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Management plan for the northern prawn fishery from January 1, 1980

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23 November 1979



The Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Peter Nixon,

today released details of the new management plan for the

northern prawn fishery, to operate from January 1, 1980.

This plan was endorsed by the Australian Fisheries

Council (comprising Commonwealth and State ministers

responsible for fisheries matters) at its meeting in Queensland

on November 2.

Mr Nixon said the new management plan had been drawn

up by the Northern Fisheries Committee. During its preparation

public meetings had been held in a number of centres to discuss

aspects of the plan with fishermen and processors and other

representatives of industry in the region.


Mr Nixon said the new management plan would replace

an interim arrangement which had operated since 1976. The new

plan involved a limited entry regime which would restrict the

number of vessels in the fishery to that number currently

entitled to operate there.

However the Northern Fisheries Committee had noted

that limited entry as a management option would be subject to

possible change in the longer term and might, for example,

result in introduction of management by species at a later


Mr Nixon said the plan covered the managed area,

access to the fishery and scope of operations, licence fees,

commitment to the fishery, vessel replacement, landing zone,

last load out concept, pre-season closure and carrier boat

licences. The details of these are:


The area subject to the initial freeze on entry was

defined to be the waters under Australian jurisdiction

extending from Cape Ford in the Northern Territory eastwards

to Slade Point on the Cape York Peninsula. This will continue

to be the area managed.



In view of the need to restrict the number of boats

licensed to operate in the fishery, only those vessels

currently entitled to operate during the 1977-79 interim regime

will be entitled to apply to operate after 1979 in the managed


All currently entitled operators will be given a

once-only opportunity to apply to operate in the area.

All applications will be subject to the Australian

Fisheries Council "show cause" decision taken at its meeting in

November 1978. (That is, owners of vessels entitled to operate

in the managed area during the period 1977 to 1979 inclusive,

which have not operated during that period, may be required to

show cause why their entitlement should not lapse after 1979).


As has been the case in the past, operation in the

fishery will require more than one boat licence. Following

examination of existing fee levels the Council agrees there

should be a substantial increase in boat fees; holders of

entitlements to fish in the managed area are in a privileged

position and should be required to pay a greater fee than

fishermen that do not hold such entitlements. .


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Fees will be on a sliding scale reflecting the size

and fishing power of the vessel. But in line with industry's

view, the maximum such fee initially will be in the order of

$1 000 for an average size vessel. The new licence fee scales

will be announced once details have been finalised.


Council agreed that at present entitled operators

would not be requited to spend any specified period of time

operating in the fishery.


There will be a permanent replacement policy which as

far as possible does not result in an increase in effort in the

fishery. An examination of this matter will be undertaken as a

matter of urgency. In the interim, replacement of vessels

exceeding 20 metres length overall will be permitted provided

that the replacement vessel does not exceed the length overall

of the vessel being replaced. This replacement to be rigidly

applied in all circumstances.

Replacement Provisions for Small Boats:

A special procedure will apply to overcome the

problems associated with the upgrading of small boats:


(i) These provisions will only apply to the CURRENT owners

of boats of less than 19 metres length overall (ie. if

a boat is sold this special concession will cease to


(ii) The current owner of a boat of less than 19 metres

length overall will be permitted to replace with a

boat of up to 19 metres length overall.

Interim Replacements

This concept was introduced to permit entitled

operators to use, temporarily, a vessel in the fishery in lieu

of a vessel under construction or forced out of the fishery

through unforeseen circumstances. This policy will continue,

subject to the period of any interim replacement being of not

less than 10 weeks duration, and to the replacement boat being

no larger (as measured by replacement criteria) than the boat

being replaced. Under no circumstances will operators be

permitted to use this concession for normal tefit purposes.


The existing landing zone requirement will continue.

It is essential to facilitate the ongoing collection of data

from vessels operating in the fishery, through the landing of

the product in the zone (Broome to Townsville). Also the

future of shore-based establishments in the north depends to a

greater extent on continued access to local product.



It is the established pattern of some vessels

(notwithstanding the landing zone concept) to transport their

final load of the season out of the landing zone. To save

unnecessary freight costs, a vessel leaving the managed area at

the conclusion of its annual operations, upon application at

the appropriate time, will be permitted to carry one load out

of the landing zone in any one calendar year.


Pre-season closures similar to those which have

operated in past years will be continued. The areas and the

timing will be reviewed annually. The Governments will bear in

mind the unanimous industry request for rigid policing of

future closures, and notes the industry view that maximum

penalties should be imposed for closure breaches.·


Commonwealth Carrier Boat licences will be issued only

to vessels:

(i) registered under the Exports (Fish) Regulations; and

(ii) holding an entitlement to fish in the fishery.

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Vessels not meeting the requirements of holding an

entitlement, but which already hold carrier boat licences, will

be permitted to continue their operations as carrier boats, at

this time, but may not be replaced by another vessel.

Applications will be considered from operators of

shore-based processing plants in the zone (Broome to

Townsville) wishing to place a vessel (not holding a fishing

entitlement) in the fishery to operate only as a carrier boat.

The Minister added that the Australian Fisheries

Council had also approved the following addenda to operate in

conjunction with the above plan, covering freighter vessels and

the logbook programme.


A number of shore-based processing plants have

operated temporarily-imported foreign freighter vessels in the

fishery in recent years for carrying fish and other goods.

The use of such freighters will be allowed to continue

subject to their compliance with certain fisheries requirements

and conditions imposed by the.Minister for Transport, as well

as an annual review of their operations.

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Through the northern prawn fishery (NPF) logbook

program, fishermen provide information on the composition, size

and distribution of catches and catch rates throughout the NPF.

Fishery management authorities depend to a large extent on this

information for their understanding of the state of the

fishery. Therefore the obligation to fill in a logbook will

continue as a licence condition. However, as it is in the

interest of industry to provide such data, it should not be

necessary to invoke this requirement.

In the past, most of the distribution and collection

of logbooks has been undertaken by CSIRO. In the future,

Northern Territory fisheries officers will be responsible for

the issue and collection of log sheets in the Northern

Territory. In Queensland, a Commonwealth Department of Primary

Industry officer will initially be responsible for the issue

and collection of log sheets. However, as additional staff

become available within the Queensland Fisheries Service their

officers will take over this role.

The Northern Fisheries Unit (Cairns), of the

Department of Primary Industry, will be responsible for

checking compliance of operators with the requirement to

provide catch information.


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Although the management plan that will operate beyond

1979 contains most of the elements of the interim regime

(1977-1979), it recognises the possible need for adjustments to

facilitate the orderly operation of the fishery.

The study of the northern prawn fishery and review of

existing management practices are, and will continue to be,

ongoing processes. A Working Group Of officers drawn from

CSIRO, Department of Primary Industry, the Queensland Fisheries

Service and the Northern Territory Department of Primary

Production will be formed to:

- provide a mechanism for the co-ordination of research

into and monitoring of the northern prawn fishery;

- provide scientific advice on the optimum utilisation

of the prawn resources of the northern prawn fishery;

- provide analyses of current data collection procedures

and make recommendations on future needs and

procedures for monitoring the resources and evaluation

of any management systems that are implemented; and

- make recommendations on existing and new biological

and economic research that may be necessary to monitor

the utilisation of the resources and to improve

management advice.


Mr Nixon said the Government was also conscious of

industry's request that the existing Government-industry

consultation and communication system be upgraded. There was

also a need to improve the publication and dissemination of

resource information to industry. He added that he had already

made an announcement on the review of existing

Government-industry consultative arrangements covering the

northern prawn fishery.

* Editor's note: The Northern Fisheries Committee comprises

representatives from the Commonwealth Department of Primary

Industry's Fisheries Division, CSIRO Division of Fisheries and

Oceanography, the Queensland Fisheries Services, the Western

Australian Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, and the

Northern Territory Department of Primary Production's Fisheries