Ocean Trap & Line Fishery
The Ocean Trap and Line fishery is a multi method, multi species fishery targeting demersal and pelagic fish along the entire NSW coast, in continental shelf and slope waters.
Snapper, yellowtail kingfish, leatherjackets, bonito and silver trevally form the bulk of the commercial catch. Other key species include rubberlip (grey) morwong, blue-eye trevalla, sharks, bar cod and yellowfin bream. Spanner crabs are also harvested from Tweed Heads to Korogoro Point, near Hat Head on the mid-north coast of NSW. Tuna and tuna-like species are primarily managed by the Commonwealth Government outside three nautical miles.
The fishery uses a variety of methods, most commonly involving traps or lines with hooks. The methods used in the fishery (and the key species taken by each method) include: demersal fish trap (snapper, silver trevally, rubberlip morwong and leatherjackets); setlines/trotlines (snapper and sharks); driftlines (spotted and Spanish mackerel, yellowtail kingfish, and sharks); hand-held line (mulloway, yellowtail kingfish and bonito); dropline (blue-eye and hapuku); trolling/leadlining (yellowtail kingfish, mackerel and tuna); and spanner crab nets, known as a 'dilly'.
Snapper is a highly sort after species that makes up approximately 12% of the total catch for the Ocean Trap and Line Fishery each year. This popular species is sold throughout NSW as fresh or frozen fillets or whole fish with the premium quality product able to fetch a high price.
The spanner crab is a highly regarded seafood product caught on the north coast of NSW. This species accounts for approximately 11% of the total Ocean Trap and Line Fishery catch each year.
Managing the Fishery
A comprehensive Fishery Management Strategy (FMS) has been prepared for the Ocean Trap and Line Fishery and was approved by the Minister for Primary Industries in November 2006. The Strategy includes a description of the fishery and the management arrangements that apply or are proposed. Before the Strategy was finalised, a draft strategy was subject to a comprehensive environmental impact assessment process under the NSW Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979. The Environmental Impact Statement was publicly exhibited in March/April 2006.
Key changes to the management arrangements
Some of the key changes that will be introduced as a result of the strategy include:
- Capping the amount of fishing gear able to be used throughout the fishery
- Trip limits for specified shark species
- Further measures to reduce the impact of the fishery on threatened species, including the endangered grey nurse
- Implementing escape panels in fish traps to reduce the number of small fish brought to the surface
- Developing a code of practice for the fishery
- Improved reporting of fishing activity and monitoring
- Reducing fishing effort using the restructuring tools provided by share management and/or other means
- Ongoing performance monitoring and review.
The Ocean Trap and Line Fishery is a share management fishery. This means that commercial fishers must hold sufficient shares to be eligible for an endorsement to operate in the fishery. An endorsement authorises the use of specific gear to take fish for sale from certain waters. The rules and regulations that apply to the fishery are contained within the Fisheries Management (Ocean Trap and Line Share Management Plan) Regulation 2006 (www.legislation.nsw.gov.au) the Fisheries Management Act 1994 No 38 (www.legislation.nsw.gov.au) the Fisheries Management (General) Regulation 2010 (www.legislation.nsw.gov.au) and Fisheries Management (Supporting Plan) Regulation 2006 (www.legislation.nsw.gov.au).
The fishery is currently managed by input controls which limit the fishing capacity of fishers by indirectly controlling the amount of fish caught. These controls include restrictions on the number of endorsements, the amount, design and dimensions of fishing gear, and the waters that may be worked.
The six types of Ocean Trap and Line endorsements in NSW ocean waters are listed below. They specify the methods that may be used and the waters in which fishing may be conducted.
1. Line fishing western zone endorsement
A line fishing western zone endorsement authorises the holder to use a line to take fish from ocean waters that are west of the 183 metre (100 fathoms) depth contour.
2. Line fishing eastern zone endorsement
A line fishing eastern zone endorsement authorises the holder to use a line to take fish from ocean waters that are east of the 183 metre (100 fathoms) depth contour.
3. Demersal fish trap endorsement
A demersal fish trap endorsement authorises the holder to take fish from ocean waters by means of a fish trap set or used on the sea bed.
4. School and gummy shark endorsement
A school and gummy shark endorsement authorises the holder to take school and gummy sharks using a line from ocean waters south of a line drawn due east from the northern point of the entrance to Moruya River.
5. Spanner crab northern zone endorsement
A spanner crab northern zone endorsement authorises the holder to use a spanner crab net to take spanner crabs from ocean waters that are north of a line drawn due east from the southern break wall at Yamba.
6. Spanner crab southern zone endorsement
A spanner crab southern zone endorsement authorises the holder to use a spanner crab net to take spanner crabs from ocean waters that are south of a line drawn due east from the southern break wall at Yamba and north of Korogoro Point (Hat Head).
Fishers in the Ocean Trap and Line Fishery are required to submit records on a monthly basis detailing their catch and fishing effort. The information collected assists in the ongoing monitoring and assessment of the status of fish stocks. The catch and effort information collected from commercial fishers has other critical roles in fisheries management including helping to understand patterns of fishing activities and the mix of species from targeted and general fishing operations.
Fishers are also required to report any interactions with threatened or endangered species during fishing operations. This information is a vital component of all fisheries and provides management with a better understanding of the impact commercial fishing may have on these species.
Fisheries officers are located in coastal and inland areas in NSW. They are responsible for coordinating and implementing compliance strategies. These strategies include:
- Maximising voluntary compliance
- Providing effective deterrence for offences, and
- Providing effective support services.
During the 1860s, sail and oar boats were first reported to be line fishing (handlining) in the enclosed waters and nearshore reefs and headlands of Port Jackson. From 1908 onwards, long lines were used regularly to catch snapper, leatherjackets and morwong. This coincides with the development of steam, and later petrol-powered, engines.
Long lining and fish trapping in NSW pre-dates trawling and for many years were the main methods used to catch ocean dwelling fish.
In the 1930s, fishers began taking tuna by trolling methods. Poling became prevalent in the 1950s, and tuna fishing dominated trap and line activities in the state. By the 1960s and 1970s, larger boats and better engines helped the lining fleet to expand from close inshore operations to 100 nautical miles to sea. In 1991, the Commonwealth and NSW governments signed an Offshore Constitutional Settlement (OCS), giving NSW jurisdiction for all ocean trap and line fishing activities out to approximately 80 nautical miles offshore. Under the current OCS, tuna taken by longline and purse seine methods are managed by the Commonwealth.
The Ocean Trap and Line Fishery became a restricted fishery in 1997. Eligibility for endorsements in the fishery was assessed on historical participation and method criteria.
The Ocean Trap and Line Fishery is now a category 1 share management fishery. A share management plan for the fishery has been prepared in accordance with the agreed goals, objectives and management responses outlined in the management strategy.
For further information contact the Ocean Trap & Line Fishery Manager on (02) 9435 4679 / (02) 9435 4680.
Want to know more?
- Fisheries Management (Ocean Trap and Line Share Management Plan) Reg 2006 - (www.legislation.nsw.gov.au)
- Fishery Management Strategies & Environmental Impact Statements
- Identifying sharks and rays - A guide for NSW commercial fishers
- NSW Ocean Trap and Line Fishery Fishers Code of Practice 39.8 KB
- Ocean Trap and Line Fishery Management Advisry Committee
- Status of Fisheries Resources in NSW 2008/09
- Gulper shark management arrangements
- Extension of transitional period for minimum shareholding requirements for spanner crab shares in the Ocean Trap and Line Fishery 14kB
- See the Fisheries rules and regulations page