Results from Recfishwest’s west coast demersal scalefish survey

The results are in and have now been crunched and analysed!

We had a fantastic response to our future of west coast demersal scalefish survey with 5,961 of you responding – making it the biggest response to a single–issue fishing survey in WA history!

Below we publish the results from the survey. As we said at the beginning of the consultation process we will continue to work through your feedback provided through the survey with our West Coast Demersal Expert Working Group to help develop our advice on preferred management options to DPRD.

In turn this advice will help inform the development of management options DPIRD will take to formal public consultation in July – when you will have a further opportunity to provide your input.

A massive Recfishwest thank you to all of you who took part in the survey – your feedback is proving instrumental in determining which direction we recommend the Government go in for the future management of the fishery. We have considered every idea and opinion you have provided us and we will ensure we are clear in communicating with you what final recommendations we make to DPIRD and why.

Overview

The survey was open from 4 April 2022 and closed at midnight on Friday 29 April 2022.

Responses = 5,961

The average time to complete was 9.42 minutes.

Robbie Riches and his son Harvey with a great pink snapper from the beach!

Your views and ideas on how west coast demersal scalefish should be managed in the future

We have had a phenomenal response from you to the question ‘Please tell us your ideas and/or views around changes to how west coast demersal scalefish should be managed in the future.’

This was an open question giving all who responded to the survey the opportunity to express their ideas and views on the future management of the fishery.

The range of ideas and the thought that had clearly gone into many of your responses again reflects how much you care about these species, but also the collective level of knowledge and experience there is out there in the WA fishing community around this fishery.

Your responses will help guide our work with the Expert Working Group in developing specific recommendations to make to Government on what we believe to be the best management approaches for west coast demersal scalefish going forward.

We broke your responses down into six broad themes – we have listed them below and then have broken it down further trying to capture every variation you recommended to us under these themes.

ThemeYour suggestions
Limits• Reduce bag limits
• Keep bag limits the same
• Remove dhufish boat limit
• Remove size limits
• Increase size limits
• Individual catch and effort limits
• Slot limit (max and min size)
• Yearly limits on catch
• Zone limits within the West Coast Bioregion
• Limits on the number of available fishing licenses
Commercial and charter restrictions• Stop the use of nets
• Re-allocate/buy-out commercial licenses
• Closures to apply to all sectors
• Reduce/buy-out charter operators
Closures• Targeted spawning closures
• Extension of the current bioregion wide closure
• Spatial closures in specific areas/zones
• Rolling spatial closures in important habitat areas
• Depth closures
Tags• Each licensed fisher to receive a set number of tags
• Use of different tags for different demersal species
• Non-transferable tags
• Fee for demersal tags (e.g., $5-10 each)
• Tag lottery
Fish stocking • More stocking programs
• Money from licenses to go towards stocking programs
• Research and funding towards a dhufish stocking program
• Increase & broadening of stocking programs to more areas
Research and enforcement • Increased fisheries officers and boat ramp checks
• Increase investments into fisheries research
• Concern for the lack of policing on recreational fishers
• Harsher penalties/fines for breaking the law
• Support for continued consultation on fisheries related issues
• Better catch reporting

Of all the ideas presented by you through the survey, the most frequently expressed suggestions included  introducing’ commercial and charter restrictions’  followed by closures of various kinds and lengths  and  changing bag limits by various degrees – see the graph below.

Ranking primary management measures

Respondents were asked to rank six primary management measures likely to be considered either individually or in combination. These options were identified as potentially delivering the bulk of fishing mortality decreases required to meet the stock sustainability target.

See this table for more information on these primary management measures.

Of these options targeted closures was the one most preferred with extended bioregion-wide closures the next preferred option. However, there was not a great deal in it with no read stand-outs and support for all measures ranging from 9-23%

The pie chart below shows your preferred primary management measures in responding to the survey.

The tables below show some of the reasons you commonly provided for your favoured choice of primary management measures.

Management preference Three common explanations 
Targeted closures - localised closures that could target spawning seasons for specific species in local areas or target areas where there are greater sustainability concerns for specific species e.g. dhufish and snapper in the Mid-West.It is important to target during the spawning season to have a higher impact of closures, as current closures are not productive enough.Protection when the fish are most vulnerable creates a more productive spawning period, replenishing stocks sustainably.It is important that the closures would include the commercial fishery as they are taking the largest amount of demersal fish.
Bioregion wide closure(s) - either extending the existing bioregion closure or introducing an additional one earlier in the year.Closure extension for 1-2 more months is supported as fishers notice demersal are still breeding during beginning of the season.This option is supported as it has the least impact on current practises and fishers while delivering the needed results.Fishers believe this is the most sensible, flexible and sustainable option to manage the fishery.
Tags - a scenario might include west coast demersal scalefish fishers register for and are given a set amount of tags that need to be attached to captured west coast demersal scalefish limiting the amount of fish that can be caught in a year.Tags are sufficient to ensure fishers can continue as usual while limiting the overall impact on the fishery.This option is desirable as it ensures that fishers who have invested a lot of money in boats and gear can still fish in a controlled way.Tags will be able to handle the issue of people who overfish and fill freezers.
Adjustable open seasons - the open season is closed when a specified fishing mortality range is reached.Fishers believe this is the best option for conservation and sustainability that addresses areas which have different issues.Allows for versatility overall, allowing fishing where appropriate and is a sensible and rational approach.This option would help to maintain a healthy variety of species.
A yearly limit of the number of fishing days for each licence holder to constrain the fishing effort in the fishery to limit total fishing mortality.This option would allow a more accurate estimate of stocks being taken by each sector to further research into the issue.Limits of fishing days could stop those who overfish and take more than their fair share.Fair access to the resource for all fishers while allowing a sustainable balance of fishing.
Complete closure of the fishery - the fishery is completely closed until sustainability targets are met.Complete closure is supported yet must include commercial fishery to recover the stocks properly.The fastest and most sustainable way to ensure recovery of the fishery.Closure is the most likely option to work as it is simple, easy to ensure and will have results.
The social value in being able to catch fish like this cracking baldchin groper is simply priceless – we need to ensure fishing experiences like this can be enjoyed in the coming years and decades and by future generations. Credit: 2 Oceans Tackle

Ranking supporting management measures

Your most preferred supporting management measures were more demersal fishing stocking (17 per cent) with better understanding and managing shark depredation (14 per cent) and increased monitoring and research (14 per cent) coming jointly second.

See this table for more information on supporting management measures

The least favoured supporting management measure was gear restrictions on 9 per cent.

Why you value west coast demersal scalefish

In response to the open question ‘In one or two sentences, tell us why west coast demersal scalefish are important to you?’ – the majority of the reasons you provided us (88 per cent of respondents) fell under two broad main categories – recreation/social reasons and as a valuable food source.

Within those two categories of responses ‘passion and joy for fishing’ (26.6 per cent) and ‘spending time with family’ (24.1) per cent were the main reasons for why respondents valued fishing for west coast demersals as being so important to them. The diagrams below outline all the other reasons you gave as to why fishing for these species is so important to you under these two main categories.

Age of respondents and where you’re from

Most Respondents were between 36 and 55 years old (42 per cent), but there was a spread of ages – showing this fishery is important across the community.

Most respondents live in the Perth Region (54 per cent), but other regions in the West Coast Bioregion were well represented by those of you who responded including the South West (21 per cent), Peel (8.8 per cent) and Mid-West (8.1 per cent). The responses from outside of the West Coast Bioregion suggests that some in the fishing community see what happens in this fishery as having an impact on them or that they just care about fishery management across the State.