Populations of black jewfish in northern Australian waters are increasingly a focus of fishery attention, especially where aggregations appear at certain times each year. Indigenous, recreational and commercial fishers all derive benefit from the exploitation of the species, yet surprisingly little information is available about the current condition of the resource and on how to use it sustainably. This unsatisfactory situation is exacerbated by the limitations of the fishery database, which is restricted to almost exclusively the details of the commercial harvest.
The initiative introduced in this document addresses two important issues: how to deal with indigenous fisheries issues; and how to establish resource status in and management needs of black jewfish in tropical coastal waters. While the geographic setting is Queensland, the results of the studies proposed will have significant application to fisheries for this and other species in mainland States and Territories.
Australian fisheries have a long history of being managed, researched and monitored in cooperation with non-indigenous commercial and recreational fishing groups, a process which has neglected the high social and cultural value of fishing to indigenous communities. Indigenous fisheries monitoring and management within Australia is a new concept for most natural resource management agencies. Inclusion of indigenous groups in a broad-based fisheries management network will provide these agencies with a truly comprehensive basis for future management decisions and strategic directions which should enjoy the widest possible public support. Because the Injinoo Community have actively sought participation in the ecologically sustainable use by all stakeholders of a fishery resource for which they claim customary title, the prospects for successful outcomes in this project are excellent.
The biological relationship between black jewfish aggregations at Injinoo and those populations exploited in commercial netfisheries in the Gulf of Carpentaria and along the east Queensland coast is unknown. Establishing the associated fishery impacts and deriving suitable sustainability indicators for resource monitoring programmes are key issues for responsible fishery stewardship, as well as for resolving a developing problem in the allocation of the harvest. Target fishing occurs on aggregations of other inshore fish species in tropical Australian waters, so the approach generated here should suggest a tool to address management issues of concern with these activities.
The comprehensive consultation process conducted throughout the lifetime of this project ensured the implications of the research have been recognised by the fisheries management authorities and the communities of the Northern Peninsula Area (NPA). In response to the findings of the present project, the Injinoo Land Trust (representing the Traditional Land Owner Groups of the Anggamuthi, Atambaya, Gudang and Yadhaykenu Aboriginal people), in cooperation with the Injinoo Community Council, have self-imposed a two-year ban on the taking of Black Jewfish (Protonibea diacanthus). The area of closure incorporates the inshore waters of the NPA north of the southern boundaries of Crab Island (on the West Coast) and Albany Island (on the East Coast).
The aim of the two-year ban is to allow local stocks of Black Jewfish to reach a mature size with an objective of improving the reproductive capacity.