Recfishwest welcomed news that a recent proposal to trial fish traps in the Gascoyne region has been ruled out by former Fisheries Minister, Ken Baston.
Under the plan, which upset many in the Carnarvon community culminating in around 400 people showing up for a public meeting on the issue, commercial trap fishing was to be reintroduced into local waters for an extended trial period.
The proponents of the plan cited increasing problems with losing their catch to sharks for the change and the Department of Fisheries appeared to initially support the proposal, but the reaction from Carnarvon locals demonstrated the change did not have the community support needed to proceed. Recfishwest received hundreds of comments against the proposal from community members.
The comments listed a number of areas of concern with the trial, including localised stocks depletions around popular fishing spots. There were also concerns about the post-release survival of undersize fish when caught by traps.
While acknowledging that the fishery was quota managed and there were no stock sustainability issues involved, the Minister Baston made special note of some specific concerns all of which were contained in Recfishwest’s submission. These concerns include the potential for a change in commercial catch composition to include a greater percentage of recreationally important non-pink snapper species, the potential for trap fishing to occur in areas of high importance to the recreational fishing sector, the lack of available independent data regarding the extent of shark predation of recreational and commercial catches and the lack of a formal harvest strategy for the Gascoyne Demersal Scalefish Fishery.
The Minister Baston subsequently announced the appointment of an independent mediator to work with the commercial and recreational fishing sectors on a developing a contemporary harvest strategy for scalefish off the Gascoyne coast. He appointed Mr Bardy McFarlane, a lawyer and former native title mediator with a background in the South Australian fishing industry, to conduct the mediation process. “It is important there is room for considered discussion between recreational and commercial fishing interests on matters such as this, as they have to co-exist in all parts of the State,” he said. If a suitable outcome cannot be achieved, an independent panel may be needed to provide advice to Government on a way forward.