Commercial Harvest Fisheries

Queensland's commercial harvest fisheries cover a wide range of species taken from several individually managed fisheries. Target species are generally harvested by hand or by using handheld implements. This often involves the use of underwater breathing apparatus, such as scuba or hookah.

The harvest fisheries are a valuable component of Queensland's commercial fisheries.Export markets are vital to some of these fisheries, particularly those for which a solid domestic demand has not been established.

The harvest fisheries are:

Sea cucumber (beche-de-mer) fishery,
Marine aquarium fish fishery
Coral fishery
Trochus fishery
Tropical rock lobster fishery

Minor harvest fisheries (including bait fisheries, such as beach worms, bloodworms and yabbies; marine specimen shells; pearl shells; wild-caught oysters).
All are regulated by fishing regulations and licenses.  

Sea cucumber fishery

The commercial sea cucumber (beche-de-mer) fishery area consists of all tidal waters east of longitude 142°31'49"E between latitude 10°41'S and latitude 26°S (parallel to the southern limit of Tin Can Bay). In practice, however, waters south of the Great Barrier Reef are rarely fished.

Target species

The major commercially harvested sea cucumber species include:

  • blackfish (Actinopyga palauensis)
  • burrowing blackfish (Actinopyga spinea)
  • sandfish (Holothuria scabra)
  • white teatfish (Holothuria fuscogilva)
  • prickly redfish (Thelenota ananas).
  • Fishing gear
  • Sea cucumbers are harvested mainly by divers breathing surface-supplied air from hookah equipment and, to a lesser extent, by free-diving from dinghies or by hand collection along reefs at low tide.

Fishing gear

Sea cucumbers are harvested mainly by divers breathing surface-supplied air from hookah equipment and, to a lesser extent, by free-diving from dinghies or by hand collection along reefs at low tide.

Marine aquarium fish fishery

Target species

There are more than 1500 marine fish species that could be harvested from Queensland waters for private or public aquarium displays. While some species have a broad distribution, others are endemic to Queensland and nearby waters and are in demand from export markets.

The fish families important to the aquarium trade include:

  • damselfish (family Pomacentridae)
  • butterflyfish and bannerfish (family Chaetodontidae)
  • angelfish (family Pomacanthidae)
  • wrasses (family Labridae)
  • surgeonfish (family Acanthuridae)
  • gobies (family Gobiidae).

Fishing gear

Aquarium fish are commercially harvested by hand with the use of:

  • handheld apparatus
  • fishing lines with a single barbless hook
  • cast nets
  • scoop nets
  • seine/barrier nets
  • herding devices (e.g. a small rod).

Divers operating in this commercial fishery use scuba or surface-supplied air from hookah apparatus.

Refer to the Fisheries Regulation 2008 for the types and specifications of gear allowed.

A small number of collectors target much larger fish to supply public aquariums. Those operators need to obtain a general fisheries permit to use certain equipment or if they intend to operate outside prescribed size limits and/or species restrictions.

Coral fishery

Target species

The commercial coral fishery targets a broad range of species from the classes Anthozoa and Hydrozoa. The key components of the fishery are:

  • live corals, such as Euphyllidae, Zoanthida, Corallimorpharia and Fungidae families
  • sea anemones
  • ornamental (non-living) corals, such as Acroporidae and Pocilloporidae families
  • live rock (dead coral skeletons with algae and other organisms living on them)
  • coral rubble (coarsely broken up coral fragments)
  • coral sand (finely ground-up particles of coral skeleton, which fishers can only take as incidental catch and must not target in marine park waters).

Fishing gear

Coral may only be taken by hand or by using handheld non-mechanical implements, such as a hammer and chisel. Licence-holders may also use scuba or hookah when taking coral.

Trochus fishery

The fishery area consists of all tidal waters south of latitude 10°41'S, and east of longitude 142°31'49"E. In practice, fishing rarely occurs south of Gladstone. Mackay is the main port for the fishery.

Target species

The commercial trochus fishery is based on the collection of 1 species of trochus - Trochus niloticus.

Fishing gear

Harvesting of trochus occurs by hand with the aid of handheld non-mechanical implements, such as levers with a chisel point.
Commercial collectors use underwater breathing apparatus to give extended time under water and increased mobility for harvesting.

Tropical rock lobster fishery

The east coast crayfish and rock lobster fishery includes all tidal waters east of longitude 142°31'49'E, south of latitude 10°41'S and north of latitude 14°S.

The commercial fishery area also includes tidal waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria and adjoining waterways, between the 25 nautical mile line and the shore, south of latitude 10°48'S. However, the commercial fishery operates almost exclusively on the east coast between Cape York and Cape Melville.

Target species

The east coast fishery consists mostly of 1 species - the tropical spiny rock lobster (Panulirus ornatus). Other species of tropical spiny rock lobster are also found in Queensland waters, but these are much less abundant and contribute only marginally to the total catch.

Fishing gear

Commercial collection of tropical rock lobster is carried out using hand spears, spear guns or handheld non-mechanical implements such as noose rods.

Panulirus ornatus rarely enters pots and is therefore collected exclusively by diving. Underwater breathing apparatus is used in this commercial fishery (hookah equipment is the most common method). Most fishing occurs in reef-top waters deeper than 5m.

The method of capture varies, but the collection of lobster for frozen tails is usually by a rubber-powered hand spear used to penetrate the animal's carapace. As a result of market demand and better prices received by divers, live collection of lobster is now the preferred method, with divers taking the animals by gloved hand or by use of a noose placed over the tail.