Queensland Spanish Mackerel Update:

Last week in the Queensland Parliament AFTA, represented by Kord Luckus, Qld Director & Col Tannahill, Immediate Past President representing President Michael Starkey (unable to attend due to personal flood issues) along with Ian Bladin, President of the GFFA met with Fisheries Minister Mark Furner and his Department and then later in the day met with David Crisafulli, Leader of the Opposition & Shadow Fisheries Minister, Tony Perrot to discuss the future of the Spanish Mackerel Fishery and its impacts on the recreational fishing industry.

For nearly 2 years now AFTA along with the GFAA & BIA have worked very hard, committed substantial resources to prosecute the argument for a sensible, responsible, and sustainable approach to the management of the Spanish Mackerel fishery along the Qld East Coast.

This action was brought about by the “Communique” from the inaugural “East Coast Spanish Mackerel Working Group” meeting on 17 and 18 May 2021 in Brisbane (https://www.daf.qld.gov.au/business-priorities/fisheries/sustainable/fishery-working-groups/spanish-mackerel-fishery-working-group/communiques/17-18-may-2021)

From the outset, AFTA questioned the stock assessment modelling and sought a peer review as the new stock assessment model produced substantially lower biomass estimates than the previous assessment in 2018.

The government commissioned a review of the modelling methodology and whilst the modelling was proven correct in the peer review this does not change the fact that there are some serious concerns about the initial and subsequent data set inputs that determine the current stock assessment biomass for Spanish mackerel as estimated to be 17% of unfished biomass which the government state is unsustainable.

Yet in a Spanish mackerel – east coast monitoring report on the Qld DAF website on 17th April 2021 (https://www.daf.qld.gov.au/business-priorities/fisheries/monitoring-research/monitoring-reporting/species-specific/east-coast-mackerel)it stated:

“Biological monitoring data are used for periodic stock assessments as well as used regularly, along with other data, for determining the exploitation status of the stock. Spanish mackerel on the east coast is currently assessed as sustainable.”

AFTA, working with the Boating Industry Association (BIA) & Game Fishing Association (GFAA) of Australia has stated to Minister Mark Furner our absolute baseline position for a sustainable industry is:

A possession limit of 2 fish per person whether on land or boat and with no overall boat limit.

The current possession limit is 3 per person & 6 per boat with 2 or more people on board.

The initial working group discussion was considering 1 fish per person and 2 fish per boat regardless of the number of anglers on board.

Increasing the minimum legal length to 85cm.  

The current minimum legal length is 75cm.

The initial working group discussion was considering 95cm as a minimum length.

In relation to any proposed Seasonal Aggregation Closures that any closures be limited to the identified “actual aggregation areas” where Spanish Mackerel aggregate for breeding and only then during the actual breeding cycle time i.e., moon phases in specific regions etc and not just a broad-brush approach to lockout fishing for 12 – 16 weeks across the entire east coast.  The Dept of Fisheries made the comment it will not be an aggregation closure but would be addressed as a seasonal closure!!!

Minister Furner advised that the East Coast Spanish Mackerel Working Group were still developing a plan which would be presented to him prior to broader public consultation.  He stated that there is no pre-approved management plan or any decision made as yet.

The Minister stated “please tell your members I am right behind them as a recreational fisher and as an avid fisherman, Recreational Fishers have no stronger supporter than me” and this will be relied upon as we work towards sustainability for both the Spanish mackerel and our recreational fishing industry.

Col Tannahill advised on a per head basis Qld only sits behind NT on individual fishing economic value and therefore  Recreational fishing deserves respect for all the economic and social benefits it provides the state.

Both the Opposition, Leader David Crisafulli & Shadow Minister Perrot also pledged their broad support towards our goals.

A public meeting on the Spanish Mackerel issue is being organised on the 24th of March at the Calvery Church Facility, 108 Grafton Street, Cairns City commencing at 6 pm by AFTA Member, Rob Erskine, Tackle World Cairns.

As Kord Luckus advised Minister Furner “the natives are restless and these meetings are likely to be held right up and down the coast.”

Kord Luckus and I will be representing AFTA at the meeting and please note that Minister Mark Furner, David Crisafulli & Tony Perrot have been invited to attend the meeting.

AT THE MEETING – March 24, 2022

Introductory speech by AFTA’s Independent Chair, the Hon Bob Baldwin.

Message delivered by AFTA Member, Rob Erskine of Tackle World Cairns.