One Fishing Door Closes Temporarily, a Heap of Fishing Alternatives Open!

 The West Coast demersal fishing closure begins on 15 October and ends on 15 December to give high-value species like dhuies, pinkies and baldies a break from fishing pressure to help with their ongoing recovery.

But just because you can’t target demersals in the West Coast, doesn’t mean you have to stop fishing for one minute – there are are a plethora of alternative fishing opportunities available while the closure is in effect. Some of these include; crayfish, southern bluefin tuna, squid, freshwater fishing, Samson fish, whiting, estuarine and beach species like flathead, tailor and mulloway. So whether you’re looking for your drag to sing, targeting a new species you’ve never caught before or chase a tasty feed, there’s something out there for you.

Here’s a couple of articles that should give you a few ideas and tips for having a crack at something different this spring/early summer.

https://ilovefishing.com.au/2016/10/26/metro-west-coast-demersal-closure-alternatives/

https://ilovefishing.com.au/2016/11/15/metro-west-coast-demersal-closure-alternatives-part-2/

Catch and release for demersals is not OK

While we await the Department of Regional Development and Primary Industry’s latest stock assessment for West Coast demersal scale fish, it’s important anglers continue to stick to the closure by not fishing for demersals to assist with their ongoing recovery.

This includes not targeting demersals for catch and release purposes as the survival rate for many of these species following their release is not great for a number of reasons including barotrauma, hooking injuries and being knocked off by sharks – all of which impacts on the stocks’ health.

Find out here why targeting demersals for catch and release fishing is not OK.  https://recfishwest.org.au/news/targeting-dhuies-for-catch-release-is-not-okay/

Pink Snapper Need Our Help Again!

Minister Dave Kelly has provided his support for our proposal to increase protection for spawning snapper in and around Cockburn Sound.

You can find the details of the closure here.

You can read the story about the issue on WAToday here.

We would like to thank you all for your support of this proposal, without your support, we cant get stuff like this done!

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On Tuesday 9th July, we wrote:

Following last year’s pink snapper spawning season in Cockburn and Warnbro Sounds, Recfishwest held concerns over the effectiveness of the current rules in providing adequate protection for spawning snapper.

Recfishwest asked the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development to provide an update on current research, which was supplied yesterday.

Click here to view the Fisheries research update.

Recreational fishers have a long history of looking after pink snapper in Cockburn Sound. Each year, families release thousands of snapper fingerlings as part of the Snapper Guardians program.

This Fisheries research update indicates that:

  • There are fewer older snapper in the south-west/metro population than there should be;
  • There are a limited number of age classes in the population;
  • Pink snapper in spawning condition begin to gather in Cockburn and Warnbro Sounds in August and September; and,
  • Evidence suggests that fishers are actively targeting pre-spawning fish as they make their way to the spawning grounds.

What does all this mean?

Put simply, snapper require more protection, particularly during the spawning period when they are very easy to catch due to their schooling nature and predictable migration pathways.

Given this Fisheries research update, Recfishwest propose the following:

  1. An extension to the current spawning closure period to include September (currently October to January),
  2. An extension to the current closure area to outside of Garden and Carnac Islands (see map below).
Recfishwest’s proposed pink snapper spawning closed area from 1 September to 31 January

We believe these measures will provide adequate protection to spawning fish whilst still letting fishers catch pink snapper on the Five Fathom Bank and along the rock groynes at Fremantle.

These measures will allow fish to spawn undisturbed as well as provide protection along the known migration pathways to snapper spawning grounds.

The Cockburn Sound pink snapper spawning aggregations are the largest and most important on the lower west coast. The breeding success of these fish is critical to maintain the future of snapper across the region.

The right time to do the right thing is right now and we’d like to see these measures introduced immediately.

See what our CEO Dr Andrew Rowland had to say below:

What the Demersal Closure Means for Your Fishing

There’s plenty of misconception in the fishing community around the management of our favourite demersal species in the West Coast bioregion. The demersal fishing ban begins on the 15th October and ends on the 15th December so we thought it is worth answering some of the commonly asked questions around the current status of these highly sought-after species.

How does the demersal closure protect spawning fish when many of them don’t spawn during this time?

It’s a common misconception that the demersal closure was implemented to protect demersal fish whilst they are spawning. This is not true. In fact, this closure was implemented to reduce the overall catch of demersal fish by reducing fishing effort during this period. This period represented an adequate balance between achieving biological outcomes whilst having only limited social impact.

Species such as Pink Snapper do spawn during this time; however, they are subject to additional spawning closures in Cockburn and Warnbro sounds.

Dhufish are known to spawn at different times of year in different locations, so a spawning closure for Dhufish is not an effective tool for managing the take of this species.

While some believe the impact on fishers is high, it has been acknowledged that the demersal closure is playing its part in managing the catch of these important demersal species.

Recfishwest advocated raising the Dhufish boat limit last year. Why didn’t you advocate removing the demersal ban instead?

In a nutshell, there was room to catch more Dhufish, but not more Pink Snapper, so the Dhufish boat limit was the most obvious management arrangement to alter in order to provide increased amenity to fishers without impacting on the sustainability of any other species.

Research indicated that the catch of Dhufish was below the target (50% of what people were catching in 2005/06) set by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) and Recfishwest believed that there was scope to increase the Dhufish boat limit to take pressure off Pink Snapper and Baldchin Groper. Unfortunately, catches of Pink Snapper were right on the 50% target, so any change to the demersal ban as a whole would have had an adverse effect on snapper catches.

Recfishwest is currently awaiting the next stock assessment for west coast demersal species, which will inform any management changes for these species going forward.

I’m catching lots of small Dhufish and Pink Snapper, does this mean we will see a relaxation of rules in the near future?

High abundances of juvenile fish is always a great sign. In the case of Pink Snapper and Dhufish, who live over 40 years old, any recovery of the fishery and therefore relaxation of rules must be underpinned by proper research. Given the slow growth of these fish, it’s important that we see multiple years of good juvenile recruitment before any decision is made on management changes. Right now, it’s important the recreational sector maintain their catches at current levels.

I see people catching and releasing Dhufish, is this recommended practice?

No. Dhufish, as well as other demersal fish, suffer from barotrauma (pictured below). This is caused by the expansion of gasses inside the fish’s organs as it ascends through the water column during capture. You will see the signs of barotrauma such as organs protruding from the fish’s mouth, or the fish’s eyes appearing like they are ‘on stalks’.

Image: Dhufish, as well as other demersal fish, suffer from barotrauma.

Barotrauma significantly reduces the fish’s chance of survival once released, and although methods such as proper handling and the use of a release weight increases the survival rate, the best practice is to keep the Dhufish you intend to take home then fish for other species or move to new ground. Continually fishing the same ground and releasing Dhufish after Dhufish is not recommended practice.

We all love the opening of the West Coast demersal season because it offers plenty of great fishing opportunities for the community. Looking after our fish stocks is our number one priority, and everyone needs to play their role. With good reports of juvenile fish around and people understanding the importance of seasonal closures, there’s no reason why our demersal stocks can’t be great again in the coming years.

 

Premier’s Position on Metro Gillnetting Spot On

Following any shark attack, there is inevitably an ill-informed call for the reintroduction of commercial gillnets between Lancelin and Mandurah under the guise of improving public safety.

Premier McGowan was recently quoted as saying the reintroduction of gillnets to the metropolitan area ‘wouldn’t make any difference’ to great white shark numbers and therefore public safety, and he is absolutely correct.

In 2007, an important decision was made by the Labor Government to remove gillnet fishing from Lancelin to Mandurah. This decision was based on sustainability and resource sharing concerns for Pink Snapper and Dhufish. This decision is still widely regarded by the recreational fishing community as the single most important and positive decision for recreational fishing by any Fisheries Minister.

The benefits of this decision are only now starting to be seen with Dhufish and Pink snapper stocks showing signs of recovery.

Every time there is a call for the reintroduction of the metropolitan shark fishery Recfishwest is inundated with calls from concerned fishers who are worried the great fishery they have worked so hard to rebuild is about to be impacted again by gillnets.

Recfishwest cares deeply about public safety and supports the Government in taking practical steps to improve safety measures related to sharks in WA however in absence of evidence linking gillnet fishing to improved safety, Recfishwest will strongly oppose any attempt to re-introduce gillnet fishing to metropolitan waters.

Recfishwest actively promotes boating and water safety initiatives as we believe all West Aussies should return home safe at the end of a day’s fishing. WA’s 140,000 recreational boat fishing licence holders have a role to play as eyes on the water especially in the early reporting of shark sightings to Water Police on 9442 8600.

The Facts:

• There is zero evidence to suggest gillnet fishing will lead to improved safety outcomes for the community.

• The majority of shark fatalities in W.A. have occurred in areas where gillnet fishing still occurs.

• Waters Lancelin to Mandurah was closed to gillnetting in 2007 to protect Dhufish and Pink Snapper stocks and a $5 million dollar compensation package was made available to commercial fishers at the time by the state government.

• Shark fishing with gillnets outside metro waters uses a small mesh net and lands almost 1000 tonnes of small sharks annually. The mesh used is far too small to effectively catch large sharks.

• Any reintroduction of gillnets to Perth waters will jeopardise the recovery of Pink Snapper and Dhufish stocks and is unlikely to capture a single “problem” shark.

Dhufish Boat Limit to Remain at Two

The iconic Dhufish remains a favourite species for West Aussie fishers, as tens of thousands of us hit the water each summer in an attempt to snare one of these magnificent fish. Despite their popularity, concerns have been raised for the sustainability of Dhufish stocks and strict regulations on bag and boat limits have been in place alongside the annual demersal closure to protect recovering stocks.

In the September issue Recfishwest’s Broad Cast, we brought you an update on Recfishwest’s request, on the back of multiple requests from the community, for a review of the boat limit on Dhufish which currently sits at two.

Given the slow growth of this iconic fish, this is not a decision we took lightly, but was prompted after recent anecdotal reports from fishers indicating that the resource was recovering well, including a high abundance of juvenile fish not seen for many years. Current recreational catches are well below the sustainability target level set for an adequate recovery, in fact recreational take had reduced by 62% since 2009 when management was introduced to reduce the catch by half.

We were pleased to report in September that the Department of Fisheries had agreed to review our request once the most recent stock assessment information was available. Unfortunately the full stock assessment for Dhufish has been delayed, and is now expected to be available in mid-2017, however a preliminary assessment of WA Dhufish was undertaken to assist in evaluating potential changes to the boat limit.

In late November, preliminary information from the stock assessment was available and although Recfishwest’s calculations indicated the recreational take will remain below the sustainability target with an increased boat limit to three Dhufish, the assessment indicated that the stock may be recovering more slowly than expected in the northern and metropolitan areas of the West Coast Bioregion.

The Department of Fisheries made the decision that the rate of recovery was not sufficient enough to allow an increase in the boat limit at this time.  This news will be disappointing to some fishers, however, in the face of current uncertainties, Recfishwest does not support a change to rules that may put the recovery of this iconic species at risk. It is important to understand that Recfishwest will only support management changes when there is clear evidence of sufficient Dhufish stock recovery, and with confidence that any changes will not compromise future sustainability.

Additional analysis of the status of WA Dhufish will be completed as part of the full assessment of West Coast demersal scalefish due to be delivered in mid- 2017. This full assessment will include more complex stock assessment analysis than what was possible at the time of the preliminary assessment and will further inform any potential management changes.

The full assessment will also include the results of the third iSurvey due for release later this year and a more detailed examination of the potential impacts of any management changes. Recfishwest’s request will be revisited when the full assessment is available.

The iconic Dhufish story has many twists and turns, particularly in the last decade, but we have come too far to increase the risk to these fish in any way. The stock assessment indicates that current fishing levels are allowing the stock to recover.Ongoing anecdotal reports of high abundances of juvenile fish, particularly in the metro area, are encouraging. The long term forecast indicates sunny skies for Dhuies.

Power in Numbers for Pink Snapper in Cockburn Sound

Perth’s metro Pink Snapper fishery has boomed in recent years and much of the credit should go to recreational fishers.  It was fishers who pushed for the seasonal closure to protect spawning fish that have proven to be the cornerstone of this popular fishery in recent years. Recfishwest considers this year’s closure to be one of the most important since its introduction in 2000, especially following the uncertainty of last year’s fish kill in Cockburn Sound on breeding stock.

The fishing community played a huge part in convincing the government to implement a spawning closure for Pink Snapper in Cockburn and Warnbro Sounds and this fishery is now considered by many, as one of the best managed fisheries in WA.

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland remembers the day this Snapper closure first came into play and commended the fishing community for driving the important decision.

“If it wasn’t for the foresight of a proactive fishing community 16 years ago, the story may be a little different, it’s something we all should be proud of,” Dr Rowland said.

“Recfishwest’s purpose is to ensure there are great fishing experiences for the WA community forever and active management measures, such as protecting spawning fish, are critical to ensure we have healthy stocks for our kids and generations to come.”

“We saw heightened community emotion during last year’s fish kill event and the support from hundreds of Snapper Guardians, who helped fund the release of 50,000 Pink Snapper released into Cockburn and Warnbro Sounds in early 2016.”

Cockburn Sound, in particular, plays a key role offering awesome pinkie fishing for kayak, small boats and even shore anglers, making them available to all types of fishers. Anecdotal reports from fishers suggest the metro Pink Snapper fishery has improved each year since the closure was put in place and it has again offered some stellar fishing in 2016.  The annual closure of Cockburn and Warnbro Sounds comes into place to protect spawning fish in a couple of weeks, it runs from October 1 2016 to January 31, 2017.

The community can be very proud of the role they have played in the management of metro Pink Snapper. Their passion and support for protecting Snapper stocks were reflected in the State Government’s decision to commit $300,000 over the next two years for Recfishwest to again run the Snapper Guardians program. During the closure, we will again be collecting fertilised eggs and rearing them through the most venerable part of their life cycle before releasing juvenile fish in early 2017.

Dhufish Boat Limit Update

There’s no more iconic fish in West Australia than a Dhufish. This fishing favourite has long been a part of West Australian culture as far back as can be remembered and in 2009 when sustainability concerns were first raised, WA fishos graciously accepted the introduction of a Dhufish boat limit, reduced bag limit and a two month closure in the West Coast Bioregion as part of efforts to reduce catches by 5o%.

At the time it was unknown if these management changes would be enough to reduce catches by 50% which was the amount deemed necessary by researchers in order to adequately protect Dhufish stocks and allow this favourite fish to recover. Since the boat limit and other management changes were introduced, catches of Dhuies have remained stable and have exceeded the sustainability target by reducing our catch by 62%. This indicates the initial 2009 management arrangements may have been set a little too high. On that basis and combined with the overwhelming community view that the boat limit of two Dhufish is inequitable for those fishing in larger groups, Recfishwest believes there is scope to increase the Dhufish boat limit in line with Dhufish recovery and the sustainability targets that have been set by Department of Fisheries researchers.

It took a few years, but in 2013 the Dhufish stocks were showing the first signs of recovery and fishers were seeing lots of smaller Dhufish indicating increased recruitment in the fishery. Fishers are pleased to see tangible results from their efforts to reduce catches. Many fishers have actively promoted the positive effects on fish stocks these management changes have had, demonstrating the high level of stewardship for this resource.

A stock assessment in 2013 confirmed some recovery of Dhufish stocks and following this report Recfishwest requested the Department of Fisheries investigate what effect increasing the boat limit would have on Dhufish stocks and target catch levels. The Department decided not to review the boat limit for Dhufish at the time, preferring to obtain more data on Dhufish from the boat ramp surveys and future stock assessments.

A study of recreational boat fishing catches released in 2015 provided Recfishwest with the confidence that our original request in 2013 was sustainable and that a change to the boat limit would not negatively impact Dhufish stocks. Once again we sought a commitment from the Department of Fisheries to investigate the effect of changes to the boat limit of Dhufish. The Department of Fisheries once again preferred to await more information.

Recfishwest is proud to announce the Department of Fisheries has now agreed to review Recfishwest’s request when information from the latest stock assessment for Dhufish becomes available later this year.

Of course, any decisions must be based on sound science using the best information available with sustainability at the forefront. Recfishwest are comfortable that an increase in the boat limit of Dhufish would still see our sectors catch remain below the level needed to ensure the continued recovery of this iconic species. This change, however, would greatly improve fishing experiences on those rare times when there are more than two fishers on board and you are all lucky enough to hook onto a Dhufish.

Recfishwest believes any increase in the number of Dhufish retained as a result of increases to the Dhufish Boat limit will have a minimum biological impact on stocks and provide a major positive impact on recreational fishing amenity. Any increase in catches will remain below the level required to ensure the sustainable recovery of Dhufish.

It’s important to remember that not all of us are lucky enough to catch multiple Dhufish every time we go fishing, but for this special occasion, we believe a group of three should each be able to take a Dhufish home to their family.

We are confident the next stock assessment will reflect the recovery that fishos have been seeing since 2013 and are hopeful management arrangements can be amended to allow an increase in the boat limit of Dhufish before the end of the West Coast Demersal Closure on December 15 this year allowing more West Aussies to enjoy a Dhufish for Christmas!

No Science to Support Gillnet Safety Claims

The Facts:

– Recfishwest supports the Government in taking practical steps to improve safety measures related to sharks in WA
– In absence of evidence linking gillnet fishing to improved safety, Recfishwest will strongly oppose any attempt to re-introduce gillnet fishing to metropolitan waters
– Recent calls regarding positive public safety outcomes from gillnets are unfounded
– Waters Lancelin to Mandurah were closed to gillnetting in 2007 to protect Dhufish and Pink Snapper stocks (Figure 1 below)
– A $5 million dollar compensation package was made available to commercial fishers at the time by the state government
– Shark fishing with gillnets outside metro waters lands almost 1000 tons of sharks annually
Recfishwest cares deeply about public safety. The fishing community include those who enter the water spearfishing and diving and many others who go surfing, swimming and enjoy other aquatic recreational activities.

In November 2007 the then Minister for Fisheries, the Hon. Jon Ford, MLC announced the removal of gillnets from the metropolitan area following concern for the sustainability of iconic fish species such as Dhufish and Pink Snapper. This decision is still widely regarded by the recreational fishing community as the single most important and positive decision for recreational fishing by any Fisheries Minister.

Calls have been made for the reintroduction of the metropolitan shark fishery, by linking the 2007 closure to recent shark attacks. No evidence has supported these calls. Unsurprisingly Recfishwest has been inundated with correspondence from concerned fishers who are worried that the great fishery they have worked so hard to rebuild is about to be impacted by gillnets. Recfishwest firmly believe that there is no justification for gillnets in metropolitan waters and fought hard for many years for the removal of this particular fishing method.

This issue is of great importance to many fishers as gillnet fishing impacted on a number of important bottom fish species in the metropolitan area. The benefits of the decision to remove the nets are now starting to be seen with Dhufish stocks showing signs of recovery as supported by the latest scientific stock assessment.

The removal of gillnets from metropolitan waters was only one of a number of management measures across both the recreational and commercial sectors that were undertaken in 2007 to meet the sustainability challenges for Dhufish. The government provided millions of dollars in compensation to commercial fishers who were displaced. It is worth noting that fishing for sharks and finfish with gillnets has operated for decades North of Lancelin and South of Mandurah through to the SA boarder and continues to land almost 1000 tons of sharks and rays annually.

Recfishwest actively promotes boating and water safety initiatives as we believe all West Aussies should return home safe at the end of a day’s fishing. WA’s 140,000 recreational boat fishing licence holders have a role to play as eyes on the water especially in the early reporting of shark sightings to Water Police on 9442 8600.
We do not believe that the re-introduction of gillnets to metropolitan waters will improve public safety. We do not support a misguided attempt to solve one problem by creating another.

Recfishwest supports decisions based on science!
Map Courtesy of WA Department of Fisheries – STATUS REPORTS OF THE FISHERIES AND AQUATIC RESOURCES OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA 2014/15 (pg 269)

The following Media Release is from 2007 on behalf of then Fisheries Minister John Ford.

MEDIA STATEMENT NOV 2007

Metropolitan fishing closure will help sustainability of iconic fish

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Today marks the closure of commercial line and gillnet fishing in the Metropolitan Fishing Zone, between Lancelin and south of Mandurah, as part of a fishing reform package to ensure sustainability of fish for the future.

Fisheries Minister Jon Ford said a $5million compensation package will be available to buy-out commercial line and demersal gillnet fishers within the metropolitan zone.

Only about eight licence holders are expected to be fully impacted by the new ban, with other metropolitan zone fishers able to continue fishing in other parts of the West Coast Bioregion, which runs from Kalbarri to near Augusta.

Various commercial fisheries will still be allowed to operate in the metropolitan zone including the lobster fishery, purse seine fishing for sardines and the South West Trawl fishery which takes prawns, scallops and small fish.

Mr Ford said that although a handful of fishermen would be impacted by the ban, consumers should experience little if no impact from this Western Australian Government policy.

“Only about three per cent of demersal scalefish consumed in WA comes from the metropolitan zone, with 97 per cent of the supply coming from WA’s northern fisheries. So there should be very little if any change in prices,” he said.

“In any case, fish such as dhufish and pink snapper have been over-priced for most Western Australians for several years. But with better sustainability practices by this fishery, supply should improve in the long-term and prices should become more realistic.”

The Minister said the difficult decision to introduce the metropolitan zone fishing ban was necessary to ensure sustainability of iconic demersal scalefish such as dhufish and pink snapper.

“New research presented to me showed an immediate reduction in catches of key demersal scalefish, of about 50 per cent, was required to ensure the sustainability of these fish in the Metropolitan Fishing Zone,” he said.

“In making the decision, I considered the following points: The metropolitan zone attracts about two-thirds of all recreational fishing effort between Kalbarri and near Augusta; commercial catches of demersal species in the metropolitan zone accounts for about three per cent of the State’s entire catch of demersal scalefish; a shared reduction by commercial and recreational sectors was likely to have made the remaining commercial sector unviable; and compensation would be available for affected commercial fishers, while many metropolitan zone fishers will still able to operate outside of the metropolitan zone.

“Having considered these issues, I decided to remove all commercial line and gillnet fishing in this area. This decision is in keeping with the Integrated Fisheries Management that allows me to make allocation decisions, which can include the option of zero allocation.”

Mr Ford said that while the Metropolitan Fishing Zone was now effectively an exclusive zone for recreational fishing of demersal scalefish such as dhufish and pink snapper, he was not ignoring the fact that recreational fishing also had an enormous impact on fish stocks.

“Our current management arrangements such as bag limits are no longer sufficient to keep abreast with the increasing pressure on our fish stocks. That’s why we need a new and innovative management strategy for recreational fishing of demersal scalefish along the West Coast Bioregion,” the Minister said.

“The discussion paper I released in September invites the public to have their say about what this new management strategy should involve. Submissions close tomorrow, November 16, so I urge people to make their submissions. Your ideas will be very helpful in deciding the fate of recreational fishing.”

ENDS