Spanish mackerel stocks threatened by overfishing, government says
A Queensland government document says Spanish mackerel is overfished and the fishery is unsustainable, just three years after being deemed sustainable.
- Queensland Fisheries estimates spanish mackerel biomass critically low
- Industry reeling from new data, which follows decades of beliefs the species has been sustainably harvested
- A working group will meet later this month to begin developing a recovery strategy
The East Coast Spanish Mackerel Working Group first met last month in Brisbane, where it learned that a new stock assessment found that the species’ biomass was only 17 % of unfished stocks.
This means that fishing pressure has taken 83 percent of Queensland’s Spanish mackerel stocks.
The estimate is lower than the 20 percent figure recommended to close a fishery under the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy.
On average, around 300 tonnes per year of Spanish mackerel have been commercially fished since 2004 and so far the industry has had the impression that the species is fished in a sustainable manner.
Bowen’s fish wholesaler Chloe Bauer runs a busy fish and chip shop alongside the family’s two fishing boats and processing plant and said the industry is reeling from the news. .
“There was never any sign that the fishery was in trouble, it is seasonal, you have good years and bad years, but it has always been very sustainable.”
New formula used
The statement from Fisheries Queensland noted that the total harvest of the species was well below the current Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) for the species.
The information provided also revealed that the pressure from recreational fishing was increasing, totaling an estimated 170 tonnes of catches per year.
But the seafood industry wanted more information on how biomass was assessed against 2018 data.
It contrasted with a 2020 report from the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation who found of the five Spanish mackerel fisheries stretching across northern Australia, only the Gulf of Carpentaria fishery was “running out”.
He found that other fisheries in Western Australia, the Northern Territory, the east coast of Queensland and the Torres Strait were sustainable.
Ban could be devastating
Ms Bauer said any ban on fishing for the species would hurt the local seafood industry and would be difficult to enforce without banning all types of mackerel fishing.
She added that the Spanish mackerel was not known to be a catch and release fish, with generally low survivability if released by anglers who targeted other species. .
Fisheries Queensland said the stock assessment is under independent scientific peer review, to be published in the coming months.
A spokeswoman for the State Department of Agriculture and Fisheries said there had not yet been a decision regarding management changes in Spain’s mackerel fishery and no changes for recreational fishing.
The Department will hold public consultations before making any regulatory changes.
NSW fishermen also warned
Spain’s east coast mackerel fishery also includes New South Wales, with the industry in that state also likely to be affected by any changes in fishing regulations.
The Queensland Fisheries Working Group will meet later this month to discuss potential changes to fishing rules for all sectors, which could include a closure to allow stocks to rebuild.