Tyson Geeves with a black jewfish caught at St Helens.
Tyson Geeves with a black jewfish caught at St Helens.

Warning for anglers: Early close to popular fish season

FISHING for black jewfish in Queensland’s east coast waters is now closed for the remainder of the year after the commercial catch limit was reached.

The fish is prominent in Central Queensland water systems as its distribution through Queensland spans from Brisbane to Cape York.

Minister for Fisheries Mark Furner said the 20-tonne limit for east coast black jewfish was reached on March 1.

“Black jewfish is now a commercial and recreational no-take species on the east coast until the fishery reopens on January 1, 2021,” Mr Furner said.

Fisheries Minister Mark Furner
Fisheries Minister Mark Furner

Minister Furner said the ban would apply to commercial and recreational anglers and those found to be in possession of black jewfish could face a maximum fine of $133,450.

“Additionally, any fisher found to be in possession of commercial quantity of black jewfish with the intention of black marketing the fish may be subject to a maximum fine of $400,350 or three-years imprisonment.”

The 20-tonne limit was introduced in May 2019.

Fishermen stood to make about $2000 for the flesh of this Black Jewfish haul plus any profit from the bladders. PICTURE: Ashley Pillhofer
Fishermen stood to make about $2000 for the flesh of this Black Jewfish haul plus any profit from the bladders. PICTURE: Ashley Pillhofer

“The limit was introduced in response to rapidly escalating catches of the species and concerns about sustainability,” Mr Furner said.

Black Jewfish swim bladders are considered a delicacy or an aphrodisiac in some east Asian countries and are often targeted for black-market trade.

Black jewfish, among other species, are required to be kept whole while on a vessel to prevent processing of the fish at sea to remove the valuable swim bladders.

Keppel MP Brittany Lauga said hazard reductions weren't able to be reached due to challenging weather conditions.
Keppel MP Brittany Lauga said hazard reductions weren't able to be reached due to challenging weather conditions.

Keppel MP Brittany Lauga said stock collapses in Australia and overseas sparked the no-take regulation.

“Black jewfish are vulnerable to overfishing in Central Queensland and there is a risk of black-marketing due to the extremely high market prices for their swim bladders,” she said.

She hoped the ban would protect the resource and its long-term economic viability.

Fishing for black jewfish in the Gulf of Carpentaria remains open at this stage.

Scott Lynch
Scott Lynch

As for the CQ fishing tourism industry, fishing guru Scott Lynch could not foresee any significant impact to operators.

He said jewfish were targeted sometimes due to their size, but as they were not considered “good-eating”, other species often took priority.

“The boys here know enough about fishing to get their clients better fish elsewhere,” he said.