Recfishwest believes Minister for Fisheries Don Punch’s decision to ban the use of wire trace 800m from shore between South of Mandurah to Two Rocks goes too far.
We agree that fishing for large sharks in the Metro area does not meet communities’ expectations around responsible fishing.
However, the Minister’s decision will unnecessarily impact on fishers who choose to use small wire trace to fish for species like tailor and mackerel either from the shore or trolling lures close in out of boats.
“Recfishwest had proposed reasonable and workable solutions to limit the diameter and length of wire trace – restricting fishing for large sharks without preventing tailor and mackerel fishers using their preferred gear,” said Recfishwest CEO DR Andrew Rowland.
“For example, limiting wire trace to 30cm length or shorter would have restricted shark fishing without unnecessarily impacting on fishers who target mackerel along the metro shores each summer. We can’t understand why this commonsense approach was not adopted.
“That said, we support the Minister’s call for local governments to rescind their multiple and ill-conceived local laws related to fishing that continue to contradict the overriding State-based fishing regulations.”
Andrew said he would be discussing the decision with the Minister.
“We will be asking for clarification from the Minister around if this new legislation will prohibit using a wire trace while trolling lures for mackerel close to the shore – as we don’t believe that was the intent of this legislation,” he said.
Recfishwest is deeply disappointed by the Fisheries Minister’s decision to impose a six-month ban on west coast demersal fishing.
Recfishwest has always supported action but shutting out 700,000 West Australians from being able to catch dhufish and pink snapper for six months of the year is completely unnecessary.
Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said, “Our sector has a strong-track record in putting the fish first and we agree there needs to be some changes to help stocks continue to rebuild.
“We presented clear, science-backed alternative proposals to Government which would have reduced recfishers’ catches by 50 per cent, met sustainability targets and allowed people the freedom to spend more time fishing with families and friends.
“Yet, the Minister has decided on extended bans for the recreational fishing sector and has put commercial profit over the public good with the lion’s share of this fishery given to a small number of commercial operators.
“Today’s announcement restricts recreational fishers to an annual catch of 115t, a reduction of more than 50% on current catches, while commercial operators will be able to catch 240t, a reduction of only 12% on current catches.”
Recfishwest’s proposals were developed during months of consultation with the recreational fishing community and a specially convened West Coast Demersal Expert Working Group.
One of these proposals aimed at speeding up the rebuilding of demersal fish stocks included a closure during the dhufish spawning period.
“The fact that this closure will not apply to the commercial fishing industry does not reflect best practice fisheries management,” said Dr Rowland.
“Recfishwest also called for a buy-back of commercial fishing licences and welcomes this element of the Minister’s package.
“A commercial licence buy-back will help deliver a fairer, more equitable outcome which will deliver the greatest benefits for the greatest number in the community.
“The Government has a golden opportunity to fix a broken and outdated fisheries policy by ensuring the prompt and effective implementation of this buy-back and reduce its ill-advised six-month ban.”
Recfishwest is continuing to work closely with the Government towards a package for west coast demersal fish that can ensure there will be fish for the future while keeping fishers on the water.
Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said, “Government is at the table with us. We have put our position strongly to them and that has been received. It is fair to say this is genuine consultation, that no decision has yet been made and that there has been some constructive discussions.”
Key elements of Recfishwest’s west coast demersal package
Increased spawning protection for fish, particularly dhufish, from 20 January to 20 March
The fishery being closed for a total of 4.5 months.
A wide range of other measures including reviewing size limits, better fishing practices education and increasing gear restrictions
Better data collection and science including real time recreational fishing data collection, better understanding of the shark bite-off issue and a better understanding of the potential effectiveness of stocking of species like snapper and dhufish.
“Core to our package is increased spawning protection for demersal fish, particularly dhufish, along with a Term 3 closure,” said Andrew, “This would amount to the fishery being closed for around four-and-a-half months and would be in addition to a range of other measures we have proposed aimed at reducing mortality of these fish.”
Following the ongoing discussions, Recfishwest understands a decision on the final west coast demersal package will be announced by the Government in early to mid-November.
Andrew said, “It’s really important to understand we are focussed on sustainability and that is what our package does. We are doing what needs to be done in terms of reducing fish mortality, while allowing people to spend more time on the water avoiding an eight or nine-month closure.”
Andrew said the response up to this point from the recreational fishing community has been “absolutely fantastic.”
“We really want to thank everyone for their genuine support,” he said. “It’s brought home to us just how deeply people care about these fish. People are happy to play their role but believe there is a better way.”
Recfishwest welcomes the latest announcement from Fisheries Minister Don Punch, who announced the bag limit for herring – ‘the people’s fish’ – has officially increased from 12 to 20 as of Saturday, October 1.
A good outcome for fishers, it maximises the benefits of the fish for the community, while ensuring its sustainability, with stocks more than amply recovered to a sufficient level to continue growing while supporting the increased bag limit.
The decision to increase the bag limit to 20 came after Recfishwest recommended the change to the Minister having gauged the views of more than 4,000 recreational fishers who provided us their views through our herring bag limit survey.
Maximising social and economic benefits
It also follows the Government’s decision to prioritise herring for recreation and human consumption in line with the current Fisheries Act which legally obliges the State Government of the day to achieve “the optimum economic, social and other benefits from the use of fish resource.”
Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said, “This is a great outcome and shows what a sensible fisheries management approach can achieve that recognises and takes on board the input of recreational fishers.
“We hope the Minister can adopt a similar sensible approach in arriving at a decision for the west coast demersal scalefish fishery that can balance the need to speed up the recovery of the stock without wrecking the lifestyle and livelihoods of tens of thousands of recreational fishers.
“Let’s not forget that at one point prior to the management changes being made in 2015, Fisheries put a three-month closure on the table for herring that included the Easter holidays – a traditional time where West Aussie kids fish with their families to get a feed of herring.
“Thankfully that initial herring proposal didn’t proceed as the Department listened to the views of the community and found a ‘better way’ to protect sustainability without destroying the social benefits – this is exactly what needs to be done with the proposed nine-month closure for west coast demersals.
“We are currently in discussions with the Minister and the Department to hopefully arrive at a more balanced and sensible outcome for west coast demersal just as we did with herring.”
“A sensible and balanced outcome”
Fisheries Minister Don Punch said, “With the herring recovery backed by the latest scientific stock assessment, Recfishwest requested the daily herring bag limit increase from 12 to 20. I am very pleased we can make this change, which will enable fishers to catch an ample feed for themselves and their family.”
Andrew added, “Herring gives great fishing memories to a wide range of angling families across the State and this crucial species has given many a young angler’s first love for fishing given their abundance and accessibility.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re new to fishing or an experienced angler, all fishers love catching herring, which are good-eating and are a frequent catch off most of WA’s jetties, beaches and rock walls.
“Thank you to all recreational fishing community members for your input into this decision. It’s great to see your efforts have been recognised and rewarded in recovering this fishery. We will continue to make sure there are plenty of herring around for future generations to enjoy forever.”
Following last week’s shock announcement about the Government’s proposed nine-month west coast demersal scalefish ban, Recfishwest has written to Minister Punch. We have asked him to explain how the package of 17 recommendations we put forward in July did not meet the Government’s catch reduction targets.
Our recommendations were developed after months of hard work, working through the responses from the biggest recreational fishing survey in WA history and with months of considered input from our West Coast Demersal Expert Working Group.
Recfishwest has also asked the Minister to restore the public comment period back to six weeks as originally agreed, rather than the four that the Government has now made it.
Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said, “The Government’s current proposals largely ignored key recommendations put forward by Recfishwest – including a dhufish spawning closure during the peak spawning time. Instead, the Government is asking fishers to choose between two totally unacceptable options that will cause a huge amount of social pain and economic hardship.
“We worked in good faith over the last few months, yet after all the input from the community and the constructive solutions put forward, we learnt through the media that our package was deemed by the Minister to be insufficient to achieve the desired catch reductions. We have not been informed how each element of our package was assessed and exactly where the package was deemed to have fallen short of meeting the challenge set by the Minister.”
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT – RECFISHWEST ON NINE NEWS
Recfishwest has already been contacted by hundreds of fishers concerned about the impact a nine-month closure will have on their way of life, as well as regional caravan park owners, charter operators and tackle shop owners who hold grave concerns about the future of their businesses if these proposals are implemented.
There is a better way
Andrew said, “Without question there is a better way to speed up the rebuilding of these fish stocks – which are not in ‘decline’ as has been suggested in the media. The fishery is clearly sustainable with DPIRD’s latest State of the Fisheries report classifying this fishery as ‘recovering at an acceptable rate’.
“Only giving fishers the choice between an eight or a nine-month ban is simply unacceptable, especially while we know our package will achieve the required outcomes with much less economic and social carnage. We have asked the Government to explain how our recommendations were assessed and where they fall short.”
What you can do
Recfishwest will continue to communicate with the fishing community on our course of action right through the consultation period and beyond. Many people are asking how they contact their local MP to let them know how the proposals will impact them and their families. If you need tips on how to reach out to your local MP, our guidelines here should help.
“We appreciate your support and we’ll stand strong to protect your fishing experiences and the fish stocks upon which these experiences rely,” said Andrew.