Recfishwest continues to call on Government to adopt a more sensible approach to west coast demersals

Following the Government’s proposed nine-month ban on fishing for more than 100 demersal species from Augusta to Kalbarri, the call for an alternative – including a dhufish spawning closure – continues to build in the fishing community.

Recfishwest has been communicating with thousands of fishers concerned about the impact a nine-month closure will have on them and their families, as well as regional caravan park owners, charter operators and tackle shop owners who hold very real concerns about the future of their businesses.

Coral trout will be one of the iconic species to come under the nine-month ban from Kalbarri to Augusta if the Government’s proposal goes through. Photo: Al McGlashan.

Fishing clubs, who have been a central part of their communities’ social fabric for generations, have told Recfishwest the Government’s proposal will force them to close their doors.

The current proposals will also bankrupt genuine long-term charter fishing operators, depriving the community of great fishing and tourism experiences.

“We are all committed to the sustainability of this great fishery,”  said recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland. “We have a strong, extensive track record in supporting dhufish and snapper conservation including tagging programs, release weight research and subsequent legislation, snapper spawning closures, released fish survival projects, investments in shark deterrents and the Snapper Guardians program,”

“Recfishwest knows there is a better way to speed up the rebuilding of these fish stocks without the massive social and economic damage, which is why we reject the Government’s proposed nine-month ban.”

Good friend of Recfishwest and editor of Western Angler Magazine, Scott Coghlan, summed up the Government’s proposals on the front page of this week’s Albany Advertiser, “It’s like using a chainsaw to fillet a herring,” he said.

It’s been great to hear from so many of our members who, supporting our efforts, want to know what they can do to help.

What you can do – ask the Government to adopt a more sensible approach

Encourage your family, friends and fishing mates to:

  1. Sign the parliamentary petition to voice your opposition to DPIRD’s proposed nine-month ban. You can find the petition here – more than 10,000 people have already signed – make sure you add your name and encourage anyone you know to do the same.
  2.  Contact your local Member of Parliament and let them know how the proposals will impact you and your family. If you need tips on how to reach out to your local MP, our guidelines here will help.
  3. Encourage your family and friends to join Recfishwest – send a clear message that recreational fishers are united in supporting a more sensible outcome. They can join through this link here.
Come and see Recfishwest at the Perth Boat Show next week from Friday 16 September to Sunday, 18 September.

The better way – in case you missed it 

A WA fishing community record survey of nearly 6,000 respondents also helped inform the package of recommendations.

The package was well balanced and focused on protecting the sustainability and spawning of the fish while delivering the best social and economic benefits, along with better fishing rules, enhanced education and more research.

The story has attracted more media attention than any other fishery-related issue in recent times, reflecting just how important this fishery is to the Western Australian way of life.

Read some of the articles that have featured in the media on the west coast demersal issue here. 

We hugely value your support – and we’ll keep working hard to protect these fish as well as all the benefits this fishery provides to so many West Australians.

Proposed west coast demersal nine month ban? There is a better way.

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.

READ THE PACKAGE OF WEST COAST DEMERSAL RECOMMENDATIONS WE MADE TO GOVERNMENT HERE 

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.

Recfishwest rejects Government’s proposals to ban fishing for dhufish and pink snapper for up to nine months

Recfishwest is bitterly disappointed by today’s discussion paper released by the Government on the future of WA’s dhufish and snapper fishery.

The discussion paper has ignored key recommendations put forward by Recfishwest, including a spawning closure to protect dhufish and a properly funded voluntary fisheries adjustment scheme to ensure a long-overdue fairer restructure of the fishery.

Fishing for iconic fish like these is a key part of the WA lifestyle.

Recfishwest’s recommendations were developed following months of extensive consultation with the fishing community. Under the Government’s proposals, WA’s 40,000 west coast demersal scalefish fishers could be locked out of fishing for iconic recreational fishing species dhufish and pink snapper for nine months a year.

Read Recfishwest’s package of west coast demersal recommendations to Government here

Fast facts:

  • It’s more important than ever to get sustainable management right;
  • However the Government proposals fail to protect spawning dhufish, are inequitable and represent a “complete failure of fisheries policy;
  • 40,000 recreational fishers access the West Coast demersal scalefish fishery every year with WA recfishers spending $2.4 billion a year on fishing; and
  • 6,000 recreational fishers completed Recfishwest’s survey on the future of west coast demersal scalefish fishery to help develop Recfishwest’s recommendations to Government.

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said, “The package of recommendations we made to Government was well balanced and focussed on protecting the sustainability of the fish while delivering the best social and economic benefits.

“Whereas, the Government’s discussion paper suggests constraining the recreational sector to a nine-month closure, while commercial fishing continues all year round – this is completely unacceptable to our sector.

“The opportunity to set this fishery on a secure pathway through proper reforms should not be missed and this discussion paper represents a complete failure of fisheries policy which destroys value rather than creates it.

“The Minister has an obligation to ensure a sustainable catch delivers the highest and best use to the community and we believe the primary management measures outlined in today’s discussion paper do not even come close to achieving this.

“We will be examining the consultation papers we only received today and provide the fishing community with our thoughts to assist them in providing a response.”

The future sustainability of west coast demersal scalefish must come first.

Westport: Putting dollars before Cockburn Sound’s marine environment?

Recfishwest is calling for an urgent review into how the Westport Taskforce determined its five options for the future of the WA freight trade.

The taskforce recently pumped out a series of e-newsletters outlining the five shortlisted options – all of which involved building a new container port in Cockburn Sound.

Having sifted through their rationale for these options, it appears to us that the taskforce has gone against the community’s wishes and placed “commercial viability” of any port development way above the environmental impact on the Sound.

The taskforce came up with its shortlist by rating each proposed development option against a series of criteria – each ranked by importance through what it called a ‘multi-criteria analysis’ (MCA).

Unfortunately for the environment, the weightings used in this process were severely biased towards economic considerations at the expense of environmental ones as the table below shows. In the MCA weightings, the marine environment was ranked way down the list of importance at fourth and the terrestrial environment even further down at equal fifth.

Yet, this flies in the face of a community survey the taskforce carried out, which showed the environment was the community’s number one concern with 55% of respondents listing the environment as their primary concern in any port development.

Furthermore, a Westport Taskforce report released in December 2018 (link below) rated Cockburn Sound with significantly more environmental and social value than Fremantle or Bunbury – both locations which figured as alternative locations for an expanded port in the Taskforce’s original list of options.

Find the Westport Taskforce Report from December 2018 here

In an attempt to justify this disregard of the Sound’s environmental values and the community’s wishes, the taskforce gave this statement, “It is critical that Westport delivers an outcome that is financially responsible for the State…the final option must be commercially viable and affordable for the long-term”.

In light of this statement, Recfishwest has two questions for the taskforce:

  • Why is the taskforce seemingly placing commercial viability above Cockburn Sound’s sustainability?
  • On whose authority can it say the pursuit of dollars should come above protecting the home to the largest spawning aggregations of pink snapper on the West Coast and numerous fish species (including blue swimmer crabs) that rely on the Sound’s seagrass meadows for their survival?

Governments can only make good decisions when they are provided with good advice and the weightings used in the taskforce’s shortlisting process make it impossible to provide the government with good advice.

The taskforce appears to have made an assumption on behalf of the State Government that prioritises economics over the environment. The Government needs to be clear about whether they agree with Recfishwest and the community that Cockburn Sound’s precious marine environment must come first or whether they back the taskforce’s view that “commercial viability” trumps sustainability.

There are many places a port can be built, however, there is only one Cockburn Sound, which provides great, accessible fishing experiences for tens of thousands of recreational fishers every year. When the environment takes a back seat, we all lose.

We are therefore calling for an immediate review of the weightings used in the MCA process and greater transparency about the criteria, scores and justifications contained in the process.

Cockburn Sound is under enormous cumulative pressure from a whole range of sources, but rest assured we will always fight to ensure the Sound is protected.

Click here read our position on Protecting Cockburn Sound and the Outer Harbour project

Déjà vu for WA fishers as State Government get their hooks into licence fees… again

Fast facts:

  • Second fishing licence fee increase in 12 months;
  • Recfishwest was not consulted; and
  • Recfishwest will be pushing hard to ensure every cent of the additional money delivers maximum benefit to the fishing community.

Despite promising no surprises in this year’s budget, recreational fishers will be in for an unpleasant surprise when they come to renew their fishing licences after another $5 increase in the cost of each of the fishing licences was announced.

This is the second $5 rise in fishing licence fees in the past 12 months.

Recfishwest do not support these increases, we were not consulted about them, we don’t believe they are necessary and we have not been advised how the additional money will be used.

Recfishwest Acting Chief Executive Officer Leyland Campbell said the State Government have made the wrong decision.

“If revenue is a genuine concern to Government, we believe there are far better options to assist with the cost of managing recreational fishing, such as addressing known inefficiencies in the current recreational fishing budget, reviewing the entire licence framework, or investing in projects to increase participation rates in licenced fisheries,” he said.

“Increasing recreational fishing licence fees should not be the first option considered.  Not many businesses would survive if they simply looked to raise prices every time they wanted more money.”

Recfishwest understand there are significant costs involved in managing recreational fishing. However, Leyland said fishers already contribute more than their fair share towards the cost of managing recreational fishing through $8 million in licence fees they currently provide the government every year.

“I don’t know of any other group that contributes so much towards managing their recreational activity and unfortunately as costs have gone up, the service that is being provided has gone down,” he said.

In the past 12 months recreational fishing priority projects have been delayed, reviews of important recreational fisheries have stalled, management changes to improve fishing are not being progressed and now when someone buys a fishing licence they are not provided with a rule book to help them understand what they are and are not allowed to do.

“Any increase in fees should be accompanied by an equivalent increase in service,” Leyland said.

“This did not happen last time the government raised fees and there is no reason to believe service will improve with the new fee increases.”

Recfishwest fears participation rates could even fall as many people are now likely to think twice about whether they can afford to go fishing or worse, they may choose to fish without a licence placing them in danger of prosecution.

Recfishwest will be pushing hard to ensure every cent of the additional $1 million the Government will receive from this increase, plus the additional $1 million they are already receiving from last year’s fee increase is accounted for and delivers maximum benefit to the fishing community.

Although the Minister has promised there will be no more increases in licence fees during this term of Government this promise will be of no comfort to fishers who were already paying the highest recreational fishing fees in the country.

New Pricing for recreational fishing licences below:

Fishing from boat (State-wide) $35 + $5 = $40

Rock Lobster  $45 + $5 = $50

Sout West freshwater angling $45 + $5 = $50

Net fishing (haul, set, throw) $45 + $5 = $50

Abalone $45 + $5 = $50

Marron $45 + $5 = $50

Sign the petition to save Canal Rocks boat ramp

Click HERE to sign the petition to save Canal Rocks boat ramp!

The recreational fishing community has been angered over the past few weeks as plans to close an important boat ramp in the South West region became apparent.

Canal Rocks Boat Ramp, near Yallingup, has provided fishers access to important local fishing spots for decades. Recently, however, the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) is considering closing the ramp, citing safety concerns.

This has been met with anger and frustration from both local and visiting fishers who are set to lose access to one of the South-West’s most loved aquatic playgrounds.

Recfishwest Operations Manager Leyland Campbell who spoke at the rally to hundreds of concerned locals , said the peak body is disappointed not to have been consulted and that all options to keep the ramp open are not being considered.

”We will advocate for the ramp to remain open as it is actually one of the safest ramps in the region and DBCA claims about safety simply don’t add up.”

“The Department of Biodiversity, Conservations and Attractions claim this ramp doesn’t meet Australian Standards (exposure to waves greater than 20cm) however, the standards they are choosing to apply are for boat ramps within marinas, not oceanic ramps. If the government applied this standard to all oceanic boat ramps in Western Australia then over 90% of these ramps would be closed. This is simply not acceptable and cannot go unchallenged.”

“While Recfishwest has a strong track record in advocating for fishing safety, we recognise people must take personal responsibility. It is not the Government’s role to protect the community from every conceivable risk, but it is the Governement’s role to provide the basic community infrastructure required to support our culture and lifestyle,” Mr Campbell said.

“The fishing public of Western Australia accept the risks associated with operating a vessel anywhere in our state, including using discretion to assess any ramp for a safe launch and retrieve.”

Recfishwest believe access to high-quality experiences, including fishing, are paramount to the West Australian lifestyle and must be maintained.

Local fisher Glenn Wakelam can’t believe the ramp is being considered for closure.

“This is such a popular ramp during the summer months. On a nice day, it is not unusual to find over 20 trailers in the carpark,” he said.

“Canal Rocks Boat Ramp has been used by the public for decades and the wave height has not changed over that time.

“People aren’t stupid if the swell is too big, they don’t use the ramp.”

Recfishwest has written to the Environment Minister urging him to reconsider this decision but we need your help to ensure the message is heard loud and clear.

What can you do to help?

1. Sign the petition, HERE.
2. Contact your local MP, and tell them how important it is that we have recreational boating facilities around our great state. Whilst you may not launch at Canal Rocks, your local ramp could be next on the list.
3. Tell everyone you know. The more we can let decision makers know how important access to great fishing experiences is to us, the better our chances of a decision in our favour.

WA Needs More Fishing Heroes!

Our Purpose is to ensure Great Fishing Experiences for all in the WA community forever.
Our Commitment is to Protect, Promote and Develop Sustainable, Accessible, Enjoyable and Safe fishing for the benefit of the community.

Thanks to our current supporters, Recfishwest can continue the fight to keep fishing great in WA.

Our role is to: 
– Be your voice that would not otherwise be heard
– Be the voice of the fish that otherwise goes unheard or ignored
– Keep you informed of all thing affecting your fishing, 24/7; we believe you need to know!
– Strive to ensure you and your family return home safe after a day’s fishing
– Defend your fishing rights when your local fishing spot is under threat
– Fight when access to fishing areas is put at risk
– Roll up our sleeves and find a solution when no one else will.

Contribute to what we do and support us, become a member and let us do the hard yakka on your behalf.  We don’t make profits here at Recfishwest and we make sure all our resources go directly towards our action to protect, promote and develop our fishing environments and to keep you fishing.

To give you an idea of where your support helps us make fishing better:
• Stocking of important recreational fish species around WA, including Pink Snapper, Barramundi, Prawns, Mulloway and Freshwater Trout
• Development, design and deployment of Artificial Reefs in Western Australia
• Development of important fishing research and conservation programs
• Development of WA’s ‘Fish and Survive’ program, to ensure all fishers come home safe after a day’s fishing
• Delivery of WA’s only state-wide fishing clinic program to thousands of kids in both metro and regional areas

A strong membership base allows us to pursue matters that affect your fishing with added confidence knowing you’ve got our back, just like we’ve got yours!

For just 50c per week, you can help us protect and develop fishing experiences in Western Australia, for the community forever.

Fishing Services Remain Despite Amalgamation

As of July 1, 2017, the Western Australian Department of Fisheries’ time as a stand-alone agency came to an end, after its amalgamation with the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Regional Development into what will now be known as the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD). This change came about as part of the Government’s amalgamation plan, cutting the number of Government agencies from 41 to 25.

Although this brings to an end the last remaining stand-alone fisheries department in Australia, Recfishwest has been assured by the Minister that recreational fishers will see no loss of service for the pastime we all love.

As part of their election commitments to recreational fishing, the Government committed to continuing the funding of the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund, which has provided benefits such as Artificial Reefs , FADs, stocking of species such as Mulloway, Barramundi and School Prawns as well as providing vital research into key recreational fishing species so as to better inform ongoing management measures.

The Government has also reassured its commitment to funding Recfishwest, to ensure that fishers have a strong connection to decision makers. Recreational fishing is an important part of our lifestyle and culture, and reports from throughout the state indicate that the quality of fishing experiences available is world class. Fishing provides well-documented health and wellbeing benefits as well as driving tourism in which boosts regional economies.

We are pleased to see the Government’s continued commitment to fishing in this great state.

Recfishwest looks forward to working with DPIRD to ensure that West Aussies continue to have safe, sustainable, accessible and enjoyable fishing experiences and will continue to work to ensure that all current services to recreational fishing will remain.