Torres Strait Trochus Fishery

Map showing the area of the Torres Strait Trochus Fishery (2006)

The Torres Strait Trochus (Trochus niloticus) Fishery is a small, single-species commercial and subsistence fishery. The fishery however, is an important source of income for some Islanders, especially women and children. The level of participation in the fishery is relatively low at present, largely due to a decline in overseas market demand for shells in button manufacture. The fishery however, was historically an important source of income for the region between 1920-1950 and more recently in the 1980′s.

Trochus is usually taken by hand when freediving. Fishers operate from dories/dinghies with a crew of 2 or 3. Reef top collection of trochus is also possible at low tide. Fishery participants are comprised of Australian Traditional Inhabitants only. A Hand Collectables Working Group has been established to provide advice to the PZJA on issues related to the Trochus Fishery.

Management Objectives

Objectives adopted for the Torres Strait Trochus Fishery are:

  • to manage the resource so as to achieve optimum utilisation;
  • to maximise opportunities for Traditional Inhabitants of Australia; and
  • to encourage Traditional Inhabitants of the Torres Strait to participate in the Trochus Fishery.

Management arrangements

Many of the management arrangements applicable to the fishery are set out in Fisheries Management Notice (FMN) No 76 and include:

  • The taking of trochus is restricted to hand collection or by hand-held non-mechanical implements.
  • The use of underwater breathing apparatus is not permitted.
  • A minimum size limit of 80 millimetres and maximum size limit of 125 millimetres applies to all fishing (except traditional).

The total allowable catch for the TSPZ is 150 tonnes.

Condition of the fishery

ABARES assessed the status of trochus stocks in the TSPZ in 2009 as not being subject to overfishing, but uncertain as to being overfished. Activity in the fishery is very low at present compared to historic levels. The level of traditional take of trochus is unknown.  In 2010 there were 80 Traditional Inhabitants with entries to fishin in the Trochus Fishery.

Strategic Assessment

The Torres Strait Trochus Fishery was strategically assessed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 in 2005 and was formally accredited as a Wildlife Trade Operation for three years in November 2005. The fishery has since been re-assessed and on 25 November 2008 it was accredited as a Wildlife Trade Operation until 25 November 2011. This declaration is subject to conditions and recommendations developed by Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Strategic Assessment reports can be found on the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities website.