Commercial fishers believe that immediate action is required to improve the economic viability of the Moreton Bay Trawl Fishery (MBTF). Challenges relate to inefficiencies and resource utilisation, specifically (i) gear efficiency; (ii) harvest rules; (iii) fuel consumption; (iv) over-capitalisation; (v) seasonal closure effects on deployment of capital; (vi) harvesting for market demand; and (vii) environmental impacts of the fishery. In addition, the fishery is operating in a global environment of falling prawn prices and increasing fuel prices.
Exacerbating these challenges is the recent implementation of the Moreton Bay Marine Park Zoning Plan. In addition to loss of fishing grounds for conservation, the State Government’s Marine Park Structural Adjustment Package, which sought to remove active fishing licences from the Bay, failed to address effort displacement. This has led to reduced economic yield from fished areas and increased ecological impacts. The impacts to fishers include increased competition in open areas, higher steaming, social and labour costs, and market impact through targeting sub-optimal product. In summary, the ecological, social and economic costs to fishers have increased.
The rising costs of production have motivated fishers to address profitability. Harvest strategies aimed at optimising economic performance would help address these issues and potentially offer the MBTF greater resource security.
Implementation of harvest strategies may be improved by changing the regulatory framework of the fishery. This would provide benefits from a compliance, monitoring and reporting perspective. Currently, the 10 year review of the Queensland East Coast Trawl Fishery Management Plan is underway. Whilst the primary objective of the review is to update the Plan with respect to delivering the best long term economic benefits for society through effective and sustainable management of Queensland’s fisheries resources, it also provides an opportunity for regulatory change for improved harvest strategies in the MBTF
The Moreton Bay otter trawl fishery is a multispecies fishery, with the majority of the catch composed of various species of prawns, squid and Moreton Bay Bugs. The project was an initiative of the MBSIA and developed from concerns over a number of issues. These included concern over declining profitability in the fishery, which is generally attributed to poor prawn prices, declining markets for small ‘bay prawns’, and increasing operational costs, including rising diesel fuel prices. The MBSIA and trawl fishers also expressed a desire to have a greater say over management of the fishery.
The project objectives were to:
- Review the literature and data (i.e., economic, biological and logbook) relevant to the Moreton Bay trawl fishery.
- Identify and prioritise management objectives for the Moreton Bay trawl fishery, as identified by the trawl fishers.
- Undertake an economic analysis of Moreton Bay trawl fishery.
- Quantify long-term changes to fishing power for the Moreton Bay trawl fishery.
- Assess priority harvest strategies identified above.
Economic analyses indicated that although the fishery is reasonably technically efficient (mean technical efficiency of 0.71), profitability is marginal and the long-term economic viability of both the T1/M1 and M2 fleets are unviable.
All analyses and modelling strongly indicate that the abundance of Brown Tiger Prawns in Moreton Bay has increased in recent years, concurrently with a large (i.e., 70%) reduction in effort. To this end, the Brown Tiger Prawn stock appears to have recovered from previous decades of high effort and is currently considered to be at or around maximum sustainable yield.
A range of alternative corporate governance models that could be applied to the Moreton Bay otter trawl fishery are presented.