- Community-supported rule changes for holiday hotspots to be implemented on 1 July;
- New “trip limit” to be introduced with review after 12 months to allow data to be gathered on current catches with increased domestic tourism; and,
- Recfishwest urge that other recommendations made, such as measures to address the shark problem, are progressed as a matter of priority.
Yesterday, DPIRD announced a series of fishing rule changes to address widespread concerns about the impact on fish populations in regional centres due to more people holidaying in WA because of COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Recfishwest welcome these changes, due to be implemented before the July school holidays, as they will address concerns raised from within the recreational fishing community regarding notable increases in boat ramp traffic, particularly in holiday destinations like Exmouth and Shark Bay.
These changes meet many of the recommendations Recfishwest made the Fisheries Minister in December who wrote to Recfishwest in September last year, after he sought our input into measures to address concerns related to increased boating activity across the State.
As well as extensive consultation with key members of the regional fishing community, Recfishwest surveyed its members for their views on the issue.
A clear message from regional fishing communities
Based on the feedback we received the message was clear – protection of our fish stocks is best undertaken by implementing a range of measures rather than just changing the possession limit.
Recfishwest are pleased the Minister did not act unilaterally based on the concerns of individuals or single points of view, but rather took the time to listen to and support the views of the recreational fishing community.
Below is a summary of the recommendations we made to the Minister and if action is being currently undertaken DPIRD to implement them.
More fishing and fish population data a must
Importantly, the trip limit will be reviewed after 12 months allowing DPIRD to gather data on current catch levels.
This was one of the main recommendations made to the Minister – we need better data which can inform better management decisions – because while it is clear there are more people giving fishing a go, it is not clear if this is translating into more catches.
It is therefore vital DPIRD builds a clearer picture of how much more fishing activity is taking place in key regional centres over the next 12 months and what this may mean for fish stocks in those areas.
Many boat fishers will also be pleased to see the problematic 30cm filleting at sea rule going. This means you can process fish at sea or on an island before returning to the ramp removing some of the current rule complexity.
Getting to grips with the shark bite-off problem
By far and away the most commonly identified issue through our consultation was that of shark bite-off and the threat that this presents to quality fishing experiences.
For years, Recfishwest has been advising Fisheries, and now DPIRD, that shark bite-off is the number one issue impacting on recfishing experiences north of Geraldton.
However, due to a lack of data and appetite little action has been taken.
As part of the package to the Minister, Recfishwest recommended commercial fishers in the Gascoyne, Pilbara and Kimberley should be allowed to retain shark catches each fishing trip allowing for researchers to gather more comprehensive and up-to-date data in relation to the state of shark populations in northern waters.
The shark bite-off issue is a complex problem and there is no single silver bullet, but one thing is clear – science holds the key to unlocking a range of solutions that can potentially crack it.
Continuing to work for better outcomes for the fishing community
Recfishwest will continue to work hard to ensure all of the package elements we put forward are addressed and, as ever, will keep you up-to-date with developments on progress being made around these very important issues.