The 2017/18 metropolitan abalone season kicked-off on Saturday 9 December, with thousands of fishers enjoying near-perfect conditions allowing them to easily catch their bag limit.
Fisheries scientists monitoring the day reported excellent catches with some bags of 15 abalone weighing in at just under 3kg. The good catches can be attributed to a mixture of excellent weather conditions which allowed fishers to be selective in which abalone they collected and provided an opportunity for fishers to venture to the back of the reefs where larger abalone can be found.
While recent management changes, which included moving fishing to a Saturday, are likely to have been responsible for a small reduction in the number of people fishing, these same changes ensure the fishery will only open when the weather conditions pose an acceptable risk.
In previous years the season-opening days were set in stone and if weather conditions happened to be terrible on the day then people would still be permitted to fish.
Fishing on days with bad weather not only poses substantial safety concerns for both fishers and rescue personnel it also reduces the level of enjoyment.
This year, the final decision to proceed with Saturday’s fishing was taken by DPIRD on Wednesday morning after advice from Surf Life Saving WA (SLSWA) that predicted weather conditions on the day did not pose a high risk for anyone.
In order to provide DPIRD with advice about the predicted risk level, SLSWA developed a Hazardous Surf Prediction Model which takes account of wind, swell, tide and wave period. This model recommends closing a fishing day if a high risk is forecast.
Weather conditions that will lead to a recommendation to close a fishing day include:
• If swell is 3m or greater;
• OR – if the combined tide and swell is rating 12 or more, this is to be considered high risk;
• OR – if the offshore wind speed is greater than 22 knots (Force 6 on the Beaufort Wind Scale); or
• OR – if the combined period and swell is rating 10 or more.
In the event a fishing day is cancelled it will be replaced with another day when conditions are better. This is the first time fisher safety has played such a central role in recreational fishing management and hopefully, these changes will lead to the fishery once again being known as an amazing recreational fishery on the doorstep of a capital city, rather than the most dangerous recreational fishery in the world.
The next scheduled open day on this fishery is the 13th January 2018 with the Department of Fisheries making a final decision on the 10th following advice from Surf Lifesaving WA.