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Coral Sea Fishery

Map of Coral Sea Fishery

Estimated Catch: 26.6 tonnes (excluding aquarium sector)

Stock status of target species

Common name (scientific name)

Latest available status assessment

2017

2018

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Fishing mortality

Biomass

Sea cucumber sector:

Black teatfish (Holothuria whitmael)

Prickly redfish (Thelenota ananas)

Surf redfish (Actinopyga mauritiana)

Aquarium sector:

Multiple species

Lobster and Trochus sector:

Tropical rock lobster (Panulirus ornatus) possibly other species

Not subject to overfishing

Not overfished

Not subject to overfishing

Not overfished

Sea cucumber sector:

Other sea cucumber species (11 spp.)

Trawl and trap sector:

Numerous fish, shark and crustacean species)

Not subject to overfishing

Uncertain

Not subject to overfishing

Uncertain

Sea cucumber sector:

White teatfish (Holothuria fuscogilva)

Line and Trap sector:

Mixed reef fish and sharks

Uncertain

Uncertain

Uncertain

Uncertain

Source: Patterson, H, Williams, A, Woodhams, J and Curtotti, R 2019, Fishery status reports 2019, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra. CC BY 4.0.

MANAGEMENT PLANS/ARRANGEMENTS

There is no statutory management plan for the Coral Sea Fishery. The fishery has five sectors:

  • Sea cucumber
  • Aquarium
  • Lobster and trochus
  • Line and trap
  • Trawl and trap

These sectors are managed through input and output controls including limited entry, catch limits, spatial closures, move-on provisions, size limits and catch and effort triggers that are used to initiate further analysis and assessment. Fishers must hold permits to fish in this fishery. There were no changes to management arrangements for the 2018-19 season, however, the two trawl and trap permits and the trap components from a number of the line and trap permits were removed from the fishery at the end of the season after a voluntary buyout administered by Parks Australia. Throughout 2018-19 AFMA consulted heavily with permit holders in the aquarium fishery on redevelopment of the harvest strategy for that fishery.

ANALYSIS OF PERFORMANCE

As the season runs over a financial year, the most recent Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences status report uses catch from the 2017-18 fishing season. While the 0.58 tonnes catch of white teatfish in 2017-18 is well below the historical peak of 19.7 tonnes in 1999-2000, the biomass and fishing mortality status in the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences Fishery Status Reports 2019 remains uncertain because there is no current assessment.

Total catch in the line and trap sector increased from 49.9 tonnes in 2016-17 to 63.6 tonnes in 2017-18. This is higher than the most conservative estimate of total species sustainable yield (31.5 tonnes) for the sector, but lower than the median estimate (90.2 tonnes). Uncertainty remains in species-specific estimates of MSY because of significant shifts in the species composition of catches over the past 10 years. The catch of flame snapper (Etelis coruscans) has increased, however the reliability of the yield estimates for individual species or at the scale of single reefs is uncertain, and so fishing mortality in the line and trap sector remains classified as uncertain. AFMA have begun collecting biological data to better inform any future stock assessments for key species in the line and trap sector.

The revised Aquarium Sector Harvest Strategy Framework (approved by the AFMA Commission in July 2019) contains new catch triggers that better reflect current fishing practices and best available scientific understanding of population sizes across the fishery.

EXTERNAL REVIEWS

There were no external reviews during 2018-19.