Using release weights to protect demersals

UPDATE: As of 1 July, 2021, all boats across WA line fishing for demersal species must carry a release weight.

To give undersized or unwanted demersal fish experiencing barotrauma the best chance of survival a release weight should be used.

Having a release weight on board if fishing for demersals is compulsory under Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development fisheries rules, but using one to release undersized or unwanted fish is good stewardship of our fish stocks and will help the rate of recovery for the west coast fishery and help protect others.

Release weights are a simple, yet effective tool to release demersal fish.

Step-by-step guide to using a release weight:

  1. Gently remove the hook, which caught the fish, from its mouth;
  2. Insert the release weight’s barbless hook through the fish’s lip;
  3. With the line attached to the release weight, gently place the fish in the water and release the line, allowing the device to drag the fish towards the seabed;
  4. Once the fish is back at the depth it was caught, lightly tug the line to detach the release weight from the fish; and,
  5. Avoid any sudden jerks while the fish is descending, because it could dislodge the weight from the fish before it has safely reached the bottom.

Release weights – your questions answered

Q: Why should recfishers use a release weight?

A: With species such as dhufish, breaksea cod and red emperor susceptible to barotrauma, it is important recfishers do what is needed to enhance a demersal species’ survival post-release.

Release weights are easy-to-use and effective when returning a fish experiencing barotrauma back to the seabed.

Q: Have release weights’ effectiveness been tested?

A: Yes. A tagging study, led by the former Department of Fisheries, tested the successful release rates of demersal reef fish released by simple, vented and the release weight methods.

It found a release weight was the best method to release demersal species, after most of the recaptured fish that were tagged during the research had initially been released with the device.

Click here to read the “Maximising survival of released undersize west coast reef fish” study!

Q: Are boat fishers required to have a release weight?

A: According to WA fishing regulations, it is compulsory to possess a release weight when fishing for demersal fish, including dhufish, in WA.

Check out our release weight guide here!

Release weights help boost the post-release survival rate of demersals, including dhufish.

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