Abalone fishers revving up to hit the reefs for opening day of newly expanded metro season

WA abalone fishers are gearing up to hit the metro reefs this Saturday to get stuck into a great fishery on Perth’s doorstep.

Abalone enthusiasts flock to abalone hotspots along the Perth coast once the season opens each year.

The metro season kicks off on Saturday morning with fishing permitted from 7am to 8am.

As we reported recently, a careful fisheries management plan for the prized fishery laid the foundations for recruitment levels of Roe’s abalone returning to levels prior to the marine heatwave in 2010/11.

As a result, WA abalone fishers will be enjoying the return of a fifth day of abalone fishing in the metro zone this summer.

A decision was made in 2015 to protect abalone stocks by reducing the bag limit from 20 to 15 and adding in a 20-tonne total allowable catch limit that effectively reduced the season from five to four days

And the key ingredient in the stocks’ recovery can be attributed to the abalone fishers themselves, said Recfishwest Business Development and Partnerships Manager Tim Grose.

“Abalone fishers value the abalone stocks in Perth’s backyard highly,” Tim said.

“As a result they care about the stocks and have stuck to the rules that have lead to the recovery of recruitment levels.

Recfishwest’s Tim Grose and Fisheries Minister Peter Tinley at today’s media event. Picture: Recfishwest

“Conditions are looking good for this Saturday and it’s going to be great to see thousands of ab fishers heading for the reefs to safely collect a feed of this sought-after shellfish.”

Tim attended a media event with Fisheries Minister Peter Tinley at Trigg this morning to highlight the importance of the fishery to the WA community.

He said Recfishwest would continue to work hard to improve access to abalone as the fishery continues to move in the right direction.

“We understand how much people love to collect abs – it’s a big part of summer in the city for them – and we’ll carry on doing our bit to make the experience an even richer one, as the stocks continue to recover,” he said.

Licensed abalone recfishers can catch abalone in the metro zone, from Guilderton to Busselton across five Saturdays, between 7am and 8am on the following days:

  • 12 December;
  • 9 January;
  • 23 January;
  • 6 February; and,
  • 20 February.
The metro abalone fishery, on Perth’s doorstep, is highly valued. Picture: Recfishwest

Great result for abalone fishers after metro management plan pays off

It’s always great to see a fishery management plan work – and thanks to careful management of the metro abalone fishery with the State’s 17,500-plus licensed abalone fishers sticking to the rules – WA abalone fishers can now enjoy an extra day of abalone fishing in the metro this season.

“You’ll always get the nay-sayers and doubters, but today’s announcement by Fisheries Minister Peter Tinley is proof-positive that in the five years since fishing days were reduced, metro abalone stocks have recovered sufficiently to allow for a fifth day of fishing to be restored,” Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said.

In the announcement this morning, Minister Tinley confirmed that licensed recfishers can now catch abalone from Guilderton to Busselton across five Saturdays between 7am and 8am on these days:

Recfishwest’s James Florisson is among abalone aficionados stoked about today’s news.

–    12 December.
–    9 January.
–    23 January.
–    6 February.
–    20 February.

Read Minister Tinley’s media statement here

From stock devastation to stock recovery 

“It’s a great result for ab aficionados across the metro, after a decision was made in 2015 to protect abalone stocks by reducing the bag limit from 20 to 15 and adding in a 20-tonne total allowable catch limit that effectively reduced the season from five to four days,” Dr Rowland said.

The fishing effort reduction came on the back of the marine heatwave in 2010/11 that had a devastating impact on metro abalone stocks.

Over the past few years, though, metro abalone stocks have been showing positive signs of recovery in the past few seasons.

Dr Rowland said data gathered by Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development scientists showed recruitment levels of Roe’s abalone in metro waters have now returned to pre-heatwave levels.

“Thankfully, this isn’t one of those occasions where we have to wait years to get an obvious change to fishing rules,” Dr Rowland said.

“We will continue to look at more ways to improve your access to abalone as the stocks continue to improve including returning the bag limit to 20.

“That said, things are definitely moving in the right direction for this great fishery on the doorstep of our capital city.”

The metro abalone fishery is a popular fishery on Perth’s doorstep for many, including Recfishwest’s Steph Watts.

Replacement abalone fishing hour scheduled

Abalone fishers in the West Coast Bioregion will be pleased to hear an extra fishing hour has been scheduled for the Saturday, 9 March to replace the hour cancelled on Saturday, 12 January.

Since the previous day was cancelled, Recfishwest have been working with the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development to ensure the additional hour was scheduled, given catch levels are within the sustainable target level.

Recfishwest are pleased to also receive the recommendation from Surf Life Saving WA for this weekend’s scheduled fishing hour to proceed as planned between 7am to 8am.

As always, Recfishwest remind fishers to check the weather before heading out, ensure they have the right equipment, take advice from Surf Life Saving and don’t take unnecessary risks.

To find out where you can fish, what equipment you’ll need and for live beach footage, click here.

 

South Coast Abalone Season Opening

Abalone, a delicacy for many fishers in WA, can now be caught in the South Coast region, extending from Busselton Jetty to the South Australian border, until 15th May 2019.

Pictured: Brownlip and Roe abalone

Greenlip abalone are the most common, with their Brownlip cousins being rarer but more sought after due to their size. The smaller Roe abalone is also available along the south coast.

Both Brownlip and Greenlip species are easily identifiable by their appearance with Roe being the smallest and often found in shallower waters, it’s normally quite easy to distinguish between them. All species are rated highly on the dinner plate, and are a delicacy in some countries, often eaten raw or cooked in various ways with different marinades.

Abalone make for a challenging fishing experience but for those looking for the reward, it’s worth the effort and the challenge certainly doesn’t deter the 17,500 fishers that will target abalone over the following months, with the West Coast Bioregion season opening occurring in December.

Where to find abalone

Green and brownip abalone in the Southern Zone can be found on granite or limestone surfaces, with rocks that protrude, slope or are generally cracked. They’re typically in waters deeper than 6 metres and love granite crevices.

You’ll find Roe’s abalone  within 2m of the waterline, favouring cracks and crevices on shallow limestone or bouldery granite reefs, as well as around broken rock on offshore islands. Be careful and safe when harvesting Roe’s abalone as their habitat exists in the ‘swell’ zone.


As always, safety is paramount when out fishing for the day. We work hard to ensure fishers return home safe by partnering with Surf Life Saving WA regarding abalone fishing. Read our tips below.

Safety tips when fishing for abalone

NEVER AB ALONE!!!!!

Study the waves before you get into the water and keep an eye on the swell while fishing – it is easy to be injured on reefs. If you are unsure whether conditions are too rough, don’t go in.

Be confident in your swimming ability before undertaking abalone fishing, as you have to swim to get abalone.

Carry your catch in a loose-weave net bag; this will allow water to pass through and not become a dragging weight.

Attach your measuring gauge to your wrist; don’t hang it around your neck.

Wear protective footwear and a wetsuit or light clothing that will not become too heavy when wet.

Know how far you can dive and be wary of the depth you are diving, as shallow water blackout can occur when freediving or holding your breath underwater.

Be shark smart, report all shark sightings directly to the Water Police on 9442 8600.

Rules and regulations regarding abalone fishing can be found here.

Not sure how to cook them? See our recommendation below. (Click to enlarge).

Fish and survive this abalone season

Recfishwest and Surf Life Saving WA (SLSWA) are urging people to remain mindful of the conditions and take personal responsibility for their actions through the abalone season which begins this Sunday, November 6.

The popular West Coast Zone Abalone season sees thousands of fishers take to the inshore reefs around the metropolitan coastline, during the one-hour fishing periods from 7am to 8am on the first Sunday of each month until March.

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said abalone wasone of the most sought-after shellfish, with more than 17,000 licence holders taking part in the fishery last year.

“We urge abalone fishers to exercise caution whilst fishing and to be aware of the weather conditions,” Dr Rowland said. “An early abalone fishing session is a great way to spend the morning with the family as long as it is carried out safely.’’

The abalone season is stretched out over several months and allows for plenty of opportunities for people to get out and fish for them.

“Quite simply, if the weather is unfavourable or you’re unsure of your ability in the water during rough conditions, don’t risk your life and go next month when the weather may be better,” Dr Rowland said.

A number of surf clubs, with the support of SLSWA, will be putting on additional services for Sunday’s season opening, including the Wesfarmers Jetski response teams, while the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter will cover key locations to watch over fishers.

Despite these extra services, SLSWA General Manger Chris Peck warns fishers not to be complacent.

“Since 2012 there have been three deaths while abalone fishing and in the past three years surf lifesaving services have had to perform 42 rescues of abalone fishers – an alarmingly high number for this one recreational activity,” Mr Peck said.

“Traditionally we will also see cases of hypothermia, or be required to perform resuscitations having retrieved fishers from the water where they may have been washed off the rocks.

“We urge fishers to consider their own lives, and the lives of those tasked to rescue them, before putting themselves and our volunteer lifesavers in dangerous situations for the sake of catching their quota of abalone.”

Recfishwest and SLSWA have offered these tips for all abalone fishers:

  • Check conditions before heading out check weather conditions, including wind conditions and swells. Visit www.beachsafe.org.au for up to date reports or download the free Beachsafe App;
  • Observe first, fish later – do not attempt to fish if you are unsure. Read the warnings and dangers on any safety signs;
  • Wear appropriate clothing or wetsuits – avoid heavy clothing, including tracksuits and work boots that become water logged and heavy;
  • Never fish alone – stay in a group and keep an eye out for your friends and other fishers;
  • Don’t panic – if in trouble stay calm and raise one arm and wave from side to side to attract attention; and,
  • A bag limit of 15 Roe’s abalone per person, per day in the West Coast Zone applies.

Hefty Penalties for Abalone Fishers

The hefty penalties for flouting fishing regulations were highlighted by a recent case involving illegal fishing for abalone in the South-West. WA boasts some of the best-managed fisheries in the world, but healthy fish stocks also rely on recreational fishers complying with bag, size and possession limits.

The vast majority of recreational fishers abide by the regulations in the interests of maintaining high-quality fisheries, but unfortunately not all do so.  Three Perth men were prosecuted in Busselton Court after being found in joint possession of 342 abalone, more than a third of which were undersize.

The three men were each fined $500 and also ordered to each pay a mandatory additional penalty of $8460 and to share court costs of $169.10.  Busselton Court heard the bag and possession limits for roe’s abalone in the Southern Zone were twenty per fisher per day and when Fisheries and Marine Officers inspected the trio’s catch, they found the men had 282 abalone in excess of the allowable number.

The men had been fishing for abalone at Bunker Bay and all pleaded guilty.
This prosecution was one of a number of offences detected through Operation Katla, conducted by Fisheries and Marine Officers since late last year to focus on abalone fishing in the Capes area.

The current fishing season for abalone in WA’s Southern Zone, from Busselton Jetty to the South Australian border, continues until 15 May.

Information on zones, rules and season times for abalone fishing in WA are outlined in the Recreational fishing for abalone guide, which is available online at www.fish.wa.gov.au.