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Black teatfish success story: From ban to long-term plan in Torres Strait

CATCH OF THE DAY: Black teatfish 2 of 3

Local fishers in the Torres Strait have reeled in a successful black teatfish season after a 20-year ban and trials to manage overfishing.

Black teatfish are in global demand, particularly across Asia, and are a very high value sea cucumber.

Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) Chairperson Napau Pedro Stephen AM said the short but significant season (15 – 18 May) supported economic development and species sustainability.

“The opening is part a long-term plan developed by local people, scientists and industry to support species regeneration and healthy stock levels,” Mr Stephen said.

“This is a success story about local voices leading local outcomes to balance economic and environmental aspirations in the Torres Strait.”

More than 150 Traditional Inhabitant Boat Licence Holders have exclusive access rights to catch black teatfish, generating hundreds of thousands of dollars for the local economy.

Mer Islander Michael Passi is a respected commercial fisherman of more than 20 years and member of various fisheries advisory groups.

Mr Passi said the positive outcome demonstrated a new way of working together to connect traditional knowledge with Western science in the Torres Strait.

“We are blessed with quality produce including sea cucumber, tropical rock lobster and finfish in our region,” Mr Passi said.

“When it comes to black teatfish, local fishers can catch a year’s salary in just a few days.

“The oceans care for us, so we must care for our oceans.

“By working together to value traditional ecological knowledge alongside science, we can support a sustainable fishing industry for generations to come.”

The black teatfish season had a 20-tonne allowable catch limit.  The season closed on Thursday, 18 May after the total catch was caught just three and a half days after the opening.

The TSRA is a member of the Protected Zone Joint Authority (PZJA), which is responsible for the management of commercial and traditional fishing in the Australian area of the Torres Strait Protected Zone (TSPZ) and designated adjacent Torres Strait waters.

As a PZJA partner, TSRA proudly supported recent consultation, including a Beche-de-Mer industry workshop on Horn Island in May, to enable local decision-making on the season opening.

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