stocks aggregate and competition between the sectors is increasing. A range of possible management measures were discussed to reduce this negative interaction including closures to all sectors in some heavily fished locations, and the use of weekend closures to commercial fishing in some specific areas very close to Darwin (Charles Point).

The CLFMAC requested that the Department of Regional Development, Primary Industry, Fisheries and Resources (RDPIFR) develop a research proposal to outline how a possible closure could be assessed and monitored, for the next meeting of the CLFMAC. Commercial representatives also agreed to canvass the weekend closure concept for Charles Point with licensees and report back at the next meeting.

Development potential
The CLFMAC members acknowledged that there may be some potential for development of the fishery, but agreed that it should only be considered in areas outside of the current heavily fished Darwin zone.

Members also noted that should infrastructure in remote areas be improved, possibly as a result of the Blue Mud Bay decision, then an expanded commercial sector may be suitable for providing indigenous economic development opportunities in the outer areas of the NT.

3. Future Research
The CLFMAC was advised of potential future research projects for the fishery including a fin-based size monitoring program for jewfish, and a study of age, growth, reproduction and the effects of barotrauma on golden snapper.

The CLFMAC discussed opportunities to enhance the information available on the fishery and to improve the ability of researchers to assess the status of the stocks. It was suggested that the wealth of anecdotal information held by expert fishers, both commercial and recreational, could be used to validate and enhance the historical database and that fishermen could be encouraged to provide additional biological and spatial data on catches. RDPIFR agreed

3. To examine these possibilities including enhanced recording of data in the existing commercial log books and report back to the next meeting on the potential for improvements.

4. Development of a Coastal Line Fishery Management Plan
The CLFMAC supported a proposal for development of a formal management plan to support the future management of the fishery. This was considered a long-term objective and it was agreed the first step would be to develop a strategic vision for the fishery incorporating the needs of all stakeholder groups. RDPIFR agreed to provide a skeleton outline including key elements likely to be needed in a management plan for a multi-sector fishery, for discussion at the next meeting of the CLFMAC.
The actions and recommendations arising from the meeting have been provided to the Executive Director of Fisheries for consideration.

Dr Jim Penn Chair, CLFMAC
fa October 2008

AGM & Fisheries Meeting 2 Nov 2008

Dear Member

You should by now have receivied an invitation from NT Fisheries to attend a general meeting of all licensed Fishing Tour Operators to be held at the Mirambeena Resort on Sunday November 2, 2008.

The meeting is a joint undertaking of the NT Fisheries Group and the NTGFIA, and has been convened to discuss a range of issues relating to fishing tourism in the NT and how those issues can be addressed and incorporated in an FTO Fisheries Management Plan.

The NTGFIA’s 2008 Annual General meeting will be hald at the same venue and will commence at approximately 2 PM, following the close of the Joint Meeting and lunch, which will be provided free of charge to all attendees. In addition to normal Association business (Election of Committee etc) the AGM will focus on the outcomes of the preceeding joint meeting and their implications for the proposed FTO Fishery Management Plan.

The agenda for the Joint Fisheries/NTGFIA Meeting has not yet been finalized but will include the following items

Introduction of a Multi Tier Business Licence
An FTO Levy to independently fund Association activities.
The FTO Industry as a Career: Apprentices, School Leavers.
Assistant Fishermen
Licence Limitation, Temporary Transfer of Licences
Area Limitations: Darwin Bynoe harbours. Mary River
Nominations Policy
Code of Conduct: Linkage to Fisheries Act and Conditions of Licence Renewal
Computerization of Fishing Returns and the redesign of the current return form
Boat Registration

This is a critical meeting which will set the regulatory environment for the Guided Fishing Industry well into the future. It is thus important that you attend and voice your opinions on the various agenda items. A copy of the Association’s original submission to Government on an FTO Fishery Management Plan is attached.

It would facilitate the conduct of the Association’s AGM if you could renew your membership prior to the date of these meetings. To this end I have attached a copy of our Membership Renewal form.

If you wish to nominate for the NTGFIA Committee please contact the Executive Officer at the above email address or on 8985 2981.

Other Matters of Concern
Progress updates on other matters of concern to the Association are as follows:

1. Blue Mud Bay: The recent High Court decision has given control of ACCESS to the inter-tidal zone off Aboriginal land (by both land and sea) to Aboriginal traditional owners but has reaffirmed the applicability of the NT Fisheries Act in those areas. Government is still working through its options as to how this intertidal zone will be managed. The most likely outcome is that there will be but one set of regulations applicable to this area and that separate permits or authorisations will not be required. This may involve the creation of an area restriction mechanism within the Fisheries Act which would apply to all non-indigenous effort in specified areas of the intertidal zone off Aboriginal land.. Area limitation for the FTO Fishery is on the agenda for the Joint Meeeting.

2. NT Marine Protected Areas (MPAs): The Advisory Committe has completed its deliberations and has been disbanded. The next step in the process is the public comment phase. As with the review of the Fisheries Act the public will be invited to comment on the Advisory Committee’s recommendations prior to the drafting of appropriate legislation. No date has been set for the public comment phase but it is expected to commence within the next six months. The resultant legislation will relate only to NT waters.

The Commonwealth will also be establishing MPAs in waters under its jurisdiction. As part of this process DEWHA (Commonwealth Dept of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts) is currently attempting to assess Rec Fishing effort – including FTO effort – in northern waters. Some of you may have already been approached by River Consulting the firm DEWHA has hired to undertake the study. The Rudd Government seems more committed to stakeholder consultation than its predecessor, but it is still early days.

3. Fisheries Management Advisory Committees (MACs):
The Association is represented on the following MACs: Timor Reef Fishery, Barramundi Fishery, Spanish Mackerel Fishery, the Mud Crab Fishery, and the Coastal Line Fishery,

The most significant development in all these fisherie is the proposed introduction of Resource Sector Shares – ie the allocation to user groups or sectors (Commercial, Recreational, FTO, and Indigenous) of finite catch limits, which will then be allocated to individual licencees on either a catch history basis or by equal shares. Individual allocations are still several years away but a tentative resource allocation has already been made to sectors (including FTOs) in the Spanish Mackerel Fishery. The proposed introduction of sector shares is a powerful arguement for the introduction of Licence Limitation into the FTO Fishery and for increased restrictions on Recreational Fishing.

4. Marine Safety
There is an increasing need to find ways to make Marine Safety regulations more commercially oriented. One such case which is currently under review is the requirement to provide a second Master 5 on voyages exceeding 12 hours.

Another equally pressing case is the need to expand the current schedule of Gazetted Sheltered Waters (Smooth and Partially Smooth Waters) to include the areas currently and regularly fished by FTOs. Such areas need to be identified and a formal request for their inclusion as Sheltered Waters needs to be made to the Marine Safety Branch. The Association is aware of a number of such areas in Chambers Bay and Fog Bay, and the Perons but needs feedback from members before it can make a formal submission.

I look forward to seeing you at the November 2 meeting.

Robert Marchant

Managed Fisheries Paper

Membership Application Form