Mulloway is an important and iconic species for NSW commercial, recreational and Aboriginal cultural fishers, however stocks in NSW are currently classified as ‘depleted’.
Recovering Mulloway stocks in NSW is a key priority for NSW DPI Fisheries. Despite a range of fishing arrangements being implemented in the past, given the reported data, DPI Fisheries managers and scientists have not yet detected measurable improvement in the stock. However, it is noted that recent unprecedented flooding events may assist in improving future recruitment to the fishable biomass and any juvenile Mulloway need to be adequately protected to maximise the success of future recruitment to the fishery. Based on available data, the recreational and commercial sectors each harvest similar proportions of around 50% of the Mulloway catch.
A Mulloway Harvest Strategy Working Group was established in 2021 to develop a forward-looking Harvest Strategy for Mulloway in NSW. The Harvest Strategy will provide a strategic framework and decision rules to promote stock recovery and equitably manage catch amongst user groups in the longer term. In the short to medium term, interim management arrangements are required that will afford greater protection to the depleted stock and support the recovery of Mulloway.
Current stock rebuilding arrangements for Mulloway are enacted through orders issued under section 8 and section 17C of the Fisheries Management Act 1994 that are due to expire 31 August 2023. To protect Mulloway and support stock recovery, new legal instruments establishing new management arrangements will be implemented to replace the expiring orders.
DPI Fisheries sought advice from the Mulloway Harvest Strategy Working Group and established advisory councils on additional interim measures to protect the depleted stock. DPI Fisheries considered the available data and is implementing new interim management arrangements in all fisheries from 1 September 2023. These interim arrangements have been designed, using the best available data, to achieve reductions in retained annual catch across all stakeholder groups:
Size limit: continuation of the 70 cm minimum legal length (all sectors)
Bag and boat limit for recreational fishers: continuation of the daily bag limit of one Mulloway per person and a new boat limit of two Mulloway per boat per day
Boat limit for the charter sector: a new boat limit of three Mulloway per boat per day
Take and possession limits for commercial fishers:
A new zero kilogram take and/or possession limit for endorsement holders in the Lobster and Southern Fish Trawl fisheries, and a new 200 kilogram daily take and/or possession limit for all other endorsement holders in the Estuary General, Ocean Trap and Line, Ocean Hauling and Ocean Trawl fisheries. Previously there were no direct controls on commercial Mulloway catch , other than a 500 kilogram daily catch limit for the Ocean Haul Fishery, with the catch levels in all other sectors being managed by input controls such as gear and effort restrictions.
The aim of these new interim measures is to provide greater protection to adult fish in order to support the recovery of the currently depleted Mulloway population, which will allow all stakeholders to enjoy sustainable access to the fishery into the future. These arrangements are interim arrangements, pending the finalisation and implementation of the formal Harvest Strategy for Mulloway, which will involve new approaches to management of Mulloway catch and effort across all fishing sectors. The draft mulloway harvest strategy will be finalised by the Mulloway Harvest Strategy Working Group soon and this will provide a further opportunity for stakeholder consultation.
DPI Fisheries will continue with the work already underway to promote protection for juvenile mulloway across all fishing sectors. The work underway to enhance Mulloway bycatch reduction in NSW commercial fisheries will continue and technical support will be available to those fishers that require additional assistance to modify fishing operations to avoid Mulloway bycatch as part of adapting to the new interim measures.
DPI Fisheries will also continue the recently enhanced compliance and data collection programs for Mulloway fishing in NSW across all fishing sectors. The Harvest strategy will provide further guidance to these initiatives.