The State Government is keen to protect jewfish numbers.
The State Government is keen to protect jewfish numbers. Amber Macpherson

FISHING: New proposals for black jewfish numbers

THE State Government is now seeking public feedback for a plan to introduce limits on the take of black jewfish to ensure sustainability.

Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner said the department had evidence of a black market developing for the species, on both a commercial and recreational level.

"Black jewfish swim bladders are fetching very high prices and some unscrupulous individuals are exploiting this,” Mr Furner said.

"The average commercial catch on the east coast has traditionally been around 16 tonnes, but since 2016 reported catch has tripled and it's a similar story in the recreational sector.

"We know that jewfish stocks can collapse very quickly if overfished and the East Coast Inshore working group and Sustainable Fisheries Expert Panel are recommending that we protect them now.”

The major change for recreational fishing is the change to the personal bag limit from two jewfish per person to just one.

A whole form requirement for all fishers is also proposed, meaning the fish has to be kept whole with its swim bladder intact.

Gladstone recreational fisherman Damian Mackenzie-Ross, who caught a 1.45m jewfish last weekend, agreed there should be a bag limit of one per person for fishermen such as him.

"You'd be lucky if you get one,” Mr Mackenzie-Ross said.

"Maybe they need to make an off-season, like barramundi, so numbers can get better.”

He also said dropping bag limits on commercial fishing would also help improve the black jewfish population.

The Northern Territory introduced similar limits earlier this year to protect stocks.

It imposed a bag limit of two per person for recreational fishers, and black jewfish were made a "priority species”.

A similar whole form requirement is enforced, where fishers are required to cut out the swim bladder at their place of residence.

Recreational fishermen in the Top End found to be to be illegally trafficking or selling black jewfish would be liable for a fine of up to $60,000, or two years imprisonment.

Feedback can be submitted on the Fisheries website by Thursday December 13.