Carnarvon fishers finally get their say on snapper conservation

Fast facts:

  • Carnarvon fishers have shown an overwhelming willingness to be part of the solution;
  • Recfishwest will continue to work to ensure the government clearly understand the views of Gascoyne fishers;
  • Community urged to have their say here.

Recfishwest welcomes today’s announcement from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) who are currently seeking comments on a proposal to introduce a spawning closure for pinkies in an area around the northern end of Bernier Island, offshore from Carnarvon.

A pink Snapper spawning aggregation in Cockburn Sound during their spawning closure. 

The proposed closure addresses concerns over the sustainability of the oceanic pink snapper in the Gascoyne region and the fishing community are now strongly urged to have their say!

Pink snapper are the lifeblood of recreational fishing in the Gascoyne. These highly prized fish provide fantastic opportunity for both local and visiting fishers to tussle with a hard fighting, yet accessible sportfish that is also rated highly on the plate.

A recent stock assessment completed by DPIRD indicating a risk to snapper sustainability has been met with concern by both Recfishwest and the Carnarvon fishing community.

Recfishwest believes it is important to protect this Pink Snapper breeding stock. We are pleased to see this proposal does not impact on fishing for other species, such as coral trout and red emperor.

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland has indicated that closures to protect spawning pink snapper have worked well in both Cockburn Sound and the inner gulfs of Shark Bay and has commended the local Carnarvon community for their input on this issue so far.

“We’ve never understood why spawning closures haven’t been implemented for the Carnarvon fishery when they have been so effective in Cockburn Sound and Shark Bay for decades,” he said.

“The current proposal takes on board feedback provided by community members through a working group process and it’s now time for the broader community to have their say.

“The people of Carnarvon love fishing and genuinely care about healthy fisheries. Local fishers have shown an overwhelming willingness to be part of the solution for recovering the pink snapper fishery.

“Recfishwest will continue to work to ensure the government clearly understand the views of locals and visitors who enjoy fishing in the Gascoyne.”

Fish Trap Trial Ruled Out

Recfishwest welcomed news that a recent proposal to trial fish traps in the Gascoyne region has been ruled out by former Fisheries Minister, Ken Baston.
Under the plan, which upset many in the Carnarvon community culminating in around 400 people showing up for a public meeting on the issue, commercial trap fishing was to be reintroduced into local waters for an extended trial period.

The proponents of the plan cited increasing problems with losing their catch to sharks for the change and the Department of Fisheries appeared to initially support the proposal, but the reaction from Carnarvon locals demonstrated the change did not have the community support needed to proceed. Recfishwest received hundreds of comments against the proposal from community members.

The comments listed a number of areas of concern with the trial, including localised stocks depletions around popular fishing spots. There were also concerns about the post-release survival of undersize fish when caught by traps.

While acknowledging that the fishery was quota managed and there were no stock sustainability issues involved, the Minister Baston made special note of some specific concerns all of which were contained in Recfishwest’s submission. These concerns include the potential for a change in commercial catch composition to include a greater percentage of recreationally important non-pink snapper species, the potential for trap fishing to occur in areas of high importance to the recreational fishing sector, the lack of available independent data regarding the extent of shark predation of recreational and commercial catches and the lack of a formal harvest strategy for the Gascoyne Demersal Scalefish Fishery.

The Minister Baston subsequently announced the appointment of an independent mediator to work with the commercial and recreational fishing sectors on a developing a contemporary harvest strategy for scalefish off the Gascoyne coast. He appointed Mr Bardy McFarlane, a lawyer and former native title mediator with a background in the South Australian fishing industry, to conduct the mediation process. “It is important there is room for considered discussion between recreational and commercial fishing interests on matters such as this, as they have to co-exist in all parts of the State,” he said. If a suitable outcome cannot be achieved, an independent panel may be needed to provide advice to Government on a way forward.