Reference Groups Worth Their Weight in Crays

At the very core of Recfishwest’s business is talking to our community and providing well considered advice to decision makers on a range of issues that affect recreational fishing. We believe good public policy comes from engaging a wide range of people, and we do this in a number of ways depending on the issue. Sometimes it’s through face to face engagement, other times through online polls and surveys or visiting regional communities during their major fishing events.

In the case of cray fishing, in which participation rates are currently about 55,000, we have a dedicated reference group composed of passionate and devoted fishers who are interested in contributing to the management of cray fishing in WA.

The Rock Lobster Reference Group met recently to discuss matters including:

  • Reviewing the recreational catch and allocation
  • Opportunities for charter fishing to increase local availability of crayfish
  • Possession of cray tails outside of the permanent place of residence
  • The need to tail clip tropical crayfish
  • Recreational catch estimate methodology
  • Rock lobster harvest strategy review

The group’s advice on these matters is considered by the Recfishwest Board and used to guide our organisations views.

You can read more about the Rock Lobster Reference Group members here.

Positions on all of Recfishwest’s Reference Groups are voluntary, and these members should be recognised and congratulated for giving their time to make your fishing experience better.

”I would like to take this opportunity to provide my personal thanks and understanding that much of what makes my own cray fishing experience so great was borne out of this group,” says Recfishwest CEO, Dr Andrew Rowland.

”In particular I would like to thank the groups outgoing Chairman, Recfishwest life member Norm Halse whose expertise in crayfishing and natural resource management has been vital to the success of this group.”

Top banner image: Rock Lobster Reference Group members left to right; Brian Snook, Ross George, Norm Halse (Chair), Brody Laroux, John Baas, Rob Hoefhamer and Recfishwest Operations Manager Leyland Campbell.

Crayfish Industry Growth Plan Must Protect Inshore Reefs

Media Release: Recfishwest

  • WA has the best recreational crayfish fishery in the world and Recfishwest will fight to protect it.
  • Concerns over impact on recreational lobster catch and participation
  • Nearshore crayfish abundance is critical to supporting quality fishing
  • Recfishwest will never support any proposals that adversely impact on our fishing experiences

Recfishwest believes that all WA fish stocks must be managed to provide optimal benefits to the WA community.

In December, the Minister for Fisheries announced a plan to grow the rock lobster industry by increasing the quota available to the commercial sector by 1700 tonnes.

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said Recfishwest has significant concerns about the plan which is currently open for consultation.

“Recfishwest will never support anything that adversely impacts on recreational fishing experiences.” Dr Rowland said

He said high numbers of crayfish close to shore in the last few years thanks to conservative management has significantly increased the catchability for recreational fishers, which has led to record high participation rates.

“In recent years fishing experiences for recreational fishers had been boosted and participation has grown to almost 60,000 licence holders thanks to high abundances of crayfish on inshore reefs,” Dr Rowland said.

“We are keen to understand how these inshore reef areas will be protected under any proposal to grow the Western Rock Lobster Industry”

“The last thing we want to see is increased exploitation of these reefs by ramping up commercial catch by 1700t. That’s over three times the annual recreational catch!”

“There is much more to fisheries management than simply the sustainable exploitation of a resource for economic gain, it’s also about managing the stock to ensure high abundance in the right areas.”

“We are seeking more details on the Plan to ensure any management changes do not impact on potters and divers who enjoy catching crayfish along our coast”

“We look forward to further engagement with the Government that results in a plan that recognises the benefits of all stakeholders in this fishery” Dr Rowland said.

Read our submission below.

Recfishwest Submission on the McGowan Governments Rock Lobster Industry Growth Plan

To read the Governments Rock Lobster Industry Growth Plan, click here.

Listen to Dr Andrew Rowland’s discussion on the issue on 6PR radio below.

Jane Marwick from Geraldton’s 6PR radio breaks it down even further during a discussion with Recfishwest’s Dr Andrew Rowland and Shane Van Styn, Mayor of Geraldton

 

Moves Afoot to Change the Way WA Crayfish are Managed

Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly recently made an announcement about changes to the way crayfish stocks are to be managed in WA.

Below is a media statement released by Recfishwest on the 11th of December, as well as updated information published on the 19th of December? Please be sure to read information from across the timeline to ensure you are kept up to date on the issue.

Update: 19th December 2018:

Whilst the Ministers announcement relates to the commercial quota available for harvest, Recfishwest will continue to monitor the situation to ensure that recreational fishing experiences are not impacted by a reduction in nearshore abundances of crays.

Updates from the Western Rock Lobster Council can be found here.

 

 

MEDIA STATEMENT – December 10 2018.

Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly made an announcement on Saturday about changes to the way crayfish stocks are to be managed in WA.

In a statement, the Minister said the Government and the industry’s peak body, Western Rock Lobster (Council), have agreed on the broad terms of a development package that will “grow the industry to provide more benefits to the Western Australian community”.

The Minister said the Government is looking to change current management to provide the state with the best return from the community owned Western Rock Lobster resource.  In doing so, the Government is considering a plan to increase the annual catch of crayfish by 1,700 tonnes over the next five years to improve revenue to the State Government and increase local lobster supplies.

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said high numbers of crayfish close to shore in the last few years have significantly increased the catchability for recreational fishers which has lead to record high participation rates.

“In recent years fishing experiences for recreational fishers had been boosted and participation has grown to almost 60,000 licence holders thanks to high abundances of crayfish on inshore reefs,” Dr Rowland said.

While details of any future management changes are yet to be decided, Dr Rowland believes that any new arrangements must ensure people have the best chance to catch crays whenever they go fishing.

“Increasing commercial exploitation of inshore stocks at popular fishing areas must be avoided to protect the current high-quality fishing the community is experiencing.”

“Recfishwest believes this inshore portion of the stock must be carefully managed and protected so WA locals who enjoy fishing with the friends and family can continue to enjoy good catches.”

“There is much more to fisheries management than simply the sustainable exploitation of a resource for economic gain, it’s also about managing the stock to ensure high abundance in the right areas.”

“Good management needs to protect rec fishing opportunities so the WA public can continue to enjoy catching their own fresh seafood,” he said.

Despite the recreational fishing sector not being included in any discussions to date regarding future plans, the Minister has assured Recfishwest that a process will be put in place so the views of the recreational fishers can be considered.

“While the current situation creates more questions than answers, Recfishwest will now be involved in discussions going forward, and will continue to provide the rec fishing community with updates.” Dr Rowland said.

ENDS

Media Contact: Matt Gillett, 9246 3366 or matt@recfishwest.org.au

Fact File:

  • Close to 60,000 recreational rock lobster licence are issued in WA each year
  • Every year the government receives approximately $2 million from recreational Rock Lobster licence fees
  • The recreational fishing sector is allocated 5% of the state’s Rock Lobster resource.
  • The Minister has confirmed there will be no changes to recreational fishing rules as part of this most recent announcement.
  • More information on this issue can be found on the links below:
    • To read the Ministers 8 December media statement click Here
    • To read the Western Rock Lobster Councils media statement click Here
    • To read WAFIC’s media statement click Here

 

 

Unlocking Rock Lobster Value

The Minister for Fisheries recently announced that new plans are in the pipeline for the management of the state’s Western Rock Lobster Fishery aimed at returning more benefits to the WA community.  Many recreational  fishers have asked what this will mean for their fishing experience.

While the details are yet to be determined, the Minister has stated the plans will explore growing the value of rock lobster and improving the future economic contribution of this resource.

While the Ministers media release stated “These discussions will not impact upon arrangements for recreational lobster fishing” Recfishwest need to be a part of these discussions to ensure any plans to unlock additional value from this fishery do not adversely impact on recreational fishing experiences.

Value from a fishery comes in many forms, but the well understood values include economic, social and cultural values.

For the recreational sector, cray fishing in WA has never been better. Cray stocks are growing and more recreational fishers are participating than ever before with over 55,000 Western Australians holding a license to catch crays last year.  It is huge part of our WA lifestyle with thousands of families sharing the experiences of catching and enjoying this amazing seafood each year.

Regardless of how well the fishery is currently being managed things can always be done better and Recfishwest welcomes the Ministers announcement  to return more benefits to the WA community from our crayfish.

Recfishwest look forward to being a part of the Ministers discussions.  We will be working to ensure:

  • The current high-quality fishing experiences remain
  • The value to WA from recreational cray fishing is well understood
  • Social and cultural value is considered alongside economic value
  • The views of the 55,000 community members who enjoy this public resource are factored into any future decisions

Recfishwest and the recreational fishing community in WA care deeply about our precious rock lobster stocks.

Stay tuned, we will keep you up to date with any news in this space.

You can read the Ministers media release here:  https://www.mediastatements.wa.gov.au/Pages/McGowan/2018/11/Plans-to-grow-WA-lobster-industry-to-create-jobs-and-boost-local-lobster-supply.aspx

 

 

Things are about to get CRAY-ZY! *Video explaining new rules*

Cray pots are being dusted off from the shed, ropes are being prepared, the freezers  are stocked with bait and safety equipment is being updated, as the warmer weather brings with it what’s known as the annual ‘whites run’.

Cray fishers are well prepared this year, with knowledge in their back pocket of the season to come with healthy stocks of crayfish announced earlier in the year resulting in the opening of a 12 month season and updated rules that are simplified and practical, ensuring people’s fishing experiences are maximised.

What is the white’s run?

Late November is when it all kicks off with crays making their annual migration to offshore waters, providing excellent fishing in nearshore waters. Once it cranks up, the fishing will be superb, with many boats traditionally reporting catching their boat limit most days during this migration period and good catches usually continue until about Christmas time.

You can see the difference between the red cray (early and late season) flanked by two whites, which run from about November to January (same species, different stages of migration).

Why are they called ‘white’ crays?

A ‘white’ cray is a colloquial term applied to crays that are freshly moulted and have a soft, pale shell. This is in comparison to pre-moulted crays which have a hard, red shell. The crays are exactly the same but are at different stages of their life cycle.

How do I go about catching them?

The white’s run is when potters do best. Diving catches tend to be more consistent than potting catches across the summer, but the period from late November to Christmas is when dropping pots come into its own.

As crays are on the move from under their usual nearshore reef ledges, they will seek food and shelter along their migration path. A cray pot provides both of these needs. Pots should be set on the sand on the western side of natural habitats such as reef or weed. Keep dropping pots further out to sea as the migration continues, and check your pots every day during this period.

Crays can travel many kilometres a day so don’t be afraid to spread your pots out to get an idea of where good numbers of crays are each day. Crays love fresh bait, so don’t let your bait get rotten in the basket, change it every few days at the very least.

Perhaps the most important aspect to remember when dropping pots is to make them heavy. Any movement on the bottom will result in no crays the next morning, so make sure you use plenty of weight.

Diving is the other main way of catching crayfish. Most divers search under rock ledges to find the crays and then either use a cray snare or a gloved hand to grab their quarry.

If you’re diving for crays, check out our separate article here.

Read our top tips for potting for crayfish which includes what bait to use and other handy tips to help you catch more crays this year.

Top Tips for Potting for Crayfish

How do I rig my pots to ensure they comply with the new rules?

Recreational lobster pots will now have to be rigged in a similar fashion to commercial pots to mitigate the potential risk of interaction with migrating whales.

Any pot using more than 20m of rope will be required to hold the top half of the rope vertically in the water column.  This can be achieved by using sinking rope on the top half of the pot rope, or by simply attaching a weight such as a fishing sinker half way down the rope.  Additionally, a maximum of two floats will apply on recreational pots.

 

Check out our video here:

Or view the diagram as part of the Recreational Rock Lobster Fishing Rules Brochure.

 

Recfishwest and Western Rock Lobster team up to keep lobster fishers safe

A new safety initiative to keep thousands of Western Australian lobster fishers safe will be rolled out along the West Coast in the coming weeks.

In recent years, deck hands have been injured after being struck by fishing gear snagged on lobster pot lines as pots are hauled to the surface on a high-speed winch.

To combat the dangers of snagged fishing gear, Recfishwest and Western Rock Lobster have launched the Snag It Tag It safety initiative and are distributing caution tags to recreational fishers.

Recfishwest Chief Executive Officer Dr Andrew Rowland said the Snag It Tag It project is an important safety initiative.

“Rec fishers share the water with many other users and it’s important we all work together to ensure everyone returns home safe after a day’s fishing,” Dr Rowland said.

The Snag It Tag It initiative arms recreational fishers with waterproof caution tags to tie to ropes and floats if they accidently snag fishing gear on a lobster line or pot. This will mean deckhands on commercial fishing vessels face less risk of injury when pulling in pots at high speed.

Autumn is a popular season for recreational fishers to head out and fish for iconic WA species such as Dhufish, Baldchin Groper and Pink Snapper.

Recfishwest, the Australian Anglers Association (WA Division) and Western Rock Lobster have printed 4000 Snag It Tag It caution tags which have been distributed to local tackle outlets along Western Australia’s coastline.

Western Rock Lobster Chief Executive Officer Matt Taylor said the partnership with Recfishwest to deliver the caution tags to WA fishers was important to the lobster industry.

“This is a great opportunity for recreational and commercial fishers to work together to keep each other safe,” Mr Taylor said.

“We will be raising awareness and educating commercial fishers to be on the lookout for the caution tags, so they can operate winches with extra care and at a safe speed.”

“Our busy waters can be dangerous; these tags will be an important safeguard for commercial and recreational fishers alike.”

Western Rock Lobster and Recfishwest believe everyone should return home safe after a days fishing.

Snag and Tag

Incredible injuries can occur from fishing hooks and sinkers! To combat the dangers of snagged fishing gear Recfishwest and Western Rock Lobster have launched the Snag it Tag it initiative

Posted by Today Tonight on Tuesday, 15 May 2018

 

 

2017 Cray Crystal Ball

Imagine a world in which you could predict the future. You might place a bet on the winner of a future AFL premiership, or know exactly which day to go fishing next month. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Image: Puerulus Collector Credit: Matt Watson, Image source: scoopdigital.com.au

Unfortunately, we can’t predict AFL premiers using any science, but for one of WA’s most loved fishing targets, the Western Rock Lobster (or ‘crays’), decades of data has shown that science can predict abundances of crays up to four years in advance! And if that’s not exciting enough, the 2017/18 is predicted to be one of the best years in over a decade!

During Spring and Summer, each year cray larvae known as ‘puerulus’ are pushed inshore by wind and currents where they settle on nearshore reefs.

Research shows that these crays take four years to reach the legal length of 76mm. Fisheries researchers assess the abundance of puerulus across the new moon period each month by monitoring purpose built puerulus collectors at four locations along the West Coast and Abrolhos Islands.

A cray puerulus collector (pictured right), what looks like bottlebrushes or a mop is actually artificial seagrass. Late larval phase crays use the collectors for habitat and provide long-term population/breeding stock information for fishers and fisheries managers.

High settlement has always shown a strong correlation with catches of crays three and four years later and the 2013 settlement numbers (Figure 1 below) were some of the highest in recent times; in fact the highest since the early 2000’s.

 

Figure 1 Western Rock Lobster Puerulus Settlement (Juvenile Lobster Count) – Showing the 2017/18 season should be cracker due to a high Juvenile Count back in 2013 Source: Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development

What Does This All Mean for My Fishing?

Added to this excellent rate of juvenile settlement, is the fact that numbers of adult crays are also at an extremely high level, due mainly to neither the commercial or recreational fishing sectors catching their annual allocation in recent times – meaning more crays are being left in the water each year!

Reports from divers indicate that crays are already stacked up in fantastic numbers in nearshore reef platforms along the coast. These high abundances will make for excellent fishing experiences over this Summer.

If you are thinking of trying for crays for the first time, there has never been a better opportunity. There’s plenty of information available on our other website www.ilovefishing.com.au 

Image source: Bluewater Freedivers of WA

Divers should do well as soon as the season opens, but the potters will have to be patient as the traditional ‘whites’ run won’t kick off until late November. Once it cranks up though, the fishing will be superb, with many boats traditionally reporting catching their boat limit most days during this migration period.

Recent clarification of diving rules will make for a much more enjoyable fishing experience.  To see what’s changed, click here.

Good luck chasing crays this season, we would love to hear how you go and see a few pics and videos, so feel free to email us on recfish@recfishwest.org.au or jump on our Facebook page and join the discussion.

Stay tuned for our November Broad Cast edition where we’ll take a closer look at the ‘Whites Run’ plus give you some handy tips and tricks on the best way to cook your crays plus much more!

Cray Diving Rules Set To Be Clarified

In July’s edition of Recfishwest’s Broadcast newsletter, we stated our firm belief that people diving for crays must be afforded the same opportunity as those who use pots and be given 5 minutes to sort their catch once safely aboard their boat. Recfishwest wrote to the Minister of Fisheries who subsequently requested Fisheries liaise with Recfishwest to ‘review fishing arrangements prior to the season commencement.’

Recfishwest is continuing to work with Fisheries in an effort to provide fishers with a clear set of rules that allows for the practicalities of diving and address our concerns. All fishers deserve rules that are clear, simple and fair.

Recfishwest’s position has not changed:

“While divers should make all attempts to measure and count lobsters as accurately as possible in the water, common sense allowances must be made given the often challenging conditions associated with diving in WA.

Once aboard the safety of the boat it is only fair and reasonable that divers are provided a 5 minute opportunity to make a secondary check for protected lobster (e.g. undersize, tar spot, setose) or lobsters in excess of the bag limit, and return to the water any lobster that may have inadvertently been caught.” Recfishwest CEO Dr. Andrew Rowland. 

Why does it matter?

The current (recently amended) interpretation of rules for divers are unclear and do not support the best possible safety outcomes or provide for the best possible fishing experiences.

It is important fishing rules balance the need for safe, quality fishing experiences with the appropriate level of compliance and education to support long-term sustainability. Given there are zero sustainability concerns in regards to crays the rules need to focus on optimising fishing experiences and diver safety.

The current interpretation of the rules and the lack of clarity around a 5 minute period places unnecessary pressure to check catches underwater and to spend more time in the water than is otherwise necessary. In the case of free divers this increased time underwater greatly increases the risk of shallow water blackout.

It is also important rules are interpreted in a way that reflects community expectations about how publicly owned aquatic resources are accessed and managed. The rules must be clear, simple, fair and they must provide for the long accepted practice of completing the fishing activity once safely aboard the vessel.

If you’d like to listen to what Recfishwest’s CEO Dr Andrew Rowland had to say on ABC South Coast in  July, 2017, press play below. 

Rock Lobster Science Predicts Great Fishing To Come

The 2015-16 western rock lobster season drew to a close at the end of June. Good news for crayfish lovers is we are less than three months from the opening of the 2016-17 season, starting October 15. General consensus among lobster fishers was that the past season was another extremely productive one, highlighting just how well this fishery is managed.

There were plenty of good crays caught, with an excellent early season run of whites. This white migration phase is typically from November to late January where large numbers of pale pink (whites) lobsters, recently moulted from their deep red colour, migrate from inshore reefs to deep water. During this migration, the lobster are highly exposed to fishing and large catches are taken by fishers. Adult and non-migrating lobsters are known as ‘reds’ and form the catch between February through to June. Then again once the season starts in October until when the “whites” start again in November.

Two changes to rules this season also proved popular with recreational fishers. The first was the removal of a maximum size limit for female lobster. The size limit requirement on female lobster was an old management tool before it was managed as a ‘quota managed fishery’ (management that sets out a defined number of lobsters that can be removed from the water each year by rec fishers). It’s also important to note, any female in breeding condition such as in setose, tar spot (see above) or carrying eggs must be promptly returned to the water. The other change, which proved to be very well accepted by recreational fishers, was the ability for two licenced fishers to share a pot. This change to the rules enabled more people than ever to enjoy the experience of catching a feed of our fantastic crayfish.

There will be plenty of recreational fishers counting the days to a great 2016/17 fishing season, as an above average juvenile count forecasts healthy stocks and a great fishing season for all.