Fish stocks a priority in metro shark debate

Fast facts:

  • Recfishwest supports the Government in taking ‘practical’ steps to improve safety measures related to sharks in WA;
  • Re-introducing gillnets to metropolitan waters will seriously jeopardise dhufish and pink snapper stocks, have zero impact on public safety and is not a practical solution; and,
  • Recent calls regarding positive public safety outcomes from gillnets are unfounded.

On the back of recent calls to reintroduce the metropolitan shark fishery to deal with the shark issue, Recfishwest has reiterated the organisation’s objection to the use of demersal gillnets in metro waters.

In November 2007, then-Fisheries Minister Jon Ford announced the removal of gillnets from the metropolitan area following concern for the sustainability of iconic fish species, such as dhufish and pink snapper.

This decision is still widely regarded by the recreational fishing community as the single most important and positive decision for recreational fishing by any Fisheries Minister.

Figure 1: The recfishing area free from demersal gillnetting.

Calls have been made for the reintroduction of the metropolitan shark fishery, by linking the 2007 closure to recent shark attacks.

Recfishwest firmly believes there is no justification for gillnets in metropolitan waters and fought hard for many years for the removal of this particular fishing method.

More quick points:

  • Recfishwest will strongly oppose any attempt to re-introduce gillnet fishing to metropolitan waters;
  • Waters Lancelin to Mandurah were closed to gillnetting in 2007 to protect dhufish and pink snapper stocks, (Figure 1);
  • We do not support a misguided attempt to solve one problem by creating another; and.
  • Current Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly is aware of Recfishwest’s position.

If the State Government wishes to take proactive measures to manage shark numbers in WA waters, then it should be done utilising appropriate methods to meet that objective.

This issue is of great importance to many fishers as gillnet fishing impacted on a number of important bottom fish species in the metropolitan area. The benefits of the decision to remove the nets are now starting to be seen with local fishers reporting good catches of juvenile dhufish.

The removal of gillnets from metropolitan waters was only one of a number of management measures across both the recreational and commercial sectors that were undertaken in 2007 to meet the sustainability challenges for Dhufish. The government provided millions of dollars in compensation to commercial fishers who were displaced. It is worth noting that fishing for sharks and finfish with gillnets has operated for decades North of Lancelin and South of Mandurah through to the SA boarder and continues to land almost 1000 tons of sharks and rays annually.

Recfishwest want to remind the community that gillnets contributed to reducing Dhufish and Pink Snapper stocks to a point where catches had to be reduced by 50% and full recovery of stocks is not expected until 2027.

Recfishwest does not oppose commercial fishing for sharks in the metropolitan area as long as fishing methods do not impact on important demersal scale fish which underpin recreational fishing experiences.

Read former Fisheries Minister John Ford’s 2007 statement about the closure here.

Pink snapper are sought-after by many WA recfishers.