Bag limit increase from 12 to 20 recognises the value of herring to West Aussie recfishers

Recfishwest welcomes the latest announcement from Fisheries Minister Don Punch, who announced the bag limit for herring – ‘the people’s fish’ – has officially increased from 12 to 20 as of Saturday, October 1.  

A good outcome for fishers, it maximises the benefits of the fish for the community, while ensuring its sustainability, with stocks more than amply recovered to a sufficient level to continue growing while supporting the increased bag limit.  

The decision to increase the bag limit to 20 came after Recfishwest recommended the change to the Minister having gauged the views of more than 4,000 recreational fishers who provided us their views through our herring bag limit survey.  

Herring are one of the most easy-to-catch and accessible species across WA.

Maximising social and economic benefits

It also follows the Government’s decision to prioritise herring for recreation and human consumption in line with the current Fisheries Act which legally obliges the State Government of the day to achieve “the optimum economic, social and other benefits from the use of fish resource.”  

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said, “This is a great outcome and shows what a sensible fisheries management approach can achieve that recognises and takes on board the input of recreational fishers.  

“We hope the Minister can adopt a similar sensible approach in arriving at a decision for the west coast demersal scalefish fishery that can balance the need to speed up the recovery of the stock without wrecking the lifestyle and livelihoods of tens of thousands of recreational fishers. 

“Let’s not forget that at one point prior to the management changes being made in 2015, Fisheries put a three-month closure on the table for herring that included the Easter holidays – a traditional time where West Aussie kids fish with their families to get a feed of herring.  

“Thankfully that initial herring proposal didn’t proceed as the Department listened to the views of the community and found a ‘better way’ to protect sustainability without destroying the social benefits – this is exactly what needs to be done with the proposed nine-month closure for west coast demersals.  

“We are currently in discussions with the Minister and the Department to hopefully arrive at a more balanced and sensible outcome for west coast demersal just as we did with herring.”  

Herring are one of the most important fish species in WA as they act as a gateway into fishing, especially for young children.

“A sensible and balanced outcome”

Fisheries Minister Don Punch said, “With the herring recovery backed by the latest scientific stock assessment, Recfishwest requested the daily herring bag limit increase from 12 to 20. I am very pleased we can make this change, which will enable fishers to catch an ample feed for themselves and their family.”  

Read Minister Punch’s full media release here 

Andrew added, “Herring gives great fishing memories to a wide range of angling families across the State and this crucial species has given many a young angler’s first love for fishing given their abundance and accessibility.   

“It doesn’t matter if you’re new to fishing or an experienced angler, all fishers love catching herring, which are good-eating and are a frequent catch off most of WA’s jetties, beaches and rock walls.  

“Thank you to all recreational fishing community members for your input into this decision. It’s great to see your efforts have been recognised and rewarded in recovering this fishery. We will continue to make sure there are plenty of herring around for future generations to enjoy forever.”  

Herring bag limit increasing from 12 to 20 in October

In a great outcome for WA anglers, Fisheries Minister Don Punch recently announced the herring bag limit is to be increased from 12 to 20 from 1 October.

One of the most easily accessible fish to catch off WA, herring are the most important fish species off our coast.

This is in line with advice provided by Recfishwest to the Minister in April calling for the increase.

The advice was based on DPIRD’s scientific assessment that showed herring have made a strong enough recovery to allow for an increase in the bag limit without slowing down the continued growth of the herring stock.

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said, “We’re really pleased to see the Fisheries Minister has listened to fishers’ views and responded to the strong herring stock recovery with this positive outcome.

“Herring brings pleasure to a wide range of anglers including mums, dads and kids, with a wide range of fishing ability. It truly is the ‘people’s fish’ and we will continue to make sure there will be plenty of them around for people to enjoy forever.”

Thanks to more than 4,000 of you who responded to our survey, we were able to gauge community views on what the revised bag limit should be in light of the strong recovery of the stock.

It was great to see how many people care about the future of this hugely valued species.

As our survey results showed, a majority of 32 per cent of you who responded called for an increase in the bag limit to 20, while 27 per cent favoured the bag limit staying at 12. Only 11 per cent called for a return to the former bag limit of 30.

See a full summary of our recent herring bag limit survey here.

This response from the public built the foundations of this recent decision and it is a great result in prioritising herring for recreational enjoyment and human consumption.

Future management decisions on herring will be guided by future stock assessments, community sentiment and the outcomes of a herring working group.

See the media release from Fisheries Minister Don Punch here.

Recfishwest to play a leading role in mapping out a bright future for herring

Recfishwest has been asked by Fisheries Minister Don Punch to play a lead role on a working group that will develop a comprehensive forward-looking plan for the future management of herring.

As we recently reported, WA herring has made a strong recovery following management changes brought in in 2015 across both commercial and recreational fishing sectors to ease fishing pressure.

This is great news and opens up the genuine opportunity to finally establish a dedicated management framework specifically for this highly important species that can lock in a sustainable future for it, while maximizing its benefit to the community.

On the back of the stock assessment’s results, Minister Punch wrote to Recfishwest requesting our participation in a herring management working group and process to be established later this year.

In his letter, Recfishwest was pleased to see the Minister underline the Government’s position that herring should be reserved for recreation and human consumption.

Herring are WA’s most important recreational fishing species, providing fantastic fishing experiences for fishers of all ages.

Maximizing sustainable community benefits

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said: “We share West Aussies’ passion and care for herring highlighted by 4,000 recfishers who responded to our recent survey asking for feedback around the current bag limit.

“We are pleased to see the commitment to move this fishery under formal management in an effort to safeguard herring for the future.

“We are also pleased to see that at the forefront of this management will be a focus on the best fishing experiences possible.”

Minister Punch has said that ahead of the working group process being established later this year, both recreational and commercial fishing sectors can put forward proposals for interim management changes to be made in line with the fishery management objective of using the resource sustainably for recreational and human consumption purposes.

This is on condition that both sectors work together on such proposals collaboratively.

On this basis, commercial herring operator Albany Seafoods approached Recfishwest to seek support for an exemption from the current management arrangements to catch a limited amount of herring (70t) using the G-trap method on three beaches on the south coast during the 2022 autumn season.

Recfishwest’s starting position in considering any proposal from the commercial fishing sector to take an increase of catch in herring – is that any increase must allow for the biomass of herring to continue to grow.

We want high abundance of bigger fish to ensure recreational herring fishing is as enjoyable and productive as possible.

In looking at the proposal to potentially increase commercial catches by 70t, we took into consideration the latest scientific stock assessment undertaken by DPIRD.

This shows the current combined commercial and recreational catch of WA herring sits at at around 115t with the catch-MSY (Maximum Sustainable Yield) analysis within the stock assessment suggesting herring stocks could theoretically support an annual catch of between 700 – 1,060t.

Recfishwest is playing a lead role in developing a comprehensive forward-looking plan for the future of herring management.

Enjoyable and productive fishing

Given the current catch is around 20t – the proposed increase of up to 70t  is well within the sustainable limit.

On this basis Recfishwest had no objection to Albany Seafoods request to operate G-trap nets via an exemption – under the following conditions:

  • G-trap net fishing is limited to the three beaches nominated. Namely, Cheynes Beach, Trigalow Beach and Betty’s Beach;
  • The exemption expires on June 30, 2022;
  • Real-time catch reporting is undertaken to ensure catches are maintained within the exemption catch limit of 70t;
  • These operations are focussed on supply of herring for human consumption in line with the government position that has been in place since 2015;
  • A formal review taking place through the Ministerial working group process prior to any future G-net fishing taking place. The review should include:
    • Total catch by area.
    • A breakdown of resource use – i.e. proportion human consumption.
    • Assessment of resource use against the Government’s position.
  • An assurance from DPIRD that increased fishing to this level will not affect herring abundances to the extent of negatively impact recreational fishing experiences; and,
  • DPIRD guarantees the immediate progression to change the daily bag limit for herring should a request be made by Recfishwest within the interim period.

Dr Rowland commented: “We strongly support the Government’s position that herring should be prioritized for recreational fishing and human consumption. We believe the Albany Seafoods proposal is a fair one, it’s well within sustainable limits and will not significantly impact the experience of anglers who target herring on the south coast.

“That said, as the peak body for rec fishing, we think it only fair and right that conditions apply to this exemption to ensure it is properly managed by DPIRD, particularly given this fishery is well overdue to be placed under formal management.”

More than 4,000 fishers responded to our recent herring survey, letting us know how important herring were to them.