Fishing in the Coral Sea

The world’s oceans are in trouble. Fishery after fishery is collapsing due to industrial scale overfishing, poor management by regulatory agencies and uncontrolled fishing on the high seas. As a result, ninety percent of the world's large ocean-going fish have been wiped out in the last 50 years.

Help Protect Australia's Coral Sea Yellowfin Tuna © Chris Fallows - OceanwideImages.comYellofin tuna – © Chris Fallows - OceanwideImages.comThe Coral Sea is not immune from industrial scale fishing. Longline vessels have operated in the area since the 1950's. The target species are tuna (bigeye, yellowfin and albacore), swordfish and striped marlin.

Bigeye tuna is classified as overfished and subject to overfishing by the Australian government and is listed as vulnerable to extinction on the IUCN Red List of threatened species. Overfishing of Yellowfin tuna is occurring in the western equatorial region of the Pacific Ocean.  The stock status of striped marlin is uncertain.

Vessels are also allowed to return with 20 sharks per trip, resulting in over 100 tonnes of shark being taken each year from the Coral Sea as longline "bycatch".

And it's not just big fish that are affected by longlining. Longline hooks set for tuna and billfish also catch seabirds and threatened sea turtles.

A second commercial fishery exists in the Coral Sea; the Coral Sea Fishery. In 2009, the status of all species listed in this fishery was considered uncertain, other than tropical rock lobster and trochus. The reason these were not listed as uncertain is because there was no catch of these species in 2009.

There is some very limited game fishing in the Coral Sea, however, game fishing for large and reproductively mature black marlin occurs mostly inside the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, mainly between Cairns and Lizard Island. A highly protected park in the Coral Sea would offer a safe haven for large ocean fish, seabirds and threatened turtles.