Gascoyne snapper stock improvements champions our push for dhufish spawning closures

This ‘Members First’ newsletter is from Recfishwest Operations Lead Matt Gillett who sits on the Gascoyne Demersal Scalefish Resource Harvest Strategy Working Group. 

These newsletters are sent out exclusively to Recfishwest members who are the first to hear about all the important fishing issues directly from us. If you’d like to have these newsletters sent directly to your inbox, consider joining Recfishwest as a member. Click here for more information.

Many of you will have recently heard the Fisheries Minister’s announcement that oceanic pink snapper stocks in the Gascoyne region are recovering successfully.

This latest ‘health check’ on their recovery was recently published five-years into the 20-year recovery plan initiated in 2018.  The recovery plan was formed in response to oceanic pink snapper stocks in the Gascoyne Demersal Scalefish Resource (GDSR) being assessed in 2017 as being at severe risk and requiring immediate action.

As a result, the GDSR Harvest Strategy Working Group comprising of Recfishwest, Marine Tourism WA, WAFIC and DPIRD collaborated to set out clear objectives to help boost stocks of more than 60 fish species to sustainable levels by 2037, with pink and goldband snapper the two indicator species.

Central to this recovery plan was reducing annual catch limits for snapper to 100 tonnes spread throughout the recreational, charter and commercial sectors, along with a trial of a reduced commercial snapper size limit.

The biggest measure, however – and a clear no-brainer – was targeted protection for key snapper spawning aggregations in the Gascoyne region across all sectors.

While DPIRD’s health check of the GDSR is comforting news for fishers who pushed to help recover pink snapper stocks in the Gascoyne, it also proves that protecting spawning aggregations of demersal species can have a significantly positive impact on stocks in as little as five years.

Dylan Skinns with a Shark Bay pink snapper

The commonsense solution strongly backed by recfishers

The decision to introduce the pink snapper spawning closure in the Gascoyne region north of Bernier Island – was firmly supported by the Gascoyne’s recreational fishers.

After we reviewed the science and recommended the pink snapper spawning closure, more than 96 per cent of the recreational fishing sector in the Gascoyne region backed that call in.

On this basis, and given the closure’s effectiveness, we are confident recreational fishers will want the spawning closure to remain in place even when the stocks reach acceptable levels. They have made it abundantly clear that they care greatly about the future of these stocks and are happy to do their part in speeding up their recovery by letting fish breed undisturbed.

Strong support for this measure was echoed from recreational fishers in the West Coast Bioregion to speed up the recovery of dhufish. Recfishwest made the recommendation to give dhufish a break during February and March following strongly positive feedback for the measure from thousands of fishers who responded to our west coast demersal survey and in line with the view of our Expert Working Group.

A positive flow-on effect to west coast pink snapper stocks?

With this latest stock assessment indicating that Gascoyne oceanic pink snapper numbers are on the rise, these benefits may also trickle down into the west coast demersal fishery.

There are genetics and scientific findings indicating that the Gascoyne oceanic pink snapper stock does in fact stretch all the way down to Lancelin, so we’re interested to see how this latest recovery of the Gascoyne pink snapper breeding stock will benefit the snapper stock in the north of the West Coast Bioregion.

It’s clear that this measured approach to allow fish to spawn undisturbed works, and as a sector with a strong track-record in driving fish spawning closures, we are pleased to see these results happening so quickly.

Matt Gillett,
Recfishwest Operation Lead

Matt Gillet – Shark Bay fishing clinic








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