More Places to Fish, More Fish to Catch

Cast a vote in the 2017 State Election – How your vote could affect your fishing

Recfishwest works tirelessly to protect, promote and develop sustainable, accessible, enjoyable and safe fishing for the benefit of the community. With the 2017 state election fast approaching Recfishwest is working to ensure fishers are given the acknowledgement and consideration they deserve.

While Recfishwest has no political affiliation and will never tell anyone how they should vote, we do represent hundreds of thousands of members of the voting public that access the community owned fish resources of Western Australia. With this in mind, we are committed to informing you about all commitments made by registered political parties that are likely to impact on your fishing experiences and let you decide for yourself.

As in previous elections, Recfishwest has provided all political parties with our election “Package for Better Fishing in WA” and have asked each party whether they support this package. In our March Broadcast, we will provide an update outlining the level of support each party has provided for this package and compare the fishing related commitments made by each political party.

Recfishwest’s “Package for Better Fishing in WA” aligns with our vision of ensuring great fishing experiences for all in the WA community forever and will protect, promote and develop sustainable, accessible, enjoyable and safe fishing for the benefit of the whole community.

It is worth noting that Recfishwest expects current funding levels for Recfishwest, the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund and Fishability (formally Fishers with Disabilities) are maintained and as such have not included these in our election package, however, we will inform you if any party plans to change current funding levels for these.

In developing our “Package for Better Fishing in WA” Recfishwest acknowledge the state is currently bound by financial challenges and as such we have developed a fiscally responsible package that contains a number of policy commitments that would benefit fishing at zero cost to government.

The “Package for Better Fishing in WA” contains a number of aspirations and commitments to improve fishing experiences. These fall into two main categories:
• Creating more places to fish, and
• Providing more fish to catch.

More Places to Fish

1. Building the best fishing spots in Australia:

This will see artificial reefs for Albany, Perth, Carnarvon, Broome, Karratha, Port Hedland and Geraldton as well as FADs for Geraldton, Jurien Bay, Broome, Bunbury, Port Hedland, Carnarvon and Perth /Peel. (These reefs and FADs are in addition to artificial reefs in Esperance, Exmouth and Karratha and FADS in Kalbarri, Exmouth and Albany that have already been committed to through the RFIF)

2. Unlocking inland waters:

Recfishwest is calling for impoundments and urban waters to be opened for stocking of popular Australian Native freshwater fish such as Golden Perch, Silver Perch, Murray Cod and Aussie Bass.

3. Breathing life into waterways:

This involves the rehabilitation of shoreline vegetation and establishment of nursery habitats in selected estuaries including the Swan/Canning River.

mulloway reefs

More Fish to Catch

1. 10 million more fish to catch:

Recfishwest is calling for the stocking of 10 million fish including Australian Native Freshwater Fish, Barramundi, Mulloway, Blue Swimmer Crabs, Pink Snapper and Prawns as well as support for hatcheries used in breeding fish for these stocking programs.

2. A better deal for Peel:

The Peel-Harvey Stewardship Package Recfishwest has developed includes a fair and reasonable buyout of some commercial fishing licences, better recreational data collection and management changes to make your experiences fishing for Yellowfin Whiting and Blue Swimmer Crabs better.

3. A fair go for fishers:

Recfishwest is calling for policy changes to support fishing. These changes include:

a. Prioritising Lower West Coast Blue Swimmer Crabs for recreational and tourism purposes.
b. Prohibiting gillnets and beach-seine netting in proximity to coastal towns.
c. Rationalising current commercial fishing pressure in our estuaries.
d. Prioritising Salmon as a key sport fishing and tourism resource.

The commitments contained in Recfishwest’s “Package for Better Fishing in WA” represent an investment of $15 million over four years. Considering the government receives $7.5 million dollars every year through recreational fishing licence fees and that fishing is one of the state’s most popular recreational activities contributing hundreds of millions to the WA economy every year the package Recfishwest has presented to all parties is more than reasonable.

Recfishwest is also in discussions with political parties who wish to make commitments to benefit recreational fishing in WA that fall outside of our “Package for Better Fishing in WA”.

To help ensure fishing receives a fair go this election, ask your local candidates to commit to providing you with more places to fish and more fish to catch.

Mandurah Crabs Receive World First Certification

RECFISHWEST is thrilled the Peel-Harvey Estuary’s iconic Blue Swimmer Crab fishery has been recognised as the world’s first internationally certified sustainable recreational and commercial combined fishery in June 2016. The certification awarded to both the Mandurah Licensed Fisherman’s Association and Recfishwest, who were co-clients in the process, by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). The MSC is an independent, international non-profit organisation established to safeguard healthy fish stocks.

The Peel-Harvey blue swimmer crab fishery is the most popular WA recreational fishery and also provides a livelihood for 10 commercial crab licence holders. Receiving this world-first certification ensures the longevity of this fishery and Recfishwest has been an enthusiastic supporter of the process, which protects and promotes sustainable and enjoyable fishing opportunities for the WA community.

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said he was thrilled with the announcement but more we can’t rest on our morels and continued best-practised need to be maintained.

“This was never an exercise in achieving sustainability or gaining approval of being sustainable, this was an exercise in ensuring that correct management measures are maintained and improved if need be to ensure people can come to Mandurah with the confidence that their crabs are here to stay,” Dr Rowland said.

Mandurah Licensed Fisherman’s Association President Damien Bell and long-time crab fisher said seeing the certification finally come to fruition in line with good science with a sustainability outcome for both sectors is a win – win.

“We have been providing WA with some of the best, most sustainable seafood for many years and we wouldn’t be here today if we weren’t sustainable in our practices and I’m proud that the fishery has been recognised by an independent third party as sustainable” Mr Bell said.

It is the first recreational fishery in the world to gain recognition through the Marine Stewardship Council certification program. The MSC certification gives the community reassurance they can continue to do so for years to come at the same time as remaining compatible with the outstanding environmental values of the estuary.

For more on MSC and other certified fisheries, click here.

No Science to Support Gillnet Safety Claims

The Facts:

– Recfishwest supports the Government in taking practical steps to improve safety measures related to sharks in WA
– In absence of evidence linking gillnet fishing to improved safety, Recfishwest will strongly oppose any attempt to re-introduce gillnet fishing to metropolitan waters
– Recent calls regarding positive public safety outcomes from gillnets are unfounded
– Waters Lancelin to Mandurah were closed to gillnetting in 2007 to protect Dhufish and Pink Snapper stocks (Figure 1 below)
– A $5 million dollar compensation package was made available to commercial fishers at the time by the state government
– Shark fishing with gillnets outside metro waters lands almost 1000 tons of sharks annually
Recfishwest cares deeply about public safety. The fishing community include those who enter the water spearfishing and diving and many others who go surfing, swimming and enjoy other aquatic recreational activities.

In November 2007 the then Minister for Fisheries, the Hon. Jon Ford, MLC announced the removal of gillnets from the metropolitan area following concern for the sustainability of iconic fish species such as Dhufish and Pink Snapper. This decision is still widely regarded by the recreational fishing community as the single most important and positive decision for recreational fishing by any Fisheries Minister.

Calls have been made for the reintroduction of the metropolitan shark fishery, by linking the 2007 closure to recent shark attacks. No evidence has supported these calls. Unsurprisingly Recfishwest has been inundated with correspondence from concerned fishers who are worried that the great fishery they have worked so hard to rebuild is about to be impacted by gillnets. Recfishwest firmly believe that there is no justification for gillnets in metropolitan waters and fought hard for many years for the removal of this particular fishing method.

This issue is of great importance to many fishers as gillnet fishing impacted on a number of important bottom fish species in the metropolitan area. The benefits of the decision to remove the nets are now starting to be seen with Dhufish stocks showing signs of recovery as supported by the latest scientific stock assessment.

The removal of gillnets from metropolitan waters was only one of a number of management measures across both the recreational and commercial sectors that were undertaken in 2007 to meet the sustainability challenges for Dhufish. The government provided millions of dollars in compensation to commercial fishers who were displaced. It is worth noting that fishing for sharks and finfish with gillnets has operated for decades North of Lancelin and South of Mandurah through to the SA boarder and continues to land almost 1000 tons of sharks and rays annually.

Recfishwest actively promotes boating and water safety initiatives as we believe all West Aussies should return home safe at the end of a day’s fishing. WA’s 140,000 recreational boat fishing licence holders have a role to play as eyes on the water especially in the early reporting of shark sightings to Water Police on 9442 8600.
We do not believe that the re-introduction of gillnets to metropolitan waters will improve public safety. We do not support a misguided attempt to solve one problem by creating another.

Recfishwest supports decisions based on science!
Map Courtesy of WA Department of Fisheries – STATUS REPORTS OF THE FISHERIES AND AQUATIC RESOURCES OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA 2014/15 (pg 269)

The following Media Release is from 2007 on behalf of then Fisheries Minister John Ford.

MEDIA STATEMENT NOV 2007

Metropolitan fishing closure will help sustainability of iconic fish

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Today marks the closure of commercial line and gillnet fishing in the Metropolitan Fishing Zone, between Lancelin and south of Mandurah, as part of a fishing reform package to ensure sustainability of fish for the future.

Fisheries Minister Jon Ford said a $5million compensation package will be available to buy-out commercial line and demersal gillnet fishers within the metropolitan zone.

Only about eight licence holders are expected to be fully impacted by the new ban, with other metropolitan zone fishers able to continue fishing in other parts of the West Coast Bioregion, which runs from Kalbarri to near Augusta.

Various commercial fisheries will still be allowed to operate in the metropolitan zone including the lobster fishery, purse seine fishing for sardines and the South West Trawl fishery which takes prawns, scallops and small fish.

Mr Ford said that although a handful of fishermen would be impacted by the ban, consumers should experience little if no impact from this Western Australian Government policy.

“Only about three per cent of demersal scalefish consumed in WA comes from the metropolitan zone, with 97 per cent of the supply coming from WA’s northern fisheries. So there should be very little if any change in prices,” he said.

“In any case, fish such as dhufish and pink snapper have been over-priced for most Western Australians for several years. But with better sustainability practices by this fishery, supply should improve in the long-term and prices should become more realistic.”

The Minister said the difficult decision to introduce the metropolitan zone fishing ban was necessary to ensure sustainability of iconic demersal scalefish such as dhufish and pink snapper.

“New research presented to me showed an immediate reduction in catches of key demersal scalefish, of about 50 per cent, was required to ensure the sustainability of these fish in the Metropolitan Fishing Zone,” he said.

“In making the decision, I considered the following points: The metropolitan zone attracts about two-thirds of all recreational fishing effort between Kalbarri and near Augusta; commercial catches of demersal species in the metropolitan zone accounts for about three per cent of the State’s entire catch of demersal scalefish; a shared reduction by commercial and recreational sectors was likely to have made the remaining commercial sector unviable; and compensation would be available for affected commercial fishers, while many metropolitan zone fishers will still able to operate outside of the metropolitan zone.

“Having considered these issues, I decided to remove all commercial line and gillnet fishing in this area. This decision is in keeping with the Integrated Fisheries Management that allows me to make allocation decisions, which can include the option of zero allocation.”

Mr Ford said that while the Metropolitan Fishing Zone was now effectively an exclusive zone for recreational fishing of demersal scalefish such as dhufish and pink snapper, he was not ignoring the fact that recreational fishing also had an enormous impact on fish stocks.

“Our current management arrangements such as bag limits are no longer sufficient to keep abreast with the increasing pressure on our fish stocks. That’s why we need a new and innovative management strategy for recreational fishing of demersal scalefish along the West Coast Bioregion,” the Minister said.

“The discussion paper I released in September invites the public to have their say about what this new management strategy should involve. Submissions close tomorrow, November 16, so I urge people to make their submissions. Your ideas will be very helpful in deciding the fate of recreational fishing.”

ENDS

Fish Trap Trial Ruled Out

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.