Recfishwest to play a leading role in mapping out a bright future for herring

Recfishwest has been asked by Fisheries Minister Don Punch to play a lead role on a working group that will develop a comprehensive forward-looking plan for the future management of herring.

As we recently reported, WA herring has made a strong recovery following management changes brought in in 2015 across both commercial and recreational fishing sectors to ease fishing pressure.

This is great news and opens up the genuine opportunity to finally establish a dedicated management framework specifically for this highly important species that can lock in a sustainable future for it, while maximizing its benefit to the community.

On the back of the stock assessment’s results, Minister Punch wrote to Recfishwest requesting our participation in a herring management working group and process to be established later this year.

In his letter, Recfishwest was pleased to see the Minister underline the Government’s position that herring should be reserved for recreation and human consumption.

Herring are WA’s most important recreational fishing species, providing fantastic fishing experiences for fishers of all ages.

Maximizing sustainable community benefits

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said: “We share West Aussies’ passion and care for herring highlighted by 4,000 recfishers who responded to our recent survey asking for feedback around the current bag limit.

“We are pleased to see the commitment to move this fishery under formal management in an effort to safeguard herring for the future.

“We are also pleased to see that at the forefront of this management will be a focus on the best fishing experiences possible.”

Minister Punch has said that ahead of the working group process being established later this year, both recreational and commercial fishing sectors can put forward proposals for interim management changes to be made in line with the fishery management objective of using the resource sustainably for recreational and human consumption purposes.

This is on condition that both sectors work together on such proposals collaboratively.

On this basis, commercial herring operator Albany Seafoods approached Recfishwest to seek support for an exemption from the current management arrangements to catch a limited amount of herring (70t) using the G-trap method on three beaches on the south coast during the 2022 autumn season.

Recfishwest’s starting position in considering any proposal from the commercial fishing sector to take an increase of catch in herring – is that any increase must allow for the biomass of herring to continue to grow.

We want high abundance of bigger fish to ensure recreational herring fishing is as enjoyable and productive as possible.

In looking at the proposal to potentially increase commercial catches by 70t, we took into consideration the latest scientific stock assessment undertaken by DPIRD.

This shows the current combined commercial and recreational catch of WA herring sits at at around 115t with the catch-MSY (Maximum Sustainable Yield) analysis within the stock assessment suggesting herring stocks could theoretically support an annual catch of between 700 – 1,060t.

Recfishwest is playing a lead role in developing a comprehensive forward-looking plan for the future of herring management.

Enjoyable and productive fishing

Given the current catch is around 20t – the proposed increase of up to 70t  is well within the sustainable limit.

On this basis Recfishwest had no objection to Albany Seafoods request to operate G-trap nets via an exemption – under the following conditions:

  • G-trap net fishing is limited to the three beaches nominated. Namely, Cheynes Beach, Trigalow Beach and Betty’s Beach;
  • The exemption expires on June 30, 2022;
  • Real-time catch reporting is undertaken to ensure catches are maintained within the exemption catch limit of 70t;
  • These operations are focussed on supply of herring for human consumption in line with the government position that has been in place since 2015;
  • A formal review taking place through the Ministerial working group process prior to any future G-net fishing taking place. The review should include:
    • Total catch by area.
    • A breakdown of resource use – i.e. proportion human consumption.
    • Assessment of resource use against the Government’s position.
  • An assurance from DPIRD that increased fishing to this level will not affect herring abundances to the extent of negatively impact recreational fishing experiences; and,
  • DPIRD guarantees the immediate progression to change the daily bag limit for herring should a request be made by Recfishwest within the interim period.

Dr Rowland commented: “We strongly support the Government’s position that herring should be prioritized for recreational fishing and human consumption. We believe the Albany Seafoods proposal is a fair one, it’s well within sustainable limits and will not significantly impact the experience of anglers who target herring on the south coast.

“That said, as the peak body for rec fishing, we think it only fair and right that conditions apply to this exemption to ensure it is properly managed by DPIRD, particularly given this fishery is well overdue to be placed under formal management.”

More than 4,000 fishers responded to our recent herring survey, letting us know how important herring were to them.