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Government controls and legislation for trawl fisheries

From 3 January 2017 until further notice, all 6 scallop replenishment areas located off Yeppoon, Bustard Head and Hervey Bay are closed to all scallop fishing. A winter closure also applies each year—fishers cannot take or possess scallops in the southern inshore and southern offshore trawl regions between 1 May and 30 November each year. These measures have been put in place to prevent further decline of the stock.

Find out more about scallop fishing closures.


From 15 July 2016, the use or possession of trawl spikes, ploughs, rippers and other similar devices that attach to trawl sleds, boards or beams are prohibited. These devices must not be used due to concerns about the impact they could have on the seafloor and the fishery.

A comprehensive range of measures are used to regulate the trawl fishery. These are detailed in the Fisheries Regulation 2008 and Fisheries (East Coast Trawl) Management Plan 2010, and include the following.

Limits on operating time

Almost all the licences in the trawl fishery operate on an effort quota system. Each trawler is permitted to work a certain number of nights based on the quota it holds. Through this system, a trawler can increase its allocation by buying quota from another vessel without the effort in the fishery increasing.

The exceptions are the Moreton Bay trawl fishery, which is limited to fishing weeknights only, and the Finfish (Stout Whiting) Fishery, which is limited by a total catch quota.

Area closures

There are many areas throughout the fishery where trawling is prohibited or restricted. These areas are declared for a number of reasons, including habitat and nursery ground protection, maintenance of broodstock and bycatch reduction. In addition, there are a range of fisheries closures that have been introduced by the Department of Environment and Science and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to manage marine parks.

Boat size restrictions

The size of boats in each fishery is restricted as a further mechanism to regulate fishing effort, the maximums being 20m for the stout whiting and east coast otter trawl fisheries, 9m for the river and inshore beam trawl fishery, and 14m for the Moreton Bay otter trawl fishery.

Gear restrictions

Otter and beam trawl nets are also regulated by total length and mesh size. These regulations manage the total amount of 'swept area' in the fishery and minimise the impact on non-permitted species. All otter trawlers are required to have a turtle excluder device and a bycatch reduction device installed in any net being used. Beam trawlers are only required to have a bycatch reduction device installed

Alert: From 15 July 2016, the use or possession of trawl spikes, ploughs, rippers and other similar devices that attach to trawl sleds, boards or beams are prohibited. These devices must not be used due to concerns about the impact they could have on the seafloor and the fishery.

Catch limits

The small Finfish (Stout Whiting) Fishery, which has only 5 operators, is managed through a total allowable catch (TAC). There is a quota set on the amount of product that can be taken each year. The figure is determined by means of an annual stock assessment that establishes the yield that the population can sustain.

For more information, download the Queensland Finfish Trawl Fishery statement of management arrangements (PDF, 470KB).

Monitoring and reporting

Commercial fishers have a legal obligation to report information about their fishing activities in a compulsory daily logbook. All trawl fishers must contribute data about their day's catch, the location fished, the apparatus used and any interactions with species of conservation interest. Fisheries Queensland uses this data to assess and monitor the status of individual species and fisheries in Queensland.

Boats operating in certain fisheries or areas are also obliged to have on board a vessel monitoring system (VMS), which tracks the position of their boat, to monitor compliance with closures and other restrictions.

Changes to the Fisheries (East Coast Trawl) Management Plan 2010

From 1 March 2015, new rules apply to the use of turtle excluder devices and bycatch reduction devices to reduce the level of interactions with protected species, including sea snakes. Only 5 bycatch reduction devices will be allowed (with modified designs), and these are:

  • square mesh codend
  • fisheye
  • bigeye
  • square mesh panel
  • v-cut with bell codend.

When using prawn nets, fishers must use approved bycatch reduction devices for the following specified areas:

Fishery area Approved bycatch reduction devices
Northern Area (north of 16 degrees) Square mesh codend (northern area), fisheye, bigeye, square mesh panel and v-cut with bell codend
Central area (16–22 degrees) Square mesh codend (central area), fisheye, bigeye
Shallow area (south of 22–degrees and outside of the deepwater net area) Square mesh codend (shallow area), fisheye, bigeye, square mesh panel, v-cut with bell codend
Deepwater net area Square mesh codend (deepwater net area), fisheye, bigeye, square mesh panel

When using scallop nets, only a scallop square mesh codend is allowed.

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