Recfishwest says that some of the proposed no-fishing zones in the Government’s South Coast Marine Park plans released today are “completely illogical and unjustifiable”.
Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said, “Proposing no fishing zones in front of caravan parks, boat ramps and along several popular beaches demonstrates marine park planners in Perth are out of touch with the south coast community.
In December, the Environment Minister Reece Whitby is on record saying that the Government “had listened to recreational fishers” and that fishers would “be impressed by what they see at the other end.”
“We confirm that we are not impressed by what we see in these proposals,” said Dr Rowland, “The views of local fishers have clearly been ignored and it’s now time the Government genuinely starts listening.
“We ask the Government to seriously re-think several zones and join us at the table to deliver a truly positive outcome for fishers, the environment and our future.”
“These plans are now open for public comment until 16 June and Recfishwest encourages all fishers with an interest in this coast to study the details and engage in the consultation process.”
It is obviously a disappointing setback for Snapper Guardians and the wider metro pink snapper fish releases as no pink snapper will be available for release this year. This is because the snapper stocking program relies on collecting eggs from the wild spawning population in October and November each year.
However, Recfishwest will be working with DPIRD to ensure the pink snapper stocking program gets back on track soon, in addition to other stocking initiatives for several other species.
Recfishwest Chief Executive Officer Dr Andrew Rowland said while it was disappointing Snapper Guardians cannot go ahead this year, the priority is to protect the health of wild pink snapper stocks in Cockburn Sound.
“Since the Snapper Guardians program started in 2016, more than 220,000 pink snapper have been released into Cockburn Sound providing a family-friendly opportunity to celebrate pink snapper, Cockburn Sound and to make sure we have plenty of fish for future generations,” he said.
“We look forward to bringing back the Snapper Guardians community fish stocking event in 2025. Recfishwest will continue to work with DPIRD on other stock enhancement programs including yellowtail kingfish, marron and trout to ensure high quality recreational fishing experiences are maintained and enhanced for all West Australians to enjoy.”
Thanks to a buzzing crowd of around 500 mums, dads and excited kids along with stunning weather, the second edition of Pemberton Trout Festival went down as our biggest family-friendly trout stocking event to date!
Taking place at Big Brook Dam foreshore and picnic area on Sunday, 5 November, with the unique backdrop of giant Karri trees, hundreds of smaller rainbow and brown trout fry, mid-sized yearlings and larger broodstocks more than 50cm in length were gently released into the crystal-clear water to celebrate our South-West freshwater fishery.
Thanks to the dedicated team at DPIRD’s Pemberton Hatchery Centre – which can be seen in the video below – the healthy batch of trout were bred and reared by their team of experts then transported using their new and improved trout stocking trailer and vehicle from just up the road before making a splash into the wild.
With more than $300,000 spent on improving DPIRD’s latest stocking vehicles, trailer and tanks, they are now capable of better regulating and monitoring the tanks’ water oxygen levels and temperatures, allowing the fish to be transported in a healthier state to each freshwater stocking location throughout the South-West.
Included in the day’s festivities were free fishing clinics and fly-fishing tutorials led by fishing experts from the Western Australian Trout and Freshwater Angling Association (WATFAA), with scores of kids and even adults dabbling in learning the fine craft of fly casting.
Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said, “It was clear from the big smiles how much the freshwater fishery means to our South-West communities. Fishing for trout and redfin while enjoying the benefits of getting out into nature in our beautiful South-West is a priceless experience that is readily accessible to anglers of all abilities.
“That’s why Recfishwest will continue to work hard to create more places for people to fish for freshwater species in safe, accessible and family-oriented fishing locations. We firmly believe our freshwater fishery can and should be expanded to deliver even more pleasure and benefits to the WA community.”
Returning bigger and better for its second year, the Pemberton Trout Festival was a collaboration between DPIRD’s Pemberton Trout Hatchery, Daiwa, Healthway, the Pemberton Visitor Centre and Shire of Manjimup.
A big Recfishwest thanks to the Australian Trout Foundation, Southern Forests Freshwater Angling Club and Western Australian Trout and Freshwater Angling Association for their support, along with the hundreds of families who came down and rolled up their sleeves.
A lively crowd and lovely weather made for a fabulous seventh edition of Troutfest and a fitting celebration of the enjoyment our South-West freshwater fishery brings to thousands of West Aussies.
More than 350 rainbow and brown trout from smaller fry up to larger ex-broodstock sizes were hand-released into their new home resulting in hundreds of smiling faces of mums, dads and kids who all got in on the action.
With DPIRD agreeing to our request to declare the weekend freshwater ‘licence-free’ for fishers, dozens of eager families tried their hand at flicking lures or fly-fishing – and a big shout out to the Western Australian Trout and Freshwater Fishing Association (WATFFA) who collectively spent hours teaching event participants the noble art of fly-fishing.
Also on display was DPIRD’s impressive new-and-improved trout stocking vehicles. Using new, advanced tank monitoring technology, these vehicles can better control water temperature and oxygen levels to ensure the fish are in healthier condition at the point of their release.
It was great to see so many families getting hands on in supporting the South-West trout stocking program by rolling up their sleeves during the popular event, made possible by the Shire of Waroona, Alcoa, our stocking partners Daiwa and DPIRD’s freshwater hatchery in Pemberton.
Budding fishers were also able to tap into the knowledge of experienced freshwater fishers, with free fly-casting tuitions and fly-tying demonstrations on offer, along with an array of stalls packed with freshwater fishing merchandise.
“Troutfest epitomises the value of fish stocking and our South-West freshwater fishery – it’s a fun, safe and accessible fishery underpinned by the great work DPIRD does rearing such healthy fish at their Pemberton hatchery,” said Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland.
“Another encouraging sight was seeing people of all ages and backgrounds having a crack at freshwater fishing during Troutfest. The licence-free weekend was a good incentive for many to try their hand at chasing trout or redfin perch, enjoying a great family experience and further contributing to the growing $37 million in economic spending each year in regional economies from freshwater fishers.”
Waroona Troutfest is part of a carefully managed South-West trout-stocking program supporting a fishery enjoyed by 10,000 freshwater fishing licence holders who venture to picturesque streams, rivers and dams throughout the South-West.
Recfishwest, through its Freshwater Fisheries Reference Group, offers advice to DPIRD on where to stock each year’s cohort of hatchery-bred trout to the best benefit of freshwater anglers.
“A big Recfishwest thanks to everyone who helped out and all of our supporters and volunteers who made this such a fantastic day, along with DPIRD for supplying this healthy batch of trout” said Andrew. “We look forward to doing it again in two weeks down in Pemberton for round two of our family-friendly trout stocking events,” added Andrew.
Make sure you’re down at Big Brook Dam Foreshore & Picnic Area by 10am on Sunday, 5 November to help us release more trout and celebrate the return of Pemberton Troutfest for its second consecutive year, following the great turnout last year by more than 300 community members.
Recfishwest is excited to announce our two community trout stocking events have confirmed dates for 2023 – with Troutfest occurring this Saturday, 21 October at Drakesbrook Weir, Waroona and Pemberton Trout Festival at Big Brook Dam on Sunday, 5 November!
From 10am-1pm on Saturday, mums, dads and kids will have the chance to release radiant rainbow and beautiful brown trout into Drakesbrook Weir to celebrate WA’s freshwater fishery and the $37 million economic contribution spent each year from freshwater fishers in our South-West and Peel regions.
Along with the community having the chance to hand-release hundreds of trout at both the Waroona Troutfest and the Pemberton Trout Festival, free rod hire, free fly-casting tuitions, fly-tying demonstrations, a casting competition for kids and trout fishing tips are also on offer. Food and drink will be on sale at both trout stocking events.
Check out the highlights from Troutfest 2022 below at Drakesbrook Weir!
And to encourage more people to sample the delights of wetting a line for trout and redfin in the majestic South-West, 21 and 22 October has been made a freshwater fishing licence-free weekend (coinciding with Troutfest at Waroona) – so mums, dads and kids can wet a line in inland lakes, dams and rivers without needing to buy an annual licence.
Recfishwest is once again partnering with the Shire of Waroona and DPIRD to host the seventh annual Troutfest community fish stocking event, which has seen thousands of rainbow and brown trout stocked into Drakesbrook Weir over the years.
Meanwhile, the Pemberton Trout Festival, run in partnership with DPIRD and the Regional Development and Pemberton Visitor Centre, will return to Big Brook Dam foreshore and picnic area following the success of last year’s inaugural event, with families able to hand-release hundreds more big trout into their new homes on 5 November.
This event was first initiated by local fishing clubs including the Australian Trout Foundation (ATF), Southern Forests Freshwater Angling Club (SFFAC) and Western Australian Trout and Freshwater Angling Association (WATFAA).
Check out the highlights from the 2022 Pemberton Trout Festival below at Big Brook Dam!
Showcasing the Peel and Pemberton regions’ great trout and freshwater fishery, both stocking events are free and no registration is required, allowing families to roll up their sleeves to hand-release large rainbow and brown trout into their new homes.
“Troutfest is a great celebration of this fantastic fishery and has become a welcome fixture on WA’s fishing calendar since its inception in 2017. It showcases how fun and popular freshwater fishing is and how WA’s freshwater stocking program underpins this highly valued fishery,” said Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland.
“Recfishwest is proud to support DPIRD’s trout stocking program through the great work and advice of our Freshwater Fishing Reference Group. The fishing is always better when the fish are biting with a greater abundance of fish and this is a great example of how fish stocking helps keep the fun in fishing.
“We’re also delighted to see our second community trout stocking event return in November to Pemberton, the birthplace and ‘spiritual home’ of the South-West freshwater fishery. DPIRD does a great job with their Pemberton-based trout hatchery and we believe there is massive potential for expanding the trout stocking program and fishery. “
Each year, trout are stocked at various popular freshwater fishing rivers and dams, including Drakesbrook Weir, Harvey Dam, Waroona Dam, Collie River and Brunswick River. The released trout are hatched and reared at DPIRD’s Pemberton-based trout hatchery through the trout stocking program. To see where trout are planned to be stocked throughout our South-West waterways this season, click here.
Recfishwest, through its Freshwater Fisheries Reference Group, offers advice to DPIRD on where to stock each year’s cohort of trout.
Recfishwest thanks DPIRD, The Shire of Waroona, Pemberton Visitors Centre, The Shire of Manjimup, Alcoa, Daiwa, Healthway, Fishability and Act, Belong, Commit for their support in making these family-friendly events a reality.
Dr Andrew Rowland, Recfishwest CEO, and Operations Officer Sam Bock were recently on the south coast listening to the concerns of local fishers about the potential impact of DBCA’s proposed marine park.
Stretching along 1,000 km of coastline from Bremer Bay to the WA/SA border, many local fishers told Andrew and Sam that the marine park already has a predefined political outcome and will be an unnecessary overreach coming out of Perth.
These concerns have been stoked by the bad publicity surrounding the consultation process to date.
While there, Andrew was also in the news on the front page of the Esperance Weekender and was on ABC Esperance, Goldfields, Mid-West and Wheatbelt calling for the consultation process to get back on track to enable a balanced outcome to be achieved.
It’s that time of year again! Freshwater fishers in WA are bursting with excitement to whet their whistles and chase some hard-fighting trout and delicious redfin perch.
Late winter to early spring traditionally marks the start of WA’s freshwater season, when the water is cooler and stream flows are at optimum levels. Thanks to the many safe and easily accessible locations to throw a lure or fly around, WA boasts many freshwater fishing locations to choose from.
With the west coast demersal closure running from 1 August – 22 September, fishers keen to scratch their fishing itch need to look no further than the serenity of our South-West forests, where the sound of kookaburras and flowing streams are sometimes only interrupted by the splash of a hooked fish.
The exciting future for freshwater fishing in WA
Recfishwest’s Freshwater Reference Committee works closely with DPIRD’s Aquatic Freshwater Research and Development team in ensuring WA’s trout stocking program delivers maximum benefits to the WA community.
Each year, the committee makes recommendations to DPIRD on what quantities of trout should be stocked where in South-West waterways.
In this context, Recfishwest recently spoke with DPIRD Senior Research Scientist Andrew Beer for his insight into what is in store for the stocking of rainbow and brown trout and the upcoming freshwater season – and there is plenty to look forward to.
“We are making big technological advancements within not just the Pemberton hatchery centre but also to our stocking transportation vehicles. It will soon see more fish stocked per trip, state-of-the-art temperature and oxygen regulation and improved handling of the fish between the hatchery to their new stocking locations – watch this space!” said Andrew.
If the rains fall consistently over the coming months as they did over the previous months, the improved waters levels in the dams and flows in the rivers and streams could see a rewarding freshwater season.
“If we have a consistently wet winter that rolls through right into spring, that generally sees very good freshwater catches. The previous months have been beneficial with a steady amount of rainfall and that should benefit fishers as we head towards warmer temperatures,” added Andrew.
Recfishwest will continue to make a strong case to Government for the development and expansion of the South-West freshwater fishery.
Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said, “The fishery provides significant social value to the community and generates $20 million a year for the South-West. We believe there is massive potential for expanding the trout stocking program and fishery.
“Changing up the stocking regime, putting in place a more robust research program associated with it, exploring new potential freshwater and trout fishing locations and potential stocking of Aussie natives could evolve and secure the fishery well into the future and could take pressure off some of our other fisheries.
“With the Government’s renewed commitment to the Pemberton hatchery and the fishery last year, there are potentially exciting times ahead for this popular, family-friendly fishery.”
Clear your calendar for our 2023 trout stocking events!
As champions of developing and promoting freshwater fishing in WA, Recfishwest provides the community the chance to hand-release trout into these waterways at our community stocking events.
So, we are excited to announce the two dates of our family-friendly trout stocking events for 2023.
Our seventh annual Troutfest community event will take place on 21 October at Drakesbrook Weir, with the Shire of Waroona and the DPIRD Pemberton Freshwater Research Centre teaming up with Recfishwest once again to help stock loads more rainbow and brown trout with the community.
After a huge turnout for our inaugural Pemberton Trout Festival event in 2022, the event will also be making a return to Big Brook Dam foreshore on 5 November.
Freshwater fishing tips from an angling expert
Recfishwest Senior Operations Officer and resident freshwater fishing gun, Sam Russell, divulged some of his trout and redfin tips for the months ahead.
“The South-West’s bushlands are the best place to start chasing both trout species and redfin perch.
“I fish a wide range of locations from Dwellingup all the way down to Walpole, but my favourite freshwater spot would have to be Pemberton. It hosts so many impoundments, streams and rivers among the isolated Karri forests.
“Harvey Dam, Wellington Dam or Drakesbrook Weir are also fantastic options and these large bodies of water are filled with all three species. They also offer great camping opportunities for fishing trips with family or friends.”
Top gear and fishing tips
“Target rainbow and brown trout using small, bibbed minnows – rainbow and brown trout patterns both work well due to the cannibalistic nature of the species.
“I’ll also carry a couple of darker coloured lures for overcast days and low light conditions – it might seem counter-intuitive, but black lures create a prominent silhouette in the water in these conditions. Soft plastics can also be the go.
“If I’m fishing in tight streams and rivers with a lot of structure, an unweighted, weedless rigged plastic will often keep you snag-free and get you the bite. Small 1 or 2-inch minnow style plastics with a paddle or grub tail in natural colour patterns will work.
“If you’re chasing redfin perch, I almost exclusively fish with soft plastics using a weedless jighead ranging in weight from about 1/16th – 1/8th of an ounce depending on water depth and flow. Combine this with a 2-inch grub tail or marron imitation soft plastic and you’re in business.
“Fly-fishing is an iconic freshwater angling method I love but may seem daunting to learn for most fishers. No stress though, light spin outfits used for bream or herring are just as effective. Sometimes it pays to keep things simple.”
Following Government fishery management changes, dozens of charter operators are facing the prospect of losing their businesses in the coming months with fishers aboard their vessels no longer able to fish for demersal fish like dhufish and pink snapper in the West Coast Bioregion (WCB – from Kalbarri down to Augusta) from 1 July.
This will significantly reduce opportunities for people with no boats or small boats to safely experience the joy of fishing for quality bottom fish in the WCB on board a charter boat or on “live-aboard” charter trips to locations like the Abrolhos.
Each year, 72,000 members of the WA community go on charter fishing trips, helping the sector employ 831 people while generating $110 million in economic activity. The WCB accounts for 40 per cent of all charter fishing trips and west coast demersal fish are the lifeblood of charter fishing in this area.
Charter fishing is responsible for only 12 per cent of total demersal catches in the WCB. Like the recreational fishing sector though, charter operators have been told to slash their catches. A tag system has been introduced for the charter sector whereby operators are issued with a limited number of tags by DPIRD with one tag allowing the capture of one demersal fish.
This week, the 99 charter fishing licence holders in the WCB learnt how many tags they were each going to get and, therefore, the total amount of demersal fish fishers on board their boats can catch in a year. In a bitter blow, 78 of the 99 licence holders have been told they will receive ZERO tags, destroying the value of their licence and meaning that in less than four weeks they face the real prospect of going out of business.
For the 21 licence holders who did receive tags, they are looking at a 73 per cent reduction in their allowable catch, a significantly bigger cut than the 59 per cent recreational fishers and the 12 per cent commercial fishers must cut their demersal catches by.
The 78 licence holders who were not allocated any tags were told they didn’t meet the allocation criteria approved by the Minister. These criteria were solely focused on catch history and based on catching at least 355 fish in three of the last five years, effectively penalising small operators focused on providing great fishing experiences rather than catching large amounts of fish.
This allocation model will leave some popular coastal towns like Dongara, Port Denison and many others without any charter fishing opportunities for locals and tourists and has left 78 families facing an unsure future. Unlike for commercial fishers, the Government has not offered a voluntary scheme to buy back charter licences providing a dignified and manageable exit from the fishery. Instead, the Government is offering those that did get tags up to $20,000 in grants and those that didn’t get any tags $5,000.
A clearly broken process
“To offer $5,000 is cold comfort when licence values have likely just fallen by ten times that amount,” said Recfishwest Operations Manager Leyland Campbell. “The tag allocation process completely fails to factor in the valuable service provided by the charter sector, getting the most from each fish and doing what’s right and fair.”
“It’s clearly broken – while the Government has told charter businesses to diversify, it is not realistic or reasonable to expect charter operations to completely change their business model in just four weeks. With the inevitable cancellations of customer booking, many family businesses will not survive. The Minister should go back to the drawing board and give the charter sector a fair-go.”
Marine Tourism WA President Matt Howard also attacked the Government’s decision.
“The charter sector has demonstrated excellent economic and social use of the fish they catch generating significantly more economic activity and employing more people from a relatively small number of fish than other sectors do from ten times as many fish. The Minister has never provided a reasonable explanation as to why 6,000 demersal tags is an appropriate amount for a sector that generates such significant social and economic value.”
Speaking on 6PR, DPIRD’s Aquatic Resource Director Nathan Harrison, whose department has overseen the changes, said the west coast demersal commercial licence buyback scheme may free up more fish to be allocated to the charter sector – but not for several months.
“[The buyback scheme] will provide an opportunity at the end of the year to see how much of the commercial entitlement has been surrendered,” said Nathan. “It will be voluntary, so we don’t know, but that will then provide an opportunity to Government to see how these savings are best utilised and if any of that will flow onto the charter sector.”
The end of the year will be too late, though, for many charter operators, said Leyland.
“Once these charter businesses close down, there will be no coming back for them,” said Leyland. “It makes complete sense for the Government to hold off on this decision for six months until we see how much more fish may be available to be allocated to the charter and recreational sectors, following the outcome of the commercial licence buy-back scheme. Surely, the Government can wait before making the call that will shut down dozens of family businesses?”
Smaller operators being squeezed out
Few have done more for the protection of demersal fish than Al Bevan, who has operated Shikari Charters out of Perth since 1996.
Al is an active member of the WA fishing community and has assisted with important fisheries research for DPIRD for decades. This included work on barotrauma of demersal fish and testing of the release weight, a concept conceived by Al and Gary Lilly which has saved countless thousands of demersal fish. He also served on the Recfishwest Board from 2001-2007. In addition, Al pioneered the Samson fish fishery in Perth and has been a fishing safety ambassador for a Government-funded fishing safety campaign.
Al purposefully aims to have a low impact on fish stocks, catering for families and smaller groups of between five-seven fishers. He has also built up a steady overseas client list who visit WA purely for the safe and exciting fishing experiences Al provides.
“I thought I was doing the right thing with sustainability and following the Department’s guidelines and slogan ‘fish for the future’ – but it now looks like Shikari has no future,” said Al.
“There is absolutely no fairness in the Ministers’ decision – I’ve tried to give back throughout my entire fishing career, but I feel like I’m being discriminated against because I’m focused on maximizing fishing experiences and getting the most value from each fish rather than simply cramming lots of people on a boat and catching lots of fish.”
Al said his colleagues in the charter sector had received the news of being allocated zero tags with “absolute horror” and are dreading the arrival of July.
Leyland said, “As a stalwart of the charter fishing industry who has done more to protect demersal fish than nearly anyone else, it is beyond belief that Al has not been allocated any tags. This clearly highlights the flaws in the allocation model.”
Al and his wife are seriously concerned about the viability of the business no longer being able to take clients out to fish for pink snapper and dhufish. “I’ve got no idea what I’ll do. Financially, I’ve only got enough money in the business accounts to pay the bills for a few months, and from there I really don’t know. And I don’t owe as much as some of these bigger boats, they will be sweating buckets.
“I have international clients scheduled for July who I will now have call and cancel. These clients would have spent a week in Perth spending thousands of dollars on food, accommodation and fishing gear just to catch one good fish and now they will go elsewhere. The value each fish creates should have been a consideration when deciding who receives a tag, not just the volume of fish caught.”
Penalised for having a family
Another Charter operator who was not allocated any tags is Kristin McCarthy, owner of Seaestar Charters.
Kristin is the only female charter operation owner and master in the WCB – her business employs a full-time skipper, three full-time deckhands, two casual fish guides, a casual bus driver, a full-time engineer/mechanic, an admin assistant and a part-time truck driver – all of whom now have the prospect of losing their jobs hanging over their head.
Kristin was highly critical of the requirement to demonstrate catches in three of the last five years not only because two of those years were affected by COVID, but also because it discriminates against her for having a family.
“I would like to know how is this equitable as a straight across the board process, when it does not allow for operators to show why in some periods, they had lower numbers of catches despite being a full-time operator. For example, in 2020 I had a baby, and, in this period, I limited my fishing for medical reasons and ended up shutting down some of it while I had my child.
“Our fishing represents the majority of our income and we are booked out to 2026, with clients that have already paid. The cash flow crisis this causes will be the end. One would think that in trying to achieve fish stock recovery those that offer different experiences and sustainable fishing models would be of the up most importance and should have got some allowance.”
Providing a fishing experience for all
Another charter operator allocated zero tags was Damien Billi from Big Stoinka Marine Adventures.
Damien’s charter journey was inspired by his autistic daughter who loves fishing. Operating in the South-West, Damien ’s boat Reel Therapy has been specially modified to accommodate wheelchairs and carers and offers smaller charters for people with special needs who are not comfortable with big crowds.
“There is one little boy who comes out fishing probably three to four times a year and his mother says that experience settles him for months,” said Damien “This is the sort of positive difference I want to make. I don’t want to catch lots of fish, I just want a viable business that allows me to make a real difference for those that need it most.”
Providing a sustainable experience
Yet another charter operator to not be allocated any tags is Ocean Addiction Charters – the only charter business based in Dongara/Port Denison. Kate and Dan took the plunge and started a business their town has been needing and wanting for so long. Their 8m boat can take a maximum of six people, posing no threat to fish stocks.
“Our business has satisfied the Australian Tourism Accreditation Standard and has sustainable tourism accreditation, however, we are not being given the opportunity to demonstrate how sustainable we are, even though we are the ONLY fishing charter in the area.”
People should not be penalised for starting a family, providing people of all abilities the opportunity to fish from a boat or maximising the value of each fish. These are things we should be celebrating. A six-month delay won’t impact on stock sustainability and it may just save dozens of family businesses from shutting down.
The Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attraction’s (DBCA’s) marine park on the south coast has been in the headlines recently for all the wrong reasons.
From shire council presidents, to leading members of the marine park’s Community Reference Committee (CRC), to community engagement officers, a growing chorus of voices have publicly criticised the direction the planning process has taken in the last few months (see some of their comments in the news and on social media below).
“There is mounting concern that our freedom to fish beaches and offshore areas prized by generations of south coast residents and visitors is on the line, “ said Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland. “With our own experiences of it to date, we share the community’s concerns that the planning process for the marine park has gone sideways.”
Fishing community input appears ignored
As part of what was promised to be an open, transparent and genuine consultation process, Recfishwest was requested to provide a clear understanding of the fishing areas and experiences valued highly by recreational fishers.
Through a series of community meetings and survey feedback from hundreds of south coast fishers a data-driven picture of the places that matter most to fishers was generated by Recfishwest.
“We have provided this detailed feedback to DBCA, yet this input appears to have been completely ignored,” said Andrew. “In the interests of an informed and transparent consultation process, it would be entirely reasonable to expect to see a comprehensive social economic impact assessment of a marine park on the region. Yet, despite claims made in Parliament that one has been undertaken, we have seen no evidence that this is the case.”
The need for balance
Fishing and camping along south coast beaches with friends, family and your dog is part and parcel of the south coast community’s cultural and social fabric. Recfishwest strongly advocates that these activities must be conserved in any marine park along with the marine environment that supports them.
“The establishment of a marine park along the south coast must be balanced and should not deprive local communities from accessing popular fishing locations and beaches and all the well-being, family, social and economic benefits they provide to the local community,” said Andrew.
If you care about the south coast marine environment and enjoy fishing between Bremer Bay and the SA/WA boarder, it is important to have your say on the proposals once they are released for public comment. We’ll be keeping our community up to date on future developments.
Local resident and Community Reference Committee member Dr Kristen Perks, a respected marine biologist, took to social media to give her view on the planning process to date.
Dr Perks says DBCA ignored the input of DPIRD, their joint planning partner, in draft plans for the park put forward to the CRC for comment.
Dr Perks said, “It is unfortunate and disappointing DPIRD’s recommendations were not taken into account by DBCA. In my view DPIRD’s draft zoning recommendations had recognised and respected the socio-economic values of our local community and provided a good balance between conservation, recreation and commercial fishers.
“I believe with a marine park boundary spanning 1,000km from Bremer Bay to the South Australian border, SURELY, we can come up with a good compromise to enable marine sustainability whilst delivering the least impact on industry and the community’s ability to enjoy our local waters.
“I am prepared (and hopefully everyone is as well) to get on my soapbox to ensure we get balance for all parties and create a Marine Park we can all be proud of.”
South coast fishing stalwart and popular YouTuber Gideon Mettam – usually a moderate voice on fishing matters – has also fired up on his channels about the way he fears things might be going.
“Usually, I want nothing to do with all this political stuff, but this is too much. You all ought to have an idea of what’s going on ahead of time, so you’re ready to tell them where to shove their unnecessary sanctuary zones that will prevent us from enjoying the already pristine south coast.”
Petition gaining traction
A petition, organised by Esperance local recreational fisher Neil Pechar, has already amassed more than 2,800 signatures at the time of writing.
“We feel if we don’t speak up the Government will just run with it and we will lose a lot of our fishing areas and lifestyle which is pretty important for us in Esperance,” Neil told the ABC.
The Esperance Weekender recently reported the contract of the Esperance-based DBCA community engagement officer, hired to liaise with and help inform the community, was not renewed moving into the critical community consultation phase of the planning process.
“I feel disappointed and sorry that the broader community voice may not be heard as effectively as it should be going forward,” said the engagement officer. “There was every expectation that my role was for the entirety of the marine park planning process as clearly articulated in the Community Engagement Strategy endorsed by the former Minister.”
The Geraldton and Mid-West fishing community is relieved to hear that, following Recfishwest’s constructive discussions with the Fisheries Minister, the bag limit for popular large pelagic species like mackerel and tuna has been reinstated back to three fish around the Abrolhos Islands.
The initial revised daily bag limit down to one large pelagic fish around the Abrolhos was announced as part of the package of new west coast demersal fishing rule changes announced by the Minister in December last year.
The bag limit change had left many Mid-West fishers bewildered and disappointed, given there are no sustainability concerns around these fast-growing pelagic species which are highly abundant around the Abrolhos.
Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said, “The Minister has made a sensible decision to reinstate the original daily bag limit back to three large pelagic finfish.
“We are glad that the Minister listened to us and common sense has prevailed. Recfishwest is now looking forward to seeing fishers rightfully enjoy the full benefits of the pelagic sportfishing opportunities available throughout the Abrolhos Islands.
“Generations of fishers have travelled to the Islands for the fantastic sportfishing opportunities on offer, so this is great news. We are glad to see DPIRD has now clarified the reinstatement of the original three large pelagic fish bag limit on their website and in the online version of their fishing rules booklet.
“This change was also inconsistent with the overall push to develop greater sportfishing opportunities to support the recovery of demersal scalefish species along the west coast.”
With the latest revision, it also means charter operators and their customers can rightfully enjoy the full sportfishing opportunities on offer throughout the islands during the April-May period, which is one of the most popular times of the year for visitors to travel to the region and wet a line in the hopes of catching one of these hard-fighting pelagic species.
A spokesperson for the Minister’s Office told the Geraldton Guardian, “A bag limit of three large pelagic finfish has been reinstated following feedback provided by Recfishwest about how the reduced bag limit was impacting the recreational fishing experience at the Abrolhos Islands.”
“The reduction was originally introduced as part of a new wilderness fishing concept at the Abrolhos Islands and not due to sustainability concerns.”