It won’t be long before many fishers in the West Coast Bioregion start to turn their minds to catching a dhuie or pinkie for a traditional West Aussie Christmas seafood feed, with the re-opening of the west coast demersal fishery on the 16 December. Continue reading “An update on the latest west coast demersal stock assessment”
Last week, the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) released the draft West Coast Demersal Harvest Strategy for public comment. Continue reading “West coast demersal harvest strategy draft released for public comment – your comments wanted”
With this week marking the lifting of the west coast demersal closure, the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) have released the latest stock assessment science.
We hope those of you who have already headed out to try and bag yourself a dhuie, pinkie or a baldie have managed to get amongst ‘em.
It’s been 10 years since wholesale rule changes were brought in to recover some of these species after all the research showed the stocks were in strife. Since those changes were implemented, recfishers have played our part – a big part – in sticking to the rules designed to achieve a 50 per cent reduction in the catch from 2005/6 levels and recover these slow-growing species’ stocks within a 20-year timeframe.
Now we are at the recovery plan’s mid-way point, the Department have released a west coast demersal update based on their latest research.
Good stewardship pays off
It will come as no surprise to many of us who target bottom fish in the metro and the South West that there are some good signs with many more, smaller dhuies being seen in the last few years. This is certainly grounds for cautious optimism, showing that our good work and stewardship, sticking to bag and size limits, and the annual two-month closure, is paying off.
However, we’re not out of the woods yet with the research showing limited evidence of recovery for demersal scalefish stocks in the Mid-West and Kalbarri areas. In addition, there appears to be few older dhuies and pinkies in the Department’s samples from across the whole bioregion (Kalbarri down to Augusta).
This shows there is still away to go and, while the recovery is progressing well, we need to keep doing what we’re doing to ensure the recovery stays on track.
That means doing everything we can to ensure released fish go back healthily. Barotrauma can impact on these species significantly, with the research summary showing that ‘post-release mortality’ – fish dying after being released – is potentially having an impact on the recovery.
So, it’s imperative to handle the fish carefully and use release weights to give them the best chance of going back well, if returning them.
It also highlights why catch and release fishing for demersals is not OK and once you’ve hit your bag limit, it’s important to move on and target other species like pelagics and squid.
Clearly, the Department needs to keep gathering scientific evidence to monitor the recovery’s progress. And this is also where we can all play a big part by donating some of our demersal frames to the Department’s Send Us Your Skeletons sampling program.
The more samples the scientists get – the clearer and more robust picture they can build of the stocks’ health. So do the right thing by the fish and help the Department collect more samples by donating some of your frames to science (you can keep the wings and the cheeks – they just need the heads and the guts intact).
So, we hope you get to bag a demersal or two for Christmas – but let’s continue to work together to ensure the recovery continues to progress and that there will be plenty of these fantastic fish to go at for us and for future generations of West Aussie fishers.
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. Continue reading “One fishing door closes temporarily, a heap of fishing alternatives open!”
Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly has provided his support for our proposal to increase protection for spawning snapper in and around Cockburn Sound. Continue reading “Pink snapper need our help again!”
There’s plenty of misconception in the fishing community around the management of our favourite demersal species in the West Coast Bioregion. Continue reading “What the demersal closure means for your fishing”
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. Continue reading “Premier’s Position on Metro Gillnetting Spot On”
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.
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.
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!