DAF has been using vessel tracking since 1996 as part of ongoing management of several fisheries within Queensland, including the east coast trawl fleet, sea cucumber (beche-de-mer) and some net fisheries. As an action of the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy 2017-2027 (SFS), vessel tracking was rolled out more broadly across 2019 and 2020, and has been completed for all major commercial fisheries.
A number of issues have been raised by industry throughout 2019 and 2020 relating to delays with the delivery of vessel tracking units, refunds and warranty claims as well as concerns about suitability of units, ongoing costs, unit and installation safety, and data security. Throughout the implementation these issues have been investigated, have or are being progressively addressed, or will be considered as part of this broad review.
In September 2019, the then Acting Assistant Ombudsman wrote to the department about complaints received regarding the implementation of vessel tracking for commercial fishing activities. The letter advised of the commencement of an investigation into the issues of the complaint, which related to the department’s planning, implementation and administration of vessel tracking for commercial fishers in Queensland. Further information was requested by the Assistant Ombudsman in December 2019 and supplied to the Ombudsman in February 2020.
On 10 June 2020, the department received correspondence from the Queensland Ombudsman regarding the outcome of the investigation into the department’s administration of vessel tracking. The correspondence stated that, due to a number of concerns with the department’s implementation of vessel tracking for commercial fishing operations, further review was required. The Ombudsman provided an attachment outlining a range of preliminary issues of concern and proposed actions, and provided an opportunity for the department to investigate the issues by expanding the department’s planned post implementation review (PIR) to also address the Ombudsman’s concerns. The department committed to commissioning a PIR of vessel tracking following the recommendations of the State Development, Natural Resources and Agricultural Industry Development Committee’s examination of the Fisheries (Sustainable Fisheries Strategy) Amendment Bill 2018.
The department responded on 17 August 2020 commiting to accept the Ombudsman’s proposal to incorporate the Ombudsman’s preliminary issues of concern and proposed actions into the already planned review. The department further wrote to the Assistant Ombudsman on 11 September 2020 to confirm the commitment to undertake a broad review of the implementation and administration of vessel tracking, including a draft project plan for the delivery of the review.
The Ombudsman wrote to the department on 16 September 2020 to:
- confirm that the investigation of commercial fishers complaints regarding the department’s administration of vessel tracking had been discontinued on the basis of the department’s agreement to undertake the broad review
- inform the department he has advised complainants of both the decision to close the investigation, and the department’s agreement to undertake the review
- accept the department’s project plan, which largely addressed the issues raised by his office.
As agreed with the Queensland Ombudsman, the department has established this engagement portal to enable visibility of project progress and allow stakeholders to submit comments and enquiries relating to vessel tracking and the review. In 2021, the department will establish the vessel tracking working group to initially advise on the safety review and other activities in the project plan scheduled for implementation in 2021.