Queensland Marine Aquarium Fish Fishery

Aquarium fish have been collected on a commercial basis on the Great Barrier Reef since the 1970s. Entry to the fishery has been limited since 1997.

This fishery formed the backbone of the marine aquarium industry on the Great Barrier Reef for many years. However, market demand has shifted in recent years to mini-reef replications and this has resulted in hobbyist displays that feature a diverse range of marine life, including invertebrates and corals. Colourful tropical fish are still popular but there is less emphasis within the industry on collecting fish.

The fishery operates along the Queensland east coast from the tip of Cape York south to the New South Wales border within the bounds of the Offshore Constitutional Settlement, which extends beyond the outer boundary of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Around 600 species of fish are collected plus a range of invertebrates, including starfish, molluscs and crustaceans. The market demands species diversity and perfect specimens with low susceptibility to disease or infection, often in specific size ranges.

The species collected in the fishery are typically lower trophic level prey species. Grazing herbivores that carry out important functions in reef resilience and recovery after disturbance are not collected in any substantial number.

There are limits imposed on the size of boats and the number of divers. Collectors typically use underwater breathing apparatus, such as SCUBA or Hookah, and collect by hand using a fine mesh barrier net and a herding device. Collectors can also use fishing lines with barbless hooks, cast nets and scoop nets.

Management arrangements include several Special Management Areas adjacent to population centres. These areas further restrict the number of operators that can access them in order to prevent localised concentration of effort.