Benthic Habitats and the Effects of Fishing

Symposium Abstract: The Path towards Ecologically Sustainable Fisheries: A Case Study in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area

D. Huber

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781888569605.ch154

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is the largest complex of reefs and islands in the world and it supports the most diverse ecosystem known to man. As a result of its unique status the Great Barrier Reef was included on the World Heritage List in 1981. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) is responsible for managing this vast and complex ecosystem in accordance with World Heritage values. The Authority must manage and conserve this unique system for future generations, whilst providing reasonable multi-use access to tourism, traditional hunting by indigenous people, recreational, charter and commercial fishing. Achievement of these goals requires a multi-jurisdictional, multisectoral and multi-agency approach. Trawling, line fishing and netting are the major forms of commercial fishing activity within the Marine Park. There are also smaller trap and harvest fisheries. All commercial fishing activity is managed by the Australian State of Queensland on a day-to-day basis. However, in line with its broader mandate to ensure the maintenance of World Heritage values, the Authority has a co-management role for commercial fisheries in the Marine Park. To achieve this the GBRMPA uses Zoning Plans, Management Plans, permits, regulations and education. Members of the Authority are also represented on various State based Management Advisory Committees. Of all commercial fishing in the World Heritage Area, trawling for prawns and scallops has the biggest impact on the benthic environment. Some 550 vessels have access to nearly 172,000 km2 of Marine Park. The fishery has undergone a major and highly controversial restructure in the past two years. Amongst the achievements was a significant reduction and capping of fishing effort, the closure of an additional 96,000 km2 of Marine Park, the mandatory use of turtle excluder devices and bycatch reduction devices throughout the park, restrictions on the targeting of species and the use of a Vessel Monitoring System whilst trawling. The trawl fishery of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area has still a long way to go to achieve ecological sustainability but concessions won over the past two years present a major step along this path.