NORTHERN PRAWN FISHERY

Major species:
• Brown and grooved Tiger Prawns
• White and red-legged Banana Prawns
• Endeavour Prawns
• King Prawns

Estimated catch 2010-11:
9673 tonnes

Gross value of production 2010-11:
$94.8 million

DEVELOPMENTS IN 2011–12

AFMA undertakes an annual stock assessment for the Northern Prawn Fishery which is used in the harvest strategy to determine the allowable level of fishing effort. The 2011 stock assessment indicated a stock size that would allow additional fishing effort in the 2011 tiger prawn season. In line with the harvest strategy, AFMA increased the amount of fishing net by 8.19 per cent for the 2011 fishing season.

The 2011 tiger prawn season ran from 1 August to 20 November 2011. Due to low average catch rates across the fleet towards the end of the season, decision rules were applied to close the fishery ten days early. The total catch for the season was approximately 2100 tonnes.

The 2012 Banana Prawn season ran from 1 April to 9 June 2012. Due to low average catch rates across the fleet towards the end of the season, decision rules were applied to close the fishery one week early. Night fishing targeting Tiger Prawns west of 138º was permitted up until 15 June 2012. The total catch for the 2012 Banana Prawn season was approximately 4100 tonnes.

In consultation with the Northern Prawn Resource Assessment Group and Management Advisory Committee AFMA decreased the minimum size limit for bugs. The new minimum legal size limit for bugs is 60 mm carapace width, replacing the old size limit of 75 mm.

AFMA continues to work closely with the Northern Prawn Fishery Industry Pty Ltd under co-management arrangements. The industry organisation directly manages catch and effort data, the crew member observer program and coordinates pre-season briefings for the fishery. AFMA liaises with the industry organisation directly on matters relating to management costs, spatial closures and other operational matters in the fishery.

REPORT AGAINST MANAGEMENT PLAN

The fishery is currently managed through a combination of input controls (limited entry, spatial closures, gear restrictions and operational controls) which are implemented under the Northern Prawn Fishery Management Plan 1995.

AFMA continues working towards implementation of quota management in the fishery. The draft Northern Prawn Fishery Management Plan under output controls was distributed for public comment in late 2011. AFMA and the Northern Prawn Fishery Management Advisory Committee developed responses to all submissions received through this process. AFMA is currently working on minor amendments to the draft Northern Prawn Fishery Management Plan under output controls based on comments received.

AFMA is working closely with stakeholders, including Northern Prawn Fishing Industry Pty Ltd, Northern Prawn Fishery Management Advisory Committee and Northern Prawn Resource Assessment Group to develop a cost-effective and robust system for setting total allowable catches in the fishery. It is anticipated that the fishery will be operating under output controls at the commencement of the 2013 Banana Prawn fishing season.