Shark Bay Snapper Research Helps Lift 20+ Year Old Recovery Strategy

Pink Snapper are a favourite Western Australian recreational fishing species, available to boat fishers, shore fishers and novice fishers alike.  Shark Bay in WA’s mid north-west is home to some awesome Pink Snapper fishing but this has not always been the case. Many fishers will have memories of the stock collapse in the 1990s when excessive fishing wiped out a large proportion of the Shark Bay Pink Snapper population. Strict regulations were put in place as part of a community awareness program to protect the remaining stocks. These regulations included a “tag-lottery” system whereby only fishers who received tags were permitted to fish for snapper.

The Pink Snapper Research Team

A group of passionate Snapper fishers became actively involved in the management of the fishery and in the early 2000’s a group of keen community members joined forces and committed their own time and resources into catching Pink Snapper in the name of science. These fish were used to conduct a thorough stock assessment on the Shark Bay Pink Snapper populations and help shape management at the time.

These active community members aided the Department of Fisheries in collecting size and weight data of the recovering population, as well as collecting Pink Snapper otoliths (ear bones) to help with age studies, through the examination of annual growth rings on the otoliths. This information painted a picture of strong recovery for Shark Bay Pink Snapper.

As of January 2016, the unpopular tag system in Freycinet Estuary was replaced with new management arrangements which allow a bag limit of 2 Pink Snapper per day with a possession limit of 5kg of filleted fish within the Freycinet Management Zone. These changes were well received by the community who now have the opportunity to fish for this iconic species whilst maintaining this area as a wilderness fishing destination that doesn’t allow the possession of large amounts of fish.

These important stock assessments continue and with the recent collaboration of Recfishwest, another successful sampling trip was undertaken by recreational fishers in October 2016. These community champions once again donated their time and resources to ensure there is sufficient data to manage the fish they love to catch.

Stories like these reiterate how proper fisheries management informed by fisheries research can be used to successfully restore a heavily impacted fishery to a healthy and sustainable state. Recfishwest continues to support fisheries research and promote the activities that improve the fishing experience for the community.

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