Queensland Marine Aquarium Industry


Most of Australia’s marine aquarium industry is based in Queensland with activity occurring on the Great Barrier Reef and in the Coral Sea.

The industry in Queensland operates across the Queensland Coral Fishery, the Queensland Marine Aquarium Fish Fishery and the Commonwealth Coral Sea Fishery. The Queensland fisheries are minor suppliers of marine fish and invertebrates on the world stage. However, the Queensland Coral Fishery supplies around 20% of the coral.

There are 24 active businesses of disparate scale usually working in reasonable proximity to the major air routes out of Cairns and Brisbane with a node of activity in the Mackay region. Other businesses carry long-held licenses but are not in operation.

The industry focuses on high quality specimens supplied to the market in low volume. The fisheries feature a highly selective hand collection technique, which is imperative to ensure that the highest quality specimens meet the market. Similar fisheries operate on a smaller scale in Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

The Queensland fisheries operate within an extensive network of marine protected areas. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park features more than 125,000km2 that is off-limits to all collection, including more than 7,500km2 of coral reef. There are State marine parks south of the Great Barrier Reef and the Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve, which is the world’s largest marine park and features the world’s largest no-take zone at more than 500,000km2.

The international trade in marine specimens has been stigmatised by the unregulated nature of the fisheries in some countries. Some of these fisheries are characterised by destructive fishing practices, including use of a sodium cyanide solution to stun fish prior to capture, which has consequences for the captured fish and the coral reef matrix from which it was removed. This practice does not occur in Australia.

Like all other commercial fisheries in Australia, there is a process for the identification of ecological risk from the activity of the fishery. Stewardship Action Plan 2013: Mitigating Ecological Risk in a Changing Climate enables the industry to take highly targeted steps to mitigate those risks and to progress a collaborative management approach to the fisheries.

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