Remember the latest management changes, including seasonal closures, for both pink snapper and blue swimmer crabs in the West Coast Bioregion came into effect on 1 September.
Both of these closures are critical in protecting spawning snapper and crabs, helping to secure the future of the fantastic fishing experiences both of these iconic recreational species offer in the metro area and South West.
We’ve received some great feedback from you about the new crab management changes announced this week, along with a number of questions you’ve had. Here’s answers to some of those questions – don’t hesitate to contact us if there’s anything else you want to know or have any feedback for us.
Q. I fish in the Peel-Harvey region, how’s it going to affect me?
A. The seasonal closure will be extended by a month and will now run from 1 September to 30 November, but with no changes to the bag limit of 10 and boat limit of 20. These changes should ensure the crabs have longer to grow and moult before they are able to be caught. This means there will be more size crabs for once the season starts in the summer, whereas in recent seasons there has been large numbers of crabs caught early in the season that are under the 127mm minimum size limit. We reckon with more protection given for breeding female crabs, we will see more abundant and bigger crabs around in the next two to three years making for a better crabbing experience for everyone.
Q. Why has the Swan now got a special limit of five crabs?
A. Over the last few years there has been an explosion in the popularity in crabbing in the Swan and Canning rivers placing considerable pressure on crab stocks in the system. The introduction of a special five-crab limit for the Swan recognises the trophy nature of the fishery, which includes bigger sized crabs that were typical in this fishery but have been in decline in recent years. The new limit and the introduction of a seasonal closure should ensure bigger, better quality crabs will be ready to crab for when the season opens in the summer. In the next two to three years, these changes should see the re-establishment of the Swan/Canning as a crab fishery famed for its quality sized crabs. The boat limit of 20 still applies, but you will now need four RFBLs (recreational boat fishing licences) to take your boat limit.
Q. Do I now need four RFBLs if I am boat fishing for crabs if we want to take our 20 crab boat limit in the Swan/Canning rivers?
A. Yes – the bag limit is now five crabs per fisher. In order to take a boat limit of 20 crabs, you will need at least four people on board who have a recreational fishing from boat licence. Click on this link on the Fisheries website here http://www.fish.wa.gov.au/Fishing-and-Aquaculture/Recreational-Fishing/Recreational-Fishing-Rules/Pages/Bag-And-Size-Limits-Explained.aspx for more information.
Q. Tell me more about this commercial licence buy-back scheme?
A. As part of the package announced by the Minister for Fisheries, and following an agreed proposal to the Minister and the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) between us and the commercial sector, 15 oceanic commercial fishing licences in waters from Cockburn Sound to Bunbury will be bought out by the government and permanently closed to commercial fishing. This will result in protection of the female breeding stock underpinning the stocks’ sustainability. This announcement is particularly important for protecting female breeding stock when they leave the estuaries and use the nearshore oceanic areas to spawn each winter. These female crabs traditionally made up a significant proportion of the commercial catch during winter.
Q. Does the spring closure apply to Geographe Bay?
A. No, Geographe Bay will remain open all year-round. The only change in Geographe Bay will be that from 1 December, you will only be able have a maximum of five female crabs within your bag limit of 10 crabs.
Q. Does the closure apply to commercial fishers as well as recreational crabbers?
A. Yes – the three-month spring closure (1 September 1 to 30 November inclusive) applies to both recreational and commercial crab fishing in oceanic and estuarine waters from the Swan/Canning down to just south of Bunbury.
Q. You say Cockburn Sound might be reopening for recreational crabbing. When is this likely to happen?
A. We have long had an interest in reopening Cockburn Sound for recreational crabbing. Now with the buy-back of the commercial crab fishing licences in Cockburn Sound, there is no reason why the Sound shouldn’t reopen to recreational crabbing by next summer.
The new management changes for blue swimmer crabs in Perth and the South West will result in more protection for the female crab breeding stock will ensure bigger, better crabs in the near future.
Permanent removal of commercial fishing licences in Cockburn and Warnbro Sounds and from Mandurah to Bunbury through a voluntary buy-back scheme will ensure more protection for the female crab breeding stock and more crabs and bigger crabs to fish for.
The buy-back of commercial fishing licences in Cockburn Sound opens the real possibility for recreational crab fishing in the Sound.
Introduction of a three-month seasonal closure – September 1 to November 30 – in all waters from the Swan and Canning Rivers (inclusive) to 15km south of Bunbury.
See our map below to show you what the changes mean for you in your favourite crabbing locations.
Recfishwest’s position on the best use of salmon in WA:
All fish in WA should be managed to provide the best return to the West Australian public.
For salmon, this means tourism, recreation and a quality seafood product. Tens of thousands of West Aussies travel to our state’s South-west each year to catch salmon. It’s a West Australian tradition; and these quality fishing experiences must be maintained.
Using iconic sportfish solely as a bait product is not acceptable.
Catching this premier sportfish and sending them straight to the bait market is a practice that should not be happening in 2019. This includes the use of salmon cutlets, fillets, or trunks as bait. Salmon heads make excellent bait once the fillets have been used for human consumption. The same principle can be applied to iconic sportfish such as barramundi, marlin or a range of other species.
Measures should be taken to reduce current conflicts on beaches.
We continue to receive reports from anglers about conflict between sectors on our beaches. All user groups have a moral obligation to respect others on the beach. We ask all beach anglers to respect the activities of commercial salmon operations. However, please be aware that the fisheries legislation does not give any one sector the right to fish over the top of the other. It also doesn’t give any particular priority access to a particular beach or to individual schools of salmon.
In representing the interests of beach anglers, Recfishwest is calling for an immediate reduction in conflict during peak periods such as weekends and public holidays.
All fish stocks in WA must have clear and transparent management objectives.
Fisheries management objectives are a set of goals or aspirations which guide resource use in line with community values, benefits and expectations. Good management objectives are created through consultation and discussion with all stakeholders.
The current management system for salmon does not recognise or integrate social and economic dimensions. Nor does it protect the interest of the thousands of WA anglers who chase salmon on our beaches each year. The popularity of salmon along with a clear mandate from our members creates a strong bias for action and we will not stop advocating until your interests are recognised.
We are seeking a dedicated process to establish clear objectives for the future of salmon in WA so that the value and benefits for all users is recognised and clearly articulated in Government policy.
It must be noted that this is not a sustainability issue, salmon stocks are currently very healthy and it is these high abundances that are underpinning the great fishing we are experiencing along out coastline including a regular salmon run into Perth local waters.
WA has the best recreational crayfish fishery in the world and Recfishwest will fight to protect it.
Concerns over impact on recreational lobster catch and participation
Nearshore crayfish abundance is critical to supporting quality fishing
Recfishwest will never support any proposals that adversely impact on our fishing experiences
Recfishwest believes that all WA fish stocks must be managed to provide optimal benefits to the WA community.
In December, the Minister for Fisheries announced a plan to grow the rock lobster industry by increasing the quota available to the commercial sector by 1700 tonnes.
Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said Recfishwest has significant concerns about the plan which is currently open for consultation.
“Recfishwest will never support anything that adversely impacts on recreational fishing experiences.” Dr Rowland said
He said high numbers of crayfish close to shore in the last few years thanks to conservative management has significantly increased the catchability for recreational fishers, which has led to record high participation rates.
“In recent years fishing experiences for recreational fishers had been boosted and participation has grown to almost 60,000 licence holders thanks to high abundances of crayfish on inshore reefs,” Dr Rowland said.
“We are keen to understand how these inshore reef areas will be protected under any proposal to grow the Western Rock Lobster Industry”
“The last thing we want to see is increased exploitation of these reefs by ramping up commercial catch by 1700t. That’s over three times the annual recreational catch!”
“There is much more to fisheries management than simply the sustainable exploitation of a resource for economic gain, it’s also about managing the stock to ensure high abundance in the right areas.”
“We are seeking more details on the Plan to ensure any management changes do not impact on potters and divers who enjoy catching crayfish along our coast”
“We look forward to further engagement with the Government that results in a plan that recognises the benefits of all stakeholders in this fishery” Dr Rowland said.
There’s plenty of misconception in the fishing community around the management of our favourite demersal species in the West Coast bioregion. The demersal fishing ban begins on the 15th October and ends on the 15th December so we thought it is worth answering some of the commonly asked questions around the current status of these highly sought-after species.
How does the demersal closure protect spawning fish when many of them don’t spawn during this time?
It’s a common misconception that the demersal closure was implemented to protect demersal fish whilst they are spawning. This is not true. In fact, this closure was implemented to reduce the overall catch of demersal fish by reducing fishing effort during this period. This period represented an adequate balance between achieving biological outcomes whilst having only limited social impact.
Species such as Pink Snapper do spawn during this time; however, they are subject to additional spawning closures in Cockburn and Warnbro sounds.
Dhufish are known to spawn at different times of year in different locations, so a spawning closure for Dhufish is not an effective tool for managing the take of this species.
While some believe the impact on fishers is high, it has been acknowledged that the demersal closure is playing its part in managing the catch of these important demersal species.
Recfishwest advocated raising the Dhufish boat limit last year. Why didn’t you advocate removing the demersal ban instead?
In a nutshell, there was room to catch more Dhufish, but not more Pink Snapper, so the Dhufish boat limit was the most obvious management arrangement to alter in order to provide increased amenity to fishers without impacting on the sustainability of any other species.
Research indicated that the catch of Dhufish was below the target (50% of what people were catching in 2005/06) set by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) and Recfishwest believed that there was scope to increase the Dhufish boat limit to take pressure off Pink Snapper and Baldchin Groper. Unfortunately, catches of Pink Snapper were right on the 50% target, so any change to the demersal ban as a whole would have had an adverse effect on snapper catches.
Recfishwest is currently awaiting the next stock assessment for west coast demersal species, which will inform any management changes for these species going forward.
I’m catching lots of small Dhufish and Pink Snapper, does this mean we will see a relaxation of rules in the near future?
High abundances of juvenile fish is always a great sign. In the case of Pink Snapper and Dhufish, who live over 40 years old, any recovery of the fishery and therefore relaxation of rules must be underpinned by proper research. Given the slow growth of these fish, it’s important that we see multiple years of good juvenile recruitment before any decision is made on management changes. Right now, it’s important the recreational sector maintain their catches at current levels.
I see people catching and releasing Dhufish, is this recommended practice?
No. Dhufish, as well as other demersal fish, suffer from barotrauma (pictured below). This is caused by the expansion of gasses inside the fish’s organs as it ascends through the water column during capture. You will see the signs of barotrauma such as organs protruding from the fish’s mouth, or the fish’s eyes appearing like they are ‘on stalks’.
Barotrauma significantly reduces the fish’s chance of survival once released, and although methods such as proper handling and the use of a release weight increases the survival rate, the best practice is to keep the Dhufish you intend to take home then fish for other species or move to new ground. Continually fishing the same ground and releasing Dhufish after Dhufish is not recommended practice.
We all love the opening of the West Coast demersal season because it offers plenty of great fishing opportunities for the community. Looking after our fish stocks is our number one priority, and everyone needs to play their role. With good reports of juvenile fish around and people understanding the importance of seasonal closures, there’s no reason why our demersal stocks can’t be great again in the coming years.
The first day of the 2017/18 metropolitan abalone season occurred on Saturday 9th December and thousands of fishers enjoyed near perfect conditions allowing them to easily catch their bag limit.
Fisheries scientists monitoring the day reported excellent catches with some bags (15 Abalone) weighing in at just under 3kg. The good catches can be attributed to a mixture of excellent weather conditions which allowed fishers to be selective in which Abalone they collected and provided an opportunity for fishers to venture to the back of the reefs where larger abalone can be found.
While recent management changes (which included moving fishing to a Saturday) are likely to have been responsible for a small reduction in the number of people fishing, these same changes ensure the fishery will only open when the weather conditions pose an acceptable risk.
In previous years the season-opening days were set in stone and if weather conditions happened to be terrible on the day then people would still be permitted to fish. Fishing on days with bad weather not only poses substantial safety concerns for both fishers and rescue personnel it also reduces the level of enjoyment.
This year, the final decision to proceed with Saturday’s fishing was taken by Fisheries on Wednesday morning after advice from Surf Life Saving WA (SLSWA) that predicted weather conditions on the day did not pose a high risk for anyone.
In order to provide Fisheries with advice about the predicted risk level, SLSWA developed a Hazardous Surf Prediction Model which takes account of Wind, Swell, Tide and Wave period. This model recommends closing a fishing day if a high risk is forecast.
Weather conditions that will lead to a recommendation to close a fishing day include:
• If the Swell is 3 meters or greater
• OR – if the combined Tide and Swell is Rating 12 or more, this is to be considered high risk.
• OR – if the offshore wind speed is greater than 22 knots (Force 6 on the Beaufort Wind Scale),
• OR – if the combined Period and Swell is Rating 10 or more.
In the event a fishing day is cancelled it will be replaced with another day when conditions are better. This is the first time fisher safety has played such a central role in recreational fishing management and hopefully, these changes will lead to the fishery once again being known as an amazing recreational fishery on the doorstep of a capital city, rather than the most dangerous recreational fishery in the world.
The next scheduled open day on this fishery is the 13th January 2018 with the Department of Fisheries making a final decision on the 10th following advice from Surf Lifesaving WA.