Bitter disappointment as Ocean Reef development leads to loss of day’s fishing

This summer, licensed abalone recfishers will be able to gather abalone in the zone, from Guilderton to Busselton, for four days – marking a loss of one day.

Abalone enthusiasts will be able to gather abalone between 7am and 8am on the following days:

  • Saturday, 11 December;
  • Saturday, 8 January;
  • Saturday, 5 February;
  • Saturday, 19 February.
Gathering abalone along the west coast is an awesome hands-on fishing experience.

A day’s fishing lost

Following years of good stewardship by abalone fishers to recover the metro stock after the marine heatwave, abalone fishers could have had an extra fishing day as stock recovery was good.

This opportunity, however, has been lost  because the impact of the Ocean Reef marina development on abalone stocks with the loss of 12ha of prime abalone habitat.

As a result, the almost 20,000 abalone fishers who account for $600,000 in licence fees each year have been dealt a 20 per cent reduction in their fishing season.

Recfishwest shares abalone fishers’ disappointment and frustration that the marina development has negatively impacted on our metro abalone fishing.

An adequate offset?

Recfishwest has been pressing Development WA, who are overseeing the marina’s breakwater construction, to develop an appropriate and adequate offset plan prior to construction starting for the past two years.

Frustratingly, all that has happened to date are endless meetings, working groups and promises of future action.

It should be noted that in the absence of an adequate offset strategy the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) were left with little option other than to reduce fishing effort by a day.

The responsibility for losing a day’s fishing rests solely with Development WA and not DPIRD, who like Recfishwest, are keen to see impacts of the marina developments on fishing experiences appropriately avoided, reduced, mitigated and offset.

Recfishwest will continue to push Development WA for an acceptable plan to address this loss of habitat, abalone stocks and fishing access.

The metro abalone fishery is a popular fishery on Perth’s doorstep for many, including abalone aficionado Steph Watts.

Staying safe while gathering abalone

Gathering abalone along the west coast is a great hands-on fishing experience.

If you’re heading out to chase abalone this season, it’s important that safety is at the forefront of your mind.

While moving the metropolitan abalone fishing season to the summer months has reduced the chances of unfavourable conditions, fishers still need to plan for safe fishing experiences.

Recfishwest urges all abalone fishers to be prepared and wear appropriate clothing, understand your swimming ability and check weather conditions.

If you’re not confident, simply don’t go in the water.

Check wind conditions and swells beforehand – visit the Beach Safe website for up-to-date reports.

Also, once you arrive at your location, observe first, fish later.

It is important to identify the best place to safely enter the water and wear correct clothing, such as a wetsuit – not jeans or a jumper.

Based on the Hazardous Surf Assessment Model, the weather conditions for the first day of the season are looking good. Conditions are forecast to be moderate temperatures, falling tide 0.5m with moderate swell (with low to negligible secondary and tertiary swell) and moderate winds tending onshore.

With waves breaking at near 1m height and a higher tide, the amount of standing water on top of reef platforms will be higher than normal and so bring a snorkel. This higher water means holes and drop offs will also be harder to see so take care when moving around.

Good luck gathering abalone this season and safe fishing!

Assess the conditions and wear adequate attire when gathering abalone this season.