Marine and estuarine recreational charter fishing - Background information

Objectives of the Act

The NSW Fisheries Management Act 1994 requires NSW Fisheries to conserve, develop and share NSW’s fishery resources for the benefit of present and future generations.

In doing so NSW Fisheries is required to: conserve fish stocks and key fish habitats; conserve threatened species, populations and ecological communities of fish and marine vegetation; and promote ecologically sustainable development and the conservation of biological diversity.

Consistent with these objectives NSW Fisheries is required to promote viable commercial and aquaculture industries, promote quality recreational fishing opportunities, and appropriately share fisheries resources between the users of those resources.

In developing fisheries management rules the NSW Government recognises the importance of ecologically sustainable development and the precautionary principle. The precautionary principle holds that where there are threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing management measures.

Industry Overview

The marine and estuarine recreational charter fishing boat sector provides a unique service and enhances the fishing opportunities of recreational anglers. It provides fishing expertise and well-equipped boats to enable recreational anglers to maximise their fishing success across a range of fishing types and species, and to access areas not normally available to them.

Recent studies, which includes the analysis of voluntary logbook data, have shown that the charter fishing boat sector involves hundreds of boats, catering to tens of thousands of anglers, with the potential to take large numbers of fish and to have a significant impact on fish stocks.

Recreational charter fishing boat operators derive a profit from the use of fishery resources and significantly enhance the catch of recreational anglers by hiring out their knowledge and equipment to recreational fishers.

A key objective of charter boat management is to integrate the management of the recreational charter fishing boat sector into the overall management of NSW fish stocks. As many fish stocks are at or near full exploitation there is a need to ensure that the charter fishing boat sector, along with the recreational and commercial fishing sectors, is included in management arrangements for the conservation and sustainable utilisation of fish stocks.

Since May 1997 there has been extensive consultation with charter fishing boat operators about how best to incorporate the marine and estuarine charter fishing sector into NSW Fisheries’ management arrangements to ensure the conservation and sustainable utilisation of fish stocks by multiple user groups throughout the state. Consultation included various rounds of port meetings with charter operators along the NSW coast, distribution of a comprehensive discussion paper to all identified operators and several meetings of the Charter Fishing Boat Industry Review Group (CBIRG), which was established to oversee the development of management arrangements for this sector.

Categories of Charter Fishing

To facilitate efficient management of the marine and estuarine recreational charter fishing boat sector, four categories of charter fishing have been identified:

  • Estuarine Fishing means any recreational charter fishing activity that involves taking fish, catching and releasing fish, or attempting to take fish, other than protected species, in estuarine waters (as defined by the Regulation) as listed in Schedules 3 and 4 and according to bag and size limits. Recreational fishers under this category can take an incidental catch ofone individual fish per boat trip from Schedule 1 or 2.
  • Nearshore Bottom Fishing and Sportfishing means any recreational charter fishing activity that involves taking or attempting to take fish in ocean waters (as defined by the Regulation), other than protected species, as listed in Schedules 3 and 4 and according to bag and size limits. Recreational fishers under this category can take an incidental catch of one individual fish per boat trip from Schedule 1 or 2.
  • Gamefishing includes any recreational charter fishing activity that involves taking fish, catching and releasing fish, or attempting to take fish, other than protected species, in ocean waters (as defined in the regulation) as listed in Schedules 2 and 3 and according to bag and size limits. Recreational fishers under this category can take an incidental catch of one individual fish per boat trip from Schedules 1 and 4.
  • Deep Sea Bottom Fishing includes any recreational fishing activity that involves taking fish or attempting to take fish, other than protected species, in ocean waters (as defined in the Regulation) as listed in Schedule 1 and according to bag and size limits.

The Recreational Charter Boat Fleet

The NSW marine and estuarine recreational charter fishing boat fleet consists of many different sized vessels, which target and catch a great variety of fish species, and can move from port to port in response to seasonal and tourist demand.

During 1997/1998, 211 operators were identified who managed 249 charter fishing boats. The majority of these operators (86%) managed a single vessel (refer Table 1). It should also be noted that many charter fishing operations operate on a seasonal or part-time basis.

A total of 42 ports/sites within NSW were used by charter operators for access to the coastal fishery during 1997/98. Thirty-three of these ports/sites were nominated by these charter fishing boat operators as their main ports of operation. In all some 142 boats, or about 58% of the NSW charter fishing boat fleet, operate from a single port throughout 1997/98, while the other 102 boats, or 42% of the fleet, indicated that they had used one or more ports of operation throughout the year.

Number of Marine and Estuarine Recreational Charter Boats managed by Individual Operators during 1997/98

Number of Boats Managed

Number of Operators

% of Total Operators

% of Total of Fleet

Total number of boats

1

181

85.8

72.7

181

2

24

11.4

19.3

48

3

4

1.9

4.8

12

4

2

0.9

3.2

8

Total

211

100.0

100.0

249

Management Advisory Committee

Consultation with the marine and estuarine charter fishing boat sector is facilitated by the Marine and Estuarine Recreational Charter Management Advisory Committee.

In establishing this committee the State Electoral Office supervised the nomination and election process and exhibited copies of the rolls for the election of members. Committee members, who are elected as representatives of the marine and estuarine recreational charter fishing boat sector, were elected by operators who are licensed or who have lodged an appeal. While members are to be elected for a period of three years, initially one half of the first membership of the committee will be appointed for a period of only 18 months, to ensure a continuity of membership.

The committee is required to meet at least twice per year and is to report to the Minister after each meeting. In particular, the committee is to advise on the preparation of a fishery management strategy and whether:

  • the objectives of the strategy are being attained; and
  • changes, if any, to the strategy are required.

The committee consists of eight elected licensed marine and estuarine charter fishing boat operators and other stakeholders, who were appointed by the Minister from suitably qualified nominees, representing.

  • commercial fishing;
  • conservation;
  • indigenous fishing;
  • recreational fishing; and
  • NSW Fisheries as the Director’s nominees from fisheries management, research and compliance.

Before the committee takes any vote a simple majority of charter fishing industry members must be present.

Charter Fishing in Marine Parks

Whilst the management of guided recreational charter fishing activities in marine parks will come under management plans currently being developed by the Marine Parks Authority, a recreational charter fishing boat licence will provide the basis for management of these activities. NSW Fisheries is co-operating in this process and is seeking to achieve complementary administrative arrangements in the management of charter fishing activities.

Charter Fishing in Aquatic Reserves

The management of guided recreational charter fishing activities in aquatic reserves will be the responsibility of NSW Fisheries.

Management of Effort

An essential aim of fisheries management is to be able to control fishing catch and effort. Consequently, management of the marine and estuarine recreational charter fishing boat sector may employ a range of fisheries management measures to control fishing effort. Such measures may include, but not be limited to, controls over:

  • The number of boats.
  • The number of passengers.
  • The type and amount of fishing gear allowed.
  • Times of the year fishing may be allowed.
  • Areas that charter fishing may be conducted.

Specific charter boat management objectives to assist with the conservation of fish stocks include:

  • Determination of the size and location of the marine and estuarine charter fishing boat fleet.
  • Determination of the impact on fish stocks.
  • The maintenance of quality recreational fishing opportunities.
  • Determination of an aggregate estimate of annual expenditure on marine and estuarine recreational charter fishing activities in NSW.

The aim of the Ministerial Warnings against further investment in the recreational charter fishing boat sector was to cap the number of recreational charter fishing boats to that existing on the 22 October 1997, and the associated fishing effort by limiting:

  • the number of recreational charter fishing boats to that operating as at 22 October 1997;
  • any increase in the number of recreational fishers carried, as a result of an increase in the size of a replacement vessel, to the number allowed by the NSW Waterways Authority survey classification for the original vessel as at 4 August 1999.

Dual Commercial and Recreational Charter Fishing Operations

NSW Fisheries recognises that there may be the potential for a conflict of interest when commercial and recreational charter fishing activities are conducted as parts of the one fishing operation. During the review process many recreational charter fishing boat operators have expressed this concern.

It is proposed to gradually limit the number of dual commercial and charter fishing operations to those operating on or before 4 August 1999. No new dual operations were permitted after 4 August 1999.

The Fisheries Management Act 1994 makes provision for licensed commercial fishing boats to also be licensed as recreational charter fishing boats. It is a condition of any such charter fishing boat licence that:

  • the vessel, while being used for guided recreational charter fishing activities for which it is required to be licensed, is not also used to take fish for sale;
  • the vessel, while being used for guided recreational charter fishing activities for which it is required to be licensed, is not equipped with fishing gear for use to take fish for sale (except as authorised by the licence);
  • the charter fishing boat operator notify the local Fisheries Office, prior to the start of a charter fishing trip, of that trip; and
  • the charter fishing boat operator ensures that specific species of fish, as outlined in regulation, retained during the recreational charter fishing trip must have its right hand side pectoral fin removed, just above the fin base.

Only those charter fishing boat operators who conducted dual commercial/charter fishing operations, on or before the 4 August 1999, were eligible to apply for a transferable or non-transferable charter fishing boat licence.

A dual operator wishing to sell their dual commercial/charter fishing operation cannot sell it as a dual operation. Such operators may, however, sell either the commercial or the charter fishing component separately.

Charter Boat Endorsement Categories

Schedule 1 - Deep Sea Bottom Fishing

The intention of this schedule is to include those deepwater species that are keenly targeted by commercial fishers and charter boat fishers. These taxa are those most likely to be overexploited by the combined effects of commercial and recreational fishing.

Common name

Scientific name

Hapuka

Polyprion oxygeneios

Bass groper

Polyprion americanus

Blue-eye trevalla

Hyperoglyphe antarctica

Bar Cod

Epinephelus ergastularius

Gemfish

Rexea solandri

Schedule 2 - Gamefish

The intention of this schedule is to include large gamefish species, such as, billfishes, large species of tunas, and large species of sharks that are targeted by charter boats that specialise in gamefish fishing. These taxa are the main targets of the gamefish fishery.

Common name

Scientific name

Billfishes

Sailfish

Istiophorus platypterus

Black marlin

Makaira indica

Blue marlin

Makaira mazara

Striped marlin

Tetrapturus audax

Shortbill spearfish

Tetrapturus angustirostris

Broadbill swordfish

Xiphias gladius

Sharks

Shortfin mako

Isurus oxyrinchus

Tiger shark

Galeocerdo cuvier

Hammerhead sharks

Sphyrna spp.

Thresher sharks

Alopias spp.

Porbeagle shark

Lamna nasus

Tunas

Albacore

Thunnus alalunga

Yellowfin tuna

Thunnus albacares

Southern bluefin tuna

Thunnus maccoyii

Longtail tuna

Thunnus tonggol

Bigeye tuna

Thunnus obesus

Schedule 3 - Sportfish and Baitfish

The intention of this schedule is to include all the main overlap species that are commonly targeted by both the gamefish fishery AND the nearshore bottom and sport fishery. These taxa may also be targeted in the estuarine fishery.

Common name

Scientific name

Yellowtail, jack mackerel, trevallies, rainbow runner, kingfish, samson fish, amberjacks.

Family CARANGIDAE

Mackerels, wahoo, bonitos, skipjack tuna, mackerel tuna

Family SCOMBRIDAE

(excluding Thunnus spp.)

Cobia

Rachycentron canadum

Tailor

Pomatomus saltatrix

Dolphinfish

Coryphaena hippurus

Australian salmon

Arripis trutta

Whaler sharks, blue shark

Family CARCHARHINIDAE

(excluding Galeocerdo cuvier)

Saury

Family SCOMBERESOCIDAE

Longtoms

Family BELONIDAE

Garfishes

Family HEMIRAMPHIDAE

Flyingfishes

Family EXOCOETIDAE

Pilchards,

sprats

Family CLUPEIDAE

Barracudas, snook, striped seapike

Family SPHYRAENIDAE

Schedule 4

All other fish taxa (excluding protected species and those listed in Schedules 1, 2, and 3).