UPDATE: Planned fishing rule changes around increased tourism in WA

As a result of Western Australians holidaying at home, a number of fishers in regional fishing communities have been asking Recfishwest for an update on the progress of any fishing rule changes to address concerns widely voiced last year about the potential impact on local fish populations.

In September last year, having been contacted by concerned community members, former Fisheries Minister Peter Tinley asked Recfishwest for advice about the appropriateness of the current State-wide possession limit.

In response, Recfishwest surveyed its members and talked to many key leaders in the regional fishing community to provide a series of recommendations to the former Minister.

A range of measures are needed to protect fish stocks, not just a change in possession limits.

Addressing widespread concerns in the regional fishing communities

Based on the substantial feedback Recfishwest received, including from 875 members who responded to the survey, the message was clear – protection of our fish stocks is best undertaken by implementing a range of measures rather than just changing the possession limit.

Based on this, Recfishwest provided advice to Minster Tinley in December, which can viewed here.

Read our advice to former Fisheries Minister Peter Tinley here

In January, the former Minister wrote to Recfishwest to say he was broadly supportive of a number of the recommendations made including the introduction of a ‘trip limit’ capping the amount of demersal fillets fishers can have in their 20kg possession limit at 10kg, so long as the rest of the fillets are made up of pelagic species with skin and scales on.

In in his letter to Recfishwest in January, Minister Tinley informed Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland that he had directed DPIRD fisheries managers to amend Fisheries regulations to enable the new rule changes to be introduced.

The letter said any rule changes would be reviewed after 12 months, but it was likely, due to the State Government’s legislative drafting timeframes and priorities, that the legislation would not be introduced until after the State election in March.

Spangos are a popular target species for holidaymakers in the State’s north. Picture: Western Angler

Rule changes planned ahead of the July school holidays

Recfishwest understands from DPIRD that it is intended to implement the new legislation and change in rules by the end of June in times for the July school holidays and DPIRD will undertake an extensive communication program to make sure all fishers are aware of the changes.

“We’ve been getting a lot of queries from people who responded to our survey and regionally-based fishers on what’s been happening,” Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said.

“We share their concerns and, while it has taken longer than we would have hoped – it is good that DPIRD have said new rules should be in place ahead of the tourist migration north that occurs in the winter school holidays when our Northern holiday hot spots can be very busy.

“We recognise backed-up boat ramps and fishers flocking to popular spots in regional centres presents concerns for local fishers on potential impacts on local fish populations.

Recfishwest shares concerns about increased tourism’s potential impact on local fish stocks. Picture: On Strike Charters

“This is why some temporary rule changes to give additional protection to vulnerable demersal species are appropriate until more data can be gathered and a better understanding gained of to what extent increased fishing activity impacts catch.

“We are pleased the former and current Fisheries Ministers Don Punch appear broadly supportive of many of the recommendations we made having consulted with our members and key leaders in the regional recfishing community.

“We understand DPIRD will be making an announcement in the next few days which will provide greater clarity on how, when and in what form the rest of our recommendations will be progressed as we know changes to possession limits will only be appropriate if applied as part of a wider package of actions as outlined in our recommendations.

“Recfishwest will of course provide more updates to our members and the fishing community as soon as we have them.”

Increases in traffic at boat ramps, such as at Denham in Shark Bay, has prompted concerns about the potential impact on fish stocks. Picture: DPIRD