Fisheries Qld responds to data

FISHERIES Queensland has responded to data from commercial fishermen in Gladstone.

Fishers say the graphs in its document are based on data from Fisheries Queensland and prove fish stocks have been down in the past twelve months.

Below are answers from Fisheries Queensland to questions from the Observer


16 July 2012

Gladstone commercial catch data

1/ Is the data in this report from Fisheries Queensland? Do you dispute the data in the report?

The report provided... to be based on data for the period July - February provided by Fisheries Queensland to QSIA. The graphs in the report were not developed by Fisheries Queensland.

The graphs only represent a segment of the 2011-12 season. Until all logbooks are provided by commercial fishers to Fisheries Queensland, it is not possible to provide an accurate assessment of commercial fishing trends in 2011-2012 compared to previous years. The 2011 catch data showed a significant spike in catch rates, especially barramundi, which isn't reflected in these graphs.

The commercial fishing information in the report:
•         is not for a full fishing year
•         does not include all fish species caught
•         does not include sites where fewer than five boats operated
•         all logbook data for 2011 and 2012 has not yet been received.

Catch data varies throughout the year and it is not possible to extrapolate partial results to an
entire year.

2/ Do you accept or dispute its relevance in the context of the argument about compensation for fishers in Gladstone Harbour?

It is not appropriate for the Queensland Government to comment in relation to legal action that has commenced in the courts.

The Gladstone fishers' court case is currently being dealt with before the Planning and Environment Court. The court has made orders for the continued conduct of this litigation, which the State is adhering to.

3/ Is it fair to say that catches of mudcrabs, prawns and other species are down over the past 12 months and there is no clear reason? Is there a known reason?

Commercial fishing in Gladstone recorded a significant increase in catch in 2011, up 30% on the previous year.

Logbook data received from commercial fishers for otter trawl, pot and net fishing in Gladstone in 2011 reported an estimated value of more than $5 million compared to $3.88 million in 2010.

An analysis of catch data from Gladstone over the past five years has found 2011 was the most productive year for Gladstone commercial fishing with 535.3 tonnes caught.

Barramundi catch contributed significantly to the total fishing productivity, with commercial fishing occurring for 416 days compared with an average of 172 days over the previous five years in Gladstone.

Other commercial fishing species in Gladstone showed a similar pattern to the previous five years in both catch and effort, including blue threadfin salmon and mullet.

Banana prawn catch in 2011 was higher than the previous five years.

Mud crab catch and effort trends in 2011 were similar to the previous years, and in fact higher than 2006 to 2009.

Visit for Fisheries Queensland's Commercial catch of key species in Gladstone: 2006-2011 report.

4/ Regarding pages 5 and 6 of this document. They show catch levels in terms of kg per fleet fishing day. Viewed at surface level, they appear to show it has been a lot harder to catch those species this year. Is there some context to this data that we should be aware of?

Because the graphs do not represent a whole year, and the information does not represent the total catch caught in the period as discussed above, the graphed results are misleading. 

The catch and cumulative number of fishing days presented in the Commercial catch of key species in Gladstone: 2006-2011 report show that the catch rate per fishing day has not decreased for mud crabs or for banana prawns. For banana prawns, the catch per fishing day in 2011 was 360kg compared with an average over the preceding 5 years of 175kg, while the catch per fishing day for mud crabs was similar to preceding years (36.5kg in 2011 compared with 36.4kg averaged over the preceding 5 years).

It is noted that barramundi has been excluded from the net fishing catch data in the report provided by the Gladstone Observer. For a correct comparison of the fishing effort in Gladstone, barramundi would need to be included in the data. Fishers spent more than 250 days fishing for barramundi than in the previous five years, so it is likely this would impact their catch rate of other fish species. The high catch of barramundi in 2011 did change the fishing patterns of commercial fishers.

5/ Does this data prove that commercial fishermen have been hard hit by health problems in the harbour?

Fisheries Queensland's Commercial catch of key species in Gladstone: 2006-2011 report provides catch and effort information based on calendar years.

A full assessment of the impact of fish health based on financial year commercial catch is not possible until all logbook data for the 2011-2012 financial year has been received. This data for the full 12 months is needed to make a comparison with fishing trends over the past five years, taking into consideration significant changes in fisheries legislation that occurred from 1 July 2009.

Fisheries Queensland is continuing to investigate possible causes of fish ill health that occurred in Gladstone in 2011. Fisheries Queensland has observed a notable improvement in the status of fish health in the harbour and surrounding waterways since the beginning of the year.

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