Spatial and temporal variation and effects of changes in management in discard rates from the commercial reef line fishery of the Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Welch, DJ and Mapstone, BD and Begg, GA, Spatial and temporal variation and effects of changes in management in discard rates from the commercial reef line fishery of the Great Barrier Reef, Australia, Fisheries Research: An International Journal on Fishing Technology, Fisheries Science and Fisheries Management, 90, (1-3) pp. 247-260 . ISSN 0165-7836 (2009) [Refereed Article]
Discarding in commercially exploited fisheries has received considerable attention in the last decade, though only more recently in Australia. The Reef Line fishery (RLF) of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) in Australia is a large-scale multi-sector, multi-species, highly regulated hook and line fishery with the potential for high levels of discarding. We used a range of data sources to estimate discard rates and discard quantities for the two main target groups of the RLF, the coral trout, Plectropomus spp, and the red throat emperor, Lethrinus miniatus, and investigated possible effects on discarding of recent changes in management of the fishery. Fleet-wide estimates of total annual quantities discarded from 1989 to 2003 were 292â€"622 t and 33â€"95 t for coral trout and red throat emperor, respectively. Hypothetical scenarios of high-grading after the introduction of a total allowable commercial catch for coral trout resulted in increases in discard quantities up to 3895 t, while no high-grading still meant 421 t were discarded. Increasing the minimum size limit of red throat emperor from 35 to 38 cm also increased discards to an estimated 103 t. We provide spatially and temporally explicit estimates of discarding for the two most important species in the GBR RLF of Australia to demonstrate the importance of accounting for regional variation in quantification of discarding. Effects of management changes on discarding are also highlighted. This study provides a template for exploring discarding levels for other species in the RLF and elsewhere.