What the demersal closure means for your fishing

There’s plenty of misconception in the fishing community around the management of our favourite demersal species in the West Coast Bioregion. The demersal fishing closure begins on 15 October and ends on 15 December so we thought it is worth answering some of the commonly asked questions around the current status of these highly sought-after species.

Dhufish are known to spawn at different times of the year.

How does the demersal closure protect spawning fish when many of them don’t spawn during this time?

It’s a common misconception that the demersal closure was implemented to protect demersal fish whilst they are spawning. This is not true. In fact, this closure was implemented to reduce the overall catch of demersal fish by reducing fishing effort during this period. This period represented an adequate balance between achieving biological outcomes whilst having only limited social impact.

Species such as pink snapper do spawn during this time; however, they are subject to additional spawning closures in Cockburn and Warnbro sounds.

Dhufish are known to spawn at different times of year in different locations, so a spawning closure for dhufish is not an effective tool for managing the take of this species.

While some believe the impact on fishers is high, it has been acknowledged that the demersal closure is playing its part in managing the catch of these important demersal species.

Recfishwest advocated raising the Dhufish boat limit last year. Why didn’t you advocate removing the demersal ban instead?

In a nutshell, there was room to catch more dhufish, but not more pink snapper, so the dhufish boat limit was the most obvious management arrangement to alter in order to provide increased amenity to fishers without impacting on the sustainability of any other species.

Research indicated that the catch of dhufish was below the target (50 per cent of what people were catching in 2005/06) set by Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) and Recfishwest believed that there was scope to increase the dhufish boat limit to take pressure off pink snapper and baldchin groper. Unfortunately, catches of pink snapper were right on the 50 per cent target, so any change to the demersal ban as a whole would have had an adverse effect on snapper catches.

For many fishers, pink snapper are a sought-after species!

Recfishwest is currently awaiting the next stock assessment for west coast demersal species, which will inform any management changes for these species going forward.

I’m catching lots of small dhufish and pink snapper, does this mean we will see a relaxation of rules in the near future?

High abundances of juvenile fish is always a great sign. In the case of pink snapper and dhufish, who live more than 40 years, any recovery of the fishery and therefore relaxation of rules must be underpinned by proper research.

Given the slow growth of these fish, it’s important that we see multiple years of good juvenile recruitment before any decision is made on management changes.

Right now, it’s important the recreational sector maintain their catches at current levels.

I see people catching and releasing dhufish, is this recommended practice?

No. Dhufish, as well as other demersal fish, suffer from barotrauma (pictured below). This is caused by the expansion of gasses inside the fish’s organs as it ascends through the water column during capture. You will see the signs of barotrauma such as organs protruding from the fish’s mouth, or the fish’s eyes appearing like they are ‘on stalks’.

Barotrauma significantly reduces the fish’s chance of survival once released, and although methods such as proper handling and the use of a release weight increases the survival rate, the best practice is to keep the dhufish you intend to take home then fish for other species or move to new ground. Continually fishing the same ground and releasing dhufish after dhufish is not recommended practice.

We all love the opening of the West Coast demersal season because it offers plenty of great fishing opportunities for the community.

Looking after our fish stocks is our number one priority, and everyone needs to play their role. With good reports of juvenile fish around and people understanding the importance of seasonal closures, there’s no reason why our demersal stocks can’t be great again in the coming years.

Dhufish, as well as other demersal fish, suffer from barotrauma.

Continue Reading

February 28, 2024

Salmon Slam is back for 2024!

Scanning waves off  epic southern beaches for large black patches, launching lures out the back of the surf and doing spectacular battle with tough-fighting fish – yep, it’s salmon time again! It’…

Read More

February 28, 2024

Keep up to date on South Coast Marine Parks with Recfishwest updates

We were on the South Coast last week talking to local fishers like Mitchell Waideman and hearing their concerns about the State Government’s South Coast Marine Parks proposals. Hear what Esperance Land Based…

Read More

February 27, 2024

Great monthly prizes up for grabs in 2024 for Recfishwest members!

As a thank you to our cast of thousands of Recfishwest free and premium members for their support, we’re giving away some cracking prizes every month courtesy of our partners Shimano!  Shimano has not only…

Read More

February 27, 2024

Tuna already tuned in to Recfishwest’s new exclusive members’ lure – the Fish Catcher 3000!

Recfishwest’s latest membership lure started its journey from inside the creative mind of a ten-year-old, then travelled to the Halco lure production team before finding itself inside a tuna’s mouth in…

Read More

February 27, 2024

Cherished South-West fishing platform reopened thanks to Shire of Dardanup’s heroics

A big Recfishwest shout out to the Shire of Dardanup for restoring a much-loved and popular jetty for the South-West community and recognising how important it is for the well-being of fishers.  Back in May of 2023…

Read More

February 22, 2024

Metro southern garfish ban lifted

In good news for metro anglers, the ban on southern garfish from Lancelin to Myalup is due to be lifted from Friday 1 March.   The ban was implemented in 2017 after an assessment by the Fisheries Department showed…

Read More