Commercial Fishers of the Great Barrier Reef

One of the key user groups the SELTMP monitors is the commercial fishing industry operating the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) region. With 750 active fishing licences operating in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (GBRWHA), the commercial fishing industry provides essential seafood to local and other markets, and a value of production of $122.9 million in 2011/12 (Deloitte Access Economics, 2013). Beyond the food and financial value, there is also significant social value in fishing for the commercial fishers themselves.

The Social and Economic Long Term Monitoring Program (SELTMP) has collated available data from multiple sources, particularly Fisheries Queensland within the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF). While the DAFF data provided a good picture of what fishers do, where and how, the first SELTMP surveys of 211 commercial fishers were completed in 2013 to determine why fishers operate the way they do. The surveys also explored how fishers value the fishery and the region, what their likely level of stewardship is for the GBR, and what threats they are concerned about. By collecting information on the way fishers interact with and value the GBR, how they feel about the current state of the environment and management, we can increase our understanding of the social and economic aspects of commercial fisheries, ensuring fishers' needs are better considered in future management, and that commercial fishing activities are managed sustainably from an ecological, social and economic perspective.

Fast facts:

  • There are 750 active fishing licences operating in the GBRWHA in 2013, mostly operated by licence-owner operators (92% of survey respondents), operating in one fishery type (60% of respondents, with each 'type' being line, net, pot, trawl or harvest), operating from a single port (53% of respondents).
  • Most commercial fishers are very attached to fishing, having been fishing for a long time (average of 29 years), and agreeing that the fishing industry is a lifestyle, not just a job (90% of respondents), and that they plan to still be fishing in 5 years time (82%).
  • Commercial fishers overwhelmingly agreed the aesthetic beauty of the GBR is outstanding. They valued the GBR most highly for (1) biodiversity, (2) the economy, and (3) lifestyle. They believed the most common threats to the GBR are agricultural run-off, ports, shipping and natural disasters.

More 'fast facts' can be found on the one page fact sheet for 2013.

For more detailed information, see the "Commercial Fishing in the Great Barrier Reef” technical report series (See SELTMP 2014 for Commercial Fishing for the most recent report. Earlier information is also available in a report for 2013 (see SELTMP 2013 for Commercial Fishing) and included as a chapter within SELTMP 2012, and SELTMP 2011). These are part of a series of technical reports from the SELTMP (NERP Project 10.1) for the GBR region.