Project number: 1997-124
Project Status:
Budget expenditure: $791,459.00
Principal Investigator: Bruce M. Mapstone
Organisation: James Cook University (JCU)
Project start/end date: 22 Jun 1997 - 5 May 2004


The potential for reef line fishing to significantly affect the productivity of targeted species or impact on other reef species is poorly understood. Understanding the distribution, intensity, and effects of reef line fishing will be essential for successful management of both fishing and other recreational and commercial activities in the GBR region, as well as for conservation of the GBR ecosystem. Further, there is an immediate need for careful investigation of potential management strategies and their impacts on economic, social and biological and conservation values of the GBR and its use.

Since 1993, the commercial Reef Line Fishery has been undergoing some change as a result of the development of lucrative export markets for live reef fish for consumption. The value added to the commercial catch as a result of high market values for live fish (landing prices for live coral trout peaked in August 1996 at $45/kg) has the potential to increase incentives for previously inactive endorsements (of which there are approximately 1300-1400) to be activated in the line fishery, with a resultant increase in effective commercial fishing effort. An indirect indicator that this may be happening already is a 2-3 fold increase in the market value of reef line endorsements over the past 12-18 months, the acquisition of second and third vessels by some operators, and purchases of large, purpose built or re-fitted vessels for the live fish sector of the fishery. There is also considerable potential for increased recreational fishing pressure simply as a result of population growth and increased tourism. These factors, combined with the dearth of historical information about the fishery or its main target species present great problems for planning appropriate management strategies of the fishery and the Great Barrier reef Marine Park.

In "Research Needs and Priorities" (1996), the QFMA flagged key topics for research related to the Reef Line Fishery which included: Appraise management measures for the sustainable use of reef fish; Determine an effective mix of measure for reef fish management planning, including fishery dependent and independent monitoring; Determination of the size of stocks of common coral trout; Determination of the proportion of blue-spot trout in the reef line catch; and Assess regional catch rates of red-throat sweetlip. The ELF Project will produce results of direct relevance to these and other needs, and in so doing will contribute greatly to management-relevant information in a relatively short period (3-5 years).


1. Specific subsidiary objectives of some of the component tasks are provided preceding presentation of the relevant methods in B11.To document the distribution and intensity of reef-based fishing catch and effort and patterns in relative abundance of fish stocks.
2. To understand the level of fishing that existing fish stocks and reef communities can sustain via: * Investigations of demographic characteristics of targeted species
* Experimental manipulations of fishing effort and management strategies
and * Monitoring responses of non-target species, including prey of target species and benthos, to changes in fishing pressure. * Relating responses of target and non-target species on experimental reefs to longer-term, broader scale information on abundances and (where appropriate) catch rates.
3. To evaluate the efficacy of current management practices, specifically zoning strategies, with respect to the ecologically sustainable management of tropical reef line fishing
4. To document the limits of fishing induced changes in fish catch and other aspects of reef use that would be acceptable economically and socially to reef users.
5. To evaluate quantitatively potential management strategies for the future regulation of fishing such that fish stocks, ecosystem function, and yields to fisheries will be conserved.

Final report

ISBN: 1-876054-89-1
Author: Bruce Mapstone

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