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Ownership and Management Decisions Made on Torres Strait Fisheries

07 August 2015

AUSTRALIA - The Protected Zone Joint Authority (PZJA) held its 24th meeting on Thursday Island to discuss the management of fisheries in the Torres Strait. Decisions were made on 100 per cent ownership of Torres Strait fisheries, the Tropical Rock Lobster Management Plan, gear and boat trials in the Prawn Fishery, opening of the Black Teatfish Fishery, and development permits for the Pearl Shell Fishery.

Ahead of the meeting PZJA members hosted a public meeting with stakeholders, to ensure that their views on items being discussed at the PZJA meeting were represented.

100 per cent ownership

Members were encouraged to hear that community consultations are continuing on the draft Road Map to 100 per cent ownership of the Torres Strait Commercial Fisheries by Torres Strait Communities.

Members are aware that consultations to-date have shown there is strong community support for developing the roadmap to achieve 100 per cent ownership of Torres Strait fisheries as soon as possible. Consultation will continue and the PZJA will consider the endorsement of the final draft roadmap when this process is complete.

Tropical Rock Lobster Management Plan

The PZJA emphasised their commitment to delivering the Tropical Rock Lobster Management Plan by March 2016 allowing for the introduction of quota limits for the start of the 2016-17 fishing season.

This aims to ensure the sustainability of the fishery by capping the take from this fishery. This will also ensure that communities in the Torres Strait can begin to benefit from their full share of the resource.

The PZJA supported the development of quota allocation approaches for the Traditional Inhabitant sector. In the first instance however, members agreed the catch allocation to Traditional Inhabitants would be at a sectoral rather than at the individual or company level.

The PZJA agreed to review the plan two years after its implementation to allow for changes to improve performance including a possible allocation to individuals or companies within the Traditional Inhabitant sector.

Gear and boat trials in the Torres Strait Prawn Fishery

Members, with exception of the TSRA Chairperson, agreed to a 1 February season opening date in the Torres Strait Prawn Fishery starting in 2016, but the PZJA did not agree to a trial of larger sizes for boats and trawl gear. While members noted current economic constraints in the fishery, they were aware of the lack of community support for the initiative.

Opening of the Black Teatfish Fishery

It was agreed to open the Black Teatfish Fishery for a second year. Fishing will be permitted in the month of November and catches will be limited to 15 tonnes. This is a great economic opportunity for Traditional Inhabitant fishers. Improved reporting of catch is critical as the provision of these records will help the PZJA determine the long term sustainability of the fishery.

Development permits for the Pearl Shell Fishery

It was agreed that development permits will be made available for existing fishery licence holders to collect smaller sized pearl shell of between 100-130mm in addition to the current size limits of 130-230mm. Only 2000 of the smaller sized shell will be available. This initiative will allow the commercial benefits of using smaller shell for the pearl aquaculture industry to be tested.

Other outcomes from the meeting included:

  • Agreement of amendments the conditions of scientific permits for a shark tagging project by the James Cook University, and a turtle and dugong tagging project by the TSRA.

Over the next six to twelve months, the PZJA agencies will focus on:

  • Development and implementation of a management plan for the tropical rock lobster fishery
  • Finalise the roadmap to 100 per cent ownership
  • Improve the monitoring and reporting for the Beche de mer fishery
  • In line with administration review:
    • continue to investigate the transfer of domestic compliance responsibilities from Fisheries Queensland to the Australian Fisheries Management Authority
    • develop legislative amendment priorities to provide immediate improvements to the efficiency and effectiveness of fisheries administration in the Torres Strait (for example allow for mandatory catch reporting across all sectors, delegation of powers to grant and varying scientific/development permits, implement Fisheries Infringement Notices)

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