The Geraldton and Mid-West fishing community is relieved to hear that, following Recfishwest’s constructive discussions with the Fisheries Minister, the bag limit for popular large pelagic species like mackerel and tuna has been reinstated back to three fish around the Abrolhos Islands.
The initial revised daily bag limit down to one large pelagic fish around the Abrolhos was announced as part of the package of new west coast demersal fishing rule changes announced by the Minister in December last year.
The bag limit change had left many Mid-West fishers bewildered and disappointed, given there are no sustainability concerns around these fast-growing pelagic species which are highly abundant around the Abrolhos.
Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said, “The Minister has made a sensible decision to reinstate the original daily bag limit back to three large pelagic finfish.
“We are glad that the Minister listened to us and common sense has prevailed. Recfishwest is now looking forward to seeing fishers rightfully enjoy the full benefits of the pelagic sportfishing opportunities available throughout the Abrolhos Islands.
“Generations of fishers have travelled to the Islands for the fantastic sportfishing opportunities on offer, so this is great news. We are glad to see DPIRD has now clarified the reinstatement of the original three large pelagic fish bag limit on their website and in the online version of their fishing rules booklet.
“This change was also inconsistent with the overall push to develop greater sportfishing opportunities to support the recovery of demersal scalefish species along the west coast.”
With the latest revision, it also means charter operators and their customers can rightfully enjoy the full sportfishing opportunities on offer throughout the islands during the April-May period, which is one of the most popular times of the year for visitors to travel to the region and wet a line in the hopes of catching one of these hard-fighting pelagic species.
A spokesperson for the Minister’s Office told the Geraldton Guardian, “A bag limit of three large pelagic finfish has been reinstated following feedback provided by Recfishwest about how the reduced bag limit was impacting the recreational fishing experience at the Abrolhos Islands.”
“The reduction was originally introduced as part of a new wilderness fishing concept at the Abrolhos Islands and not due to sustainability concerns.”
From tomorrow (Wednesday 1 February) the west coast demersal fishery will be closed to recreational fishing until the end of March as part of new changes introduced by the Government in December (see below for more details about the rule changes).
Recfishwest called for this late summer closure as it coincides with part of the peak spawning period for dhufish and we are proud it is widely supported by our members and our Expert Working Group because we care passionately about the future of these fish.
However, we remain disappointed that the closure will not apply to all sectors with the commercial fishing industry able to continue to target spawning aggregations of dhufish during this period.
Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said, “If the Government truly cares about ensuring the sustainability of demersal fish between Augusta and Kalbarri, they need to explain why they do not support better protection for spawning dhufish.
“It’s yet another example of the fundamentally inequitable way this fishery has been managed for decades and it’s too important for old and embedded sectoral favouritism to continue to underpin management decisions.
“Fisheries management should ensure the greatest good is delivered to the greatest number from the sustainable catch of fish – that is simply not happening under the current regime with 64 per cent of the west coast demersal catch reserved for private profit.
“We need a fairer more equitable and sustainable approach, giving spawning dhufish more protection and fishing mums and dads more time out on the water to be able to optimise all the social, mental and well-being benefits fishing brings.”
Commercial licence buy-back scheme details must be thrashed out as soon as possible
Recfishwest will always support action to ensure sustainability but shutting out 700,000 West Aussies from being able to catch dhufish and pink snapper for six months of the year is an unnecessary overreach.
Part of the $10 million package put forward by the Fisheries Minister to support the west coast demersal changes included a yet-to-be specified amount to be allocated to a Voluntary Fisheries Adjustment Scheme (VFAS) to offer commercial operators fair and reasonable compensation to voluntarily exit the fishery.
“We need the Government to thrash out the details and progress the VFAS as quickly as possible,” said Dr Rowland. “There is a great opportunity here for the Government to put right an outdated and broken fisheries policy that places profit before the public good.
“We need a comprehensive and transparent buy-back scheme that can assure the community that every tax-payer’s dollar spent on it is delivering the best return through a sustainably and equitably managed system in line with the harvest strategy for this fishery.”
Changes to the west coast demersal rules – 1 February 2023
The free upgraded Recfishwest app contains all the fishing rules at your fingertips including outside of mobile range. You can download the app for free on the App and Google Play stores.
The new demersal rules will go live in the new app from Wednesday when they come into effect – in the meantime see below for the rule changes in full.
Annual demersal fishing closed seasons in the West Coast Bioregion:
– 1 February to 31 March (to 28 March in 2024 to accommodate Easter) (inclusive);
– 1 August to the beginning of the September/October school holidays (22 September 2023); and
– end of the September/October school holidays (9 October 2023) to 15 December (inclusive).
Note: this does not apply to land-based line fishers, charter fishers, or commercial fishers.
Bag limit of two WA dhufish within the mixed species bag limit of two demersal scalefish in the West Coast Bioregion.
Demersal scalefish boat limit of four (excludes charter boats).
Remove the WA dhufish boat limit.
Remove size limits for WA dhufish, baldchin groper and breaksea cod.
A maximum of one bait or lure attached to a line can be used when fishing for demersal scalefish in the West Coast Bioregion.
Extend the timing of the pink snapper spawning closure in Cockburn and Warnbro Sounds from 1 August to 31 January (inclusive).
Realign the baldchin groper spawning closure at the Abrolhos Islands from 1 October to 31 December (inclusive).
Abrolhos Islands: The Abrolhos Island Fish Habitat Protection Area is being managed as a Wilderness Fishing Area to allow visitors to experience unique marine-based activities, while appreciating a sense of remoteness, amenity and lifestyle.
The following changes to bag and possession limits provide for low take, low takeaway recreational fishing at the Abrolhos Islands while also contributing to the recovery of demersal scalefish stocks in the West Coast Bioregion;
bag limit of one demersal scalefish;
possession limit of:
– 5kg of fillets from any species, plus 5kg of fillets from large pelagic finfish (must have skin attached for identification purposes); OR
Recfishwest is encouraged by the latest news from the WA Premier, Colin Barnett, that the iconic Abrolhos Islands are set to become a National Park that will both promote tourism while protecting it’s unique wilderness values and great fishing experiences. It is important to note that the proposed changes only affect the terrestrial portion (land) of the island chain and fishing rules and regulations will remain unchanged.
Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland welcomed the announcement, suggesting management changes were needed to meet the challenges of increased public visitation to the islands in recent years.
“It is important that the Abrolhos Islands are actively managed to protect the things visiting fishers value most.”
“There’s always a fear that when management changes are made in highly valued areas, access to quality fishing is jeopardised by competing values. In this case, we are pleased to see the importance of fishing has been recognised by the Premier in the recent announcement.
We look forward to hearing more about this proposal and representing the WA fishing community in what would be a great move toward making an iconic WA location, a well-managed asset for the people of WA.
Recfishwest looks forward to being involved in the discussions that shape what the opportunity may look like.