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!

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


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.”


Boost for Snapper Guardians in State Budget

Recfishwest is delighted with WA State Government’s budget commitment which will see $300,000 over the next 2 years towards the release of more Pink Snapper fingerlings into Cockburn Sound. People stood up and made a pledge to chip in towards a solution, and it’s great to see the government throw their support behind this initiative.

This contribution will allow on-ground activities to focus directly on maintaining and protecting healthy fish stocks to support better fishing. It will also provide opportunities for the community to get involved. Recfishwest is also in ongoing discussion with authorities to ensure rapid response protocols are established to safeguard the health this important waterway.

Recreational fishers are champions of sustainable fish stocks and healthy fish habitats, and we look forward to rolling up our sleeves and making the next release as successful as the first!

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.

Your Licence Fund Making Fishing Better

Fisheries Minister Ken Baston has today announced that the Expression of Interest (EOI) period for Round 4 of the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund (RFIF) is now open. Funding is available for incorporated individuals, research institutions, government departments, clubs/organisations or community groups and joint applications are encouraged. Recfishwest Chief Executive Officer Dr Andrew Rowland said the RFIF provides funding to enable initiatives, projects and research that is aligned with recreational fishing community priorities and enhances recreational fishing in Western Australia.

“Recfishwest is once again excited to see recreational fishing licence money being reinvested into projects that will enhance the recreational fishing experience.” Dr Rowland said
Since the RFIF was established in 2011, more than $6.5 million of recreational fishing licence money has been invested into projects including:

– Habitat enhancement projects such as the Bunbury, Dunsborough and Mandurah artificial reefs as well as Metropolitan fish towers and Fish Aggregation Devices.
– Stocking of important recreational species including Prawns, Black Bream, Mulloway, Barramundi and Pink Snapper.
– Research into the biology and ecology of important recreational species including Squid, Black Bream, Blue Swimmer Crabs, Prawns, Mulloway, Pink Snapper and various Gamefish.
– Research into the wellbeing benefits of recreational fishing and mapping of fishing locations for fishers of all ability.
– Development of the next generation of recreational fishing including young future leadership programs and post graduate scholarships.

Grants will only be made to projects that promote or benefit recreational fishing in WA. A list of broad strategic areas considered for funding can be found on the 2015 Expression of Interest form available at

The EOI period for 2015 RFIF funding closes at midnight on Sunday the 8th February 2015.

“This program is highly valued by the community as it continues to deliver tangible returns for fishing licence contributions.” Dr Rowland said.
Recfishwest advocates for sustainable fishing resources and policies that ensure long-term benefits to all recreational fishers. For more information on Recfishwest visit or phone 9246 3366.

– Every year 25% of recreational fishing licence revenue is allocated to the RFIF.
– Recfishwest administers the RFIF process and provides advice to the Minister.
– Since its inception in 2011 more than 20 projects valued at over $6.5 million have been funded.
– RFIF funding has seen over 750,000 school prawns stocked in the Swan/Canning River.

Recfishwest administers the RFIF process and the Minister for Fisheries has absolute discretion in the application of all RFIF funds

Herring by the Dozen

As of 2015, millions of Herring will be left in the water in a move to ensure the sustainability of WA’s most important fish.  The Fisheries Minister, Ken Baston, today announced the closure of the commercial Herring G-trap fishery and a reduced recreational bag limit of 12 Herring per person per day will come into effect on March 1, 2015.

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland welcomed today’s announcement to close the commercial south coast Herring trap fishery, leaving hundreds of tonnes of spawning Herring in WA waters each year.

“For recreational fishing families Herring is the most important fish in WA therefore its sustainability is paramount to ensure quality fishing experiences can be passed on to future generations.” Dr Rowland said.

“While a bag limit reduction to 12 is disappointing and a larger cut than we think necessary, we are pleased to have secured year round access and to see that the government has prioritised the use of Herring in line with community expectations.”

Since sustainability concerns were first raised over 12 months ago, Recfishwest have been proactively pushing for management action that prioritises the use of this resource for recreational and human consumption purposes.

“Today’s decision reflects Recfishwest’s belief that Herring is much more valuable on the end of a kid’s fishing line than as bait in the bottom of a cray pot.”
Original catch reductions proposed by the Department of Fisheries included a bag limit cut to eight plus a three month closed season that would have prevented people fishing for Herring over Easter.

“It’s the right of every West Australian to catch Herring and Recfishwest worked hard to ensure families can still catch Herring whenever they have an opportunity to go fishing.”
“Following the success of increased Rock Lobster bag limits, Recfishwest will continue to work on behalf of every WA fishing family to ensure Herring bag limits are relaxed as stocks rebound.”

“We look forward to seeing the recovery plan in detail and will keep the recreational fishing community up to date with this issue as new information becomes available.” Dr Rowland said.