Below is the summary of the package of west coast demersal scalefish recommendations we made to the Government in July, 2022. The full set of recommendations can be found below the summary.
1. West Coast Demersal Scalefish Spawning Closure
Spawning closures have long been supported by recreational fishers in Western Australia. Within the WCDS suite of species, targeted spawning closures are used as a management tool for pink snapper in Cockburn and Warnbro Sounds and for baldchin groper at the Abrolhos Islands. Spawning closures also apply for pink snapper in the Gascoyne bioregion.
The EWG were provided an overview of survey results as part of their discussion, which included the following feedback on closures. Fishing closures were ranked number one as a primary management measure by survey respondents, with 42 per cent of respondents indicating that either bioregion‐wide closures, or targeted closures were their preferred primary management measure. When asked to provide the reason for their choice of preferred primary management measure, the most common response from these 42 per cent of respondents was the need to protect fish while they are most vulnerable and to ensure spawning success.
While the current effort closure period of 15th October – 15th December reduces mortality by reducing recreational fishing effort over the year, it does not align to the peak spawning period for dhufish.
The following points were considered by the EWG as part of their consideration of a spawning closure:
- Regardless of species or sustainability status, protecting demersal fish during their peak spawning period is the right thing to do, especially when aggregated fish are easier to catch.
- A closure during the peak period of dhufish spawning would also provide spawning protection for other demersal species;
- The misconception that the current effort closure from 15th October – 15th December is in place to protect spawning dhufish; and
- A closure of this kind is well understood and supported by the community
The EWG agreed shifting the current effort closure to align with peak dhufish spawning would provide the added benefit of avoiding impacts on dhufish spawning behaviour and thus maximizing reproductive output. For a spawning closures to achieve the highest level of community support and deliver the greatest benefit to dhufish sustainability, the EWG noted that it should be applied across all sectors. This advice is based on the survey results which indicate that this outcome is likely to be palatable and supported by the community. The WCDS EWG came to a consensus that it supported a bioregion‐wide spawning closure from 20th January – 20th March for the inshore suit of demersal scalefish.