Premier’s Position on Metro Gillnetting Spot On

Following any shark attack, there is inevitably an ill-informed call for the reintroduction of commercial gillnets between Lancelin and Mandurah under the guise of improving public safety.

Premier McGowan was recently quoted as saying the reintroduction of gillnets to the metropolitan area ‘wouldn’t make any difference’ to great white shark numbers and therefore public safety, and he is absolutely correct.

In 2007, an important decision was made by the Labor Government to remove gillnet fishing from Lancelin to Mandurah. This decision was based on sustainability and resource sharing concerns for Pink Snapper and Dhufish. 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.

The benefits of this decision are only now starting to be seen with Dhufish and Pink snapper stocks showing signs of recovery.

Every time there is a call for the reintroduction of the metropolitan shark fishery Recfishwest is inundated with calls from concerned fishers who are worried the great fishery they have worked so hard to rebuild is about to be impacted again by gillnets.

Recfishwest cares deeply about public safety and supports the Government in taking practical steps to improve safety measures related to sharks in WA however in absence of evidence linking gillnet fishing to improved safety, Recfishwest will strongly oppose any attempt to re-introduce gillnet fishing to metropolitan waters.

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.

The Facts:

• There is zero evidence to suggest gillnet fishing will lead to improved safety outcomes for the community.

• The majority of shark fatalities in W.A. have occurred in areas where gillnet fishing still occurs.

• Waters Lancelin to Mandurah was closed to gillnetting in 2007 to protect Dhufish and Pink Snapper stocks and 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 uses a small mesh net and lands almost 1000 tonnes of small sharks annually. The mesh used is far too small to effectively catch large sharks.

• Any reintroduction of gillnets to Perth waters will jeopardise the recovery of Pink Snapper and Dhufish stocks and is unlikely to capture a single “problem” shark.

Fish Towers to be deployed this summer

Get ready for some metro pelagic fishing this Summer at the new Fish Towers!  Two new exciting Fish Towers will be deployed this summer in the metropolitan region, funded through recreational fishing licence fees, creating exciting brand new fishing opportunities. The Fish Towers add to the continued development of artificial reefs in WA, joining the highly successful artificial reefs off the coasts of Dunsborough, Bunbury and Mandurah. The towers will be the first steel artificial reefs deployed in WA, with a different layout and construction material, on a much larger scale than the artificial reefs further south.

Designed by Western Australian artificial reef specialists, Subcon, the purpose built reefs are an impressive 12.5m high or the same size as a four storey building! To add to its height, each reef weighs a massive 50 tonne and is 10m long and 7.8m wide. The costly process of reef deployment at sea has also been reduced through a new innovative technique that has never been used with this style of artificial reef anywhere in the world. Instead of being loaded onto a barge and deployed using a crane, the large structure will be towed out into position and its buoyancy tanks will be flooded to safely and cost effectively sink the towers.

The fish towers have been specially designed for both pelagic and demersal fish species. The lattice-like steel upper part of the reef will concentrate small baitfish such as Yellowtail Scad, Bullseye, Pike and small Trevally, making the reef a perfect location for predatory pelagics. As well as this, the large area, vertical profile and differing types and shapes of the bottom part of the structure make it an ideal home for demersal species. The reasons that the towers make such a perfect homes for these fish species comes from their purpose built design.
The steel lattice provides shelter for baitfish from pelagic predators (which attracts these predators to the tower) while the structures’ complex habitat provides variation in temperature, shade and hydrological effects such as current, to favour a variety of different species and higher abundances of fish. The curved steel plates on the fish tower promote upwelling and the surfaces of the structure can be colonised by macro-algae, sponges and corals, both of these factors provide a boost to the food chain and increase the productivity of the reef, further increasing the number and variety of target species.

Pelagic species such as Samson Fish, Yellowtail Kingfish, Salmon, Spanish Mackerel and Tuna species could all be expected at the reef as well as demersal species such as Pink Snapper, Dhufish and Baldchin Groper. Other species that could be caught in the area around the reef include, King George Whiting, Flathead, Flounder and even Mulloway! While all the mentioned species are expected on the reefs (and have been observed on the artificial reefs further south) other fish may also turn up in the proposed deployment area including Yellowfin Tuna, Amberjack and Bonito.

The reefs were funded using recreational fishing licence fees and are there for all fishers to enjoy. Anchoring right on top of reefs should be avoided as it will limit the benefit they can have to all fishers and limit the chances of your anchor returning. As is the case with the South West Artificial Reefs, some of the best fish are caught around the structure, not right on top of it. Fish can be targeted by trolling around the area and over the top of the reef as well as drifting near the reef location or by drifting weighted mulies in a burley trail.

The exact locations are yet to be confirmed, but will be announced by Recfishwest in due course. It is expected they will be located between Rottnest and Garden islands and installation of the structures will begin this summer. With huge projects like this, WA is showing the world what can be achieved by passionate fishers who believe in enjoyable, safe, sustainable and accessible fishing experiences for the WA community in the future.

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