Queensland Spanish mackerel stock assessment reveals species is overfished, unsustainable

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Spanish mackerel. Image: Sami Omari

A QUEENSLAND government paper says Spanish mackerel are being overfished and the fishery is unsustainable, only three years after it was deemed sustainable.

The East Coast Spanish Mackerel Working Group met for the first time last month in Brisbane, where it heard that a new stock assessment found the species biomass was just 17 per cent of un-fished stocks.

The estimate is below the 20 per cent figure at which a fishery is recommended to be closed under the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy.

On average, about 300 tonnes per year of Spanish mackerel have been commercially fished since 2004 and until now, the industry was under the impression the species was harvested sustainably.

Fisheries Queensland noted that total harvest of the species was well below the current total allowable commercial catch (TACC) for the species.

Information supplied also revealed that recreational fishing pressure was increasing, adding up to an estimate of 170 tonnes of catch annually.

A 2020 report by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation found of the five Spanish mackerel fisheries stretching across northern Australia, only the Gulf of Carpentaria fishery was "depleting". The other fisheries in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland's east coast and Torres Strait were sustainable.

Fisheries Queensland said the stock assessment was undergoing independent scientific peer review, to be published in the coming months.

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Agriculture and Fisheries told the ABC there has been no decision on management changes to the Spanish mackerel fishery and no changes to recreational fishing, yet.

The Fisheries Queensland 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 recover.

Source: ABC News

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