Bowen, Queensland

Bowen, Queensland was selected as the Northern Region case study because it has traditionally had a strong commercial fishing industry.

Bowen, its marine sectors and general community, is already impacted by increased frequency and intensity of cyclonic events.

See Climate, sealife and other impacts for a detailed description of changes in Bowen.


Permanent population: Approximately 10 000 residents (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011).

The population of Bowen expands in winter with an influx of tourists. The tourists are often retired and stay for relatively long periods of time in caravan parks and budget accommodation.

Approximately 10% of people in Bowen are aged over 70 years (2011 Census).

Approximately 30% of residents own their own homes, which is also the national average.

Employment in the agricultural sector (mushroom and vegetable growing; sheep, beef cattle and grain farming) makes up approximately 17% of employment in Bowen. Construction and retail trade make up the next largest sectors (both approximately 10%).

Commercial fishing

The largest commercial fishery operating out of Bowen is the Reef Line Fishery. This fishery targets coral trout (Plectropomus leopardus) and redthroat emperor (Lethrinus chrysostomus) on the Great Barrier Reef and has a gross value of production of approximately $35m (Queensland Government statistics). Barramundi (Lates calcarifer) is also an important commercial target species.

Other commercial fisheries target mud crabs (Scylla serrata), prawns (Penaeus spp) and shark.

The 2011 census data indicates that 0.2% of employment is in commercial fishing.

Recreational fishing

Recreational and Indigenous fishing is popular with locals and tourists in Bowen. In total, 24.7% of Queenslanders participate in recreational fishing (Henry and Lyle 2003) and Bowen is likely to have a similar participation rate. Favoured target species include coral trout, redthroat emperor, barramundi and mud crabs. There has been a perceived rise in boat ownership and recreational fishing in recent years which can be linked to greater disposable cash from employment in the mining industry.


Aquaculture businesses in the Bowen area focus on prawns and barramundi. Both these types of aquaculture are land-based and are limited by development opportunities and market competition with cheap international imports. In Bowen approximately 0.3% of employment is in aquaculture.

Marine tourism

There are currently (2012/13) no Bowen-based recreational fishing charters but there is one dive business in the area. Dives viewing local coral reefs and fish life are popular with tourists.

Recreational fishing charters were based in Bowen in the past, however, they have shifted to larger centres to capitalise on a larger pool of clients.