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Conservation efforts lead to reopening of fishing for Torres Strait species

JOINT MEDIA RELEASE

A fishing season for a high value sea cucumber in the Torres Strait has reopened for the first time in 20 years thanks to a concerted conservation and stock restoration effort.

Open season for black teatfish has begun today (May 15) marking decades of work with scientists, traditional fishers and government agencies.

Torres Strait Islanders will have exclusive access rights to black teatfish, which is estimated to be worth $380,000 to the local economy.

Black teatfish season will be a vital source of income supporting livelihoods and the traditional way of life in the Torres Strait.

Black teatfish are vulnerable to overfishing as they are sedentary and found in inshore waters, making them easy to harvest.

The Protected Zone Joint Authority (PZJA) accepted advice from the Torres Strait Hand Collectables Resource Assessment Group and Working Group to transition from trial openings to a permanent opening for the first time since 2003.

The PZJA also accepted advice to set a total allowable catch of 20 tonnes for the 2023 season.

The minimum legal size of the black teatfish is 250 millimetres, and the maximum length of vessels used to fish the black teatfish in the Torres Strait is 7 metres.

The season will close on the date the PZJA determines the total allowable catch is likely to be reached.

Quotes attributable to Federal Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Murray Watt:

“There are very few examples of sea cucumber species elsewhere in the world that have recovered from being over-fished,” Minister Watt said.

“The commitment of Traditional Inhabitants to support and implement improved management measures has been critical to allowing the species to open for fishing and will see increased economic returns to their communities.

“The export value of Australian sea cucumbers has risen substantially over the last decade due to declining stock around the world, as well as massive demand from other countries where they are a highly desirable cuisine and eaten for purported health and medicinal benefits.”

Queensland Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries and Minister for Rural Communities Mark Furner:

“The 2023 opening is the culmination of 20 years of effort from PZJA agencies, scientists and Traditional Inhabitants to rebuild the fishery,” Minister Furner said.

“The 2023 season opening date has been set following advice from a Beche-de-Mer industry workshop, which included 30 participants representing the fishing industry and Native Title interests across the Torres Strait.

“The black teatfish season will be monitored by a joint patrol of fisheries officers from the Australian Fisheries Management Authority and the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries to ensure all fishing is in accordance with the rules.”

Quotes attributable to Queensland Member for Cook Cynthia Lui:

“The revival of black teatfish is a conservation and restoration success story that will result in jobs for the Torres Strait,” Ms Lui said.

“Traditional owners will benefit from having exclusive rights to black teatfish, and regulations will ensure their numbers will be conserved for generations to come.”

Quotes attributable to Torres Strait Regional Authority Chairperson Napau Pedro Stephen AM:

“The recent consultation, supported by the TSRA, connected science and traditional knowledge to support local economic aspirations,” Mr Stephen said.

“The black teatfish season is a vital source of income that supports the livelihoods and traditional way of life for all Torres Strait communities,” Mr Stephen said.

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