Project number: 2019-070
Project Status:
Budget expenditure: $360,000.00
Principal Investigator: Shane Penny
Organisation: Department of Industry Tourism and Trade
Project start/end date: 31 May 2020 - 20 Aug 2023


Australia’s aquarium fisheries are high value (GVP >$20 million), small scale fisheries that rely on exporting CITES listed corals for profitability and viability. The Australian government requires fisheries collecting and exporting these species to demonstrate that their harvest is sustainable under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) in order to meet Australia's obligations under CITES.
In the absence of empirical evidence, precautionary harvest limits are set on all coral species, and monitored and reported by NT Fisheries to the Commonwealth Department of Environment and Energy (DoEE), to fulfil EPBC requirements. Increased global demand for valuable coral species presents an opportunity for licenced fishers to develop new and existing international markets. However, in order to increase harvest limits, evidence is required to reinforce that the harvest and subsequent export will not have a detrimental effect on the population status of the species (CITES non-detriment finding). Any supporting non-detriment finding must be corroborated with new empirical evidence on the impacts of harvesting corals.
The FRDC project ‘Establishing baselines and assessing vulnerability of commercially harvested corals across northern Australia’ (FRDC 2014-029) (currently underway) attempts to address some of these issues including taxonomy, abundance and distribution of key coral species but fails to address the long-standing concern of the impacts of coral harvesting. Understanding and quantifying the impacts of harvesting coral has the potential for providing the greatest benefit to industry. The specific need is to investigate the extent of recovery (or not) of key species of Scleractinian (hard) corals harvested at the level of individual colonies over an appropriate temporal scale.
Members of the A12 Aquarium display fishery are supportive of this project and will be actively involved in assisting with data collection. This project directly addresses the NT Research Advisory Committee priority ‘Impact of harvesting key species of Scleractinian (hard) corals in the Northern Territory’.


1. Establish a monitoring program involving commercial fishers to determine the impacts of harvest on key coral species.
2. Improve the accuracy of coral species identification through the development of an NT identification guide.
3. Assess reproductive modes, and establish rates of recruitment for commercially important Northern Territory corals.

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