Peel-Harvey Buyback Scheme Extension

In October, 2018, Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly announced a ‘buyback’ scheme –known as a Voluntary Fisheries Adjustment Scheme (VFAS) – for commercial fishing licences in the Peel-Harvey Estuary.

This announcement was welcomed by the recreational fishing community and honoured an important election commitment the McGowan Government made to recreational fishers to allocate more blue swimmer crabs and yellowfin whiting to recreational fishing in the estuary.

In a recent development, the Minister announced an extension to the VFAS scheme, which will give commercial operators until June 2020 for the opportunity to submit an offer for consideration under the scheme.

At the time of the original deadline for offers in April this year, the broader outcomes of an ongoing management review of the fishery were still unknown. Recfishwest understand that without this clarity, it was difficult for commercial operators to make a decision to give up a licence through the VFAS scheme.

Given the significant benefit to recreational crabbing and fishing in the Peel-Harvey from a well-subscribed VFAS scheme, we support the Minister’s decision to allow commercial operators more time to give up their licence in light of the management review outcomes.

We will continue to keep you updated on further developments in this highly popular recreational fishery.

 

 

Breaking News – Crab Review

BREAKING NEWS!

A discussion paper release by DPIRD this afternoon calls into question the resilience of crab breeding stocks under current management arrangements and highlights an urgent need to better protect breeding stock.

Recreational fishing surveys since 2011 have clearly shown the blue swimmer crab is far and away the most caught species by fishers around Western Australia.

Particular concerns focus on increasing the protection for mated, pre-spawn female crabs which become highly vulnerable to capture in late autumn, winter and spring.

Recfishwest has held similar concerns for over a decade.

The Department have presented the following options for consideration:
1. Male-only fishery
2. Increase in the Minimum Legal Size (MLS)
3. Reducing fishing effort for all sectors when female crabs are vulnerable to capture
4. Patchwork closures for where female crabs aggregate
5. Broad-scale area closures when females are more vulnerable to capture

Attention is being focussed across the entire resource to ensure all areas of breeding stock vulnerability are addressed and includes all estuaries and ocean fishing for crabs from Perth to Geographe Bay.

In weighing up the options, the Department has identified broad scale seasonal closures (May to Nov) as the most balanced option to achieve the desired objective.

We are pleased to have the opportunity to put forward the community’s views.
Once we have fully digested the discussion paper, we will publish a short online survey, summarising the options and seeking your feedback.

Given that these fisheries account for around 90% of the state’s recreational crab catch, we urge you to have your say.

See the discussion paper summary here: http://www.fish.wa.gov.au/…/public_comme…/fmp288-summary.pdf

Restoring the Balance: The 1st Step to Bigger Better Crabs

Media Release, 11 October 2018

  • Recfishwest Vision – Bigger Better Crabs for Peel Harvey
  • Minister Prioritises and Protects Family Fishing Experiences
  • The Right Abundances in the Right Places

Recfishwest welcomes today’s announcement from Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly, to establish a buyback scheme for commercial fishing licences in the Peel-Harvey Estuary. This announcement honours an important election commitment the McGowan government made to recreational fishers.

The Peel Harvey Estuary is the spiritual home of recreational crabbing with thousands of family’s flocking to Mandurah every year to enjoy the experience of catching their own seafood across the summer months.

Recfishwest Operations Manager Leyland Campbell commended the Minister and his actions.

 “Crabbing and fishing in the estuary is the lifeblood of the region and today’s announcement means more Blue Swimmer Crabs and Yellowfin Whiting will be left in the water for fishing families.”

 “Recfishwest have been calling for change to management arrangements in this fishery for over a decade and by honouring their election commitment the McGowan Government are supporting safe, accessible and enjoyable fishing experiences for all West Aussies.”

“The scheme is designed to allocate more Blue Swimmer Crabs and Yellowfin Whiting to recreational fishing families and is a positive first step in bringing big crabs back to the region.” Mr Campbell said.

Recfishwest are happy with the creation of a mechanism allowing recreational fishing licence money to assist with resolving resource reallocation issues. This sets an important and positive precedence for restoring the right balance between commercial and recreational fishing.

Recfishwest looks forward to continuing to work with the Minster and the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development to ensure greater recreational fishing experiences in the region.

Read Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly’s Media Statement here.

Crab Stocking Trial Project a WA First!

It is hard to find a better way to spend your summer afternoons than wading the estuary flats with a crab scoop in hand. In fact, crabbing for Blue Swimmer Crabs (Portunus armatus) is one of the most popular fishing activities in Western Australia.

Stocking of many of WA’s favourite finfish has occurred across the state with Pink Snapper, Black Bream, Barramundi and Mulloway all being stocked, yet there has been no stocking of crabs. Given their popularity and the importance of crabbing to WA culture, investigating possible stocking options for Blue Swimmer Crabs was identified as a way to enhance crabbing and crab stocks in WA.

Recently the Australian Centre for Applied Aquaculture Research (ACAAR) at South Metropolitan TAFE received a grant from the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund (RFIF) to identify future restocking options for Blue Swimmer Crabs. Since the culturing of Blue Swimmer Crabs from berried broodstock had never been done in WA, this project would first investigate if this process was feasible, and if successful, result in the first stocking of crabs in WA.

What happened?

Collecting the broodstock
• With assistance from Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) Division of Fisheries, a handful of wild berried broodstock were collected from the Peel Harvey Estuary and transported to ACAAR’s facility in Fremantle
• The berried females arrived full of eggs at an early stage of development when the eggs are still yellow (Figure 1). Conditions and temperature in the tank were then altered to assist the crabs developing their eggs to a later stage where the eggs turn a darker colour and are ready for spawning (Figure 2).

From hatching to release
• Once the eggs hatch, the earliest stages of a crab’s life cycle begins to be visible when viewed through a microscope. This first stage (below) of a crab’s journey is called a Zoea and resembles something more closely out of an Alien movie than of a crab. At this stage, the Zoea have limited ability to move to avoid predators and find food and are at the mercy of their environment. Hatchery conditions and food availability must be carefully managed during this vulnerable stage.

• Day by day the Zoea continue to grow and develop and after 12 days they make their next big transformation as part of their life cycle, metamorphosing into a Megalopa. At this stage they are starting to look much more similar to their parents having grown biting claws and gained the ability swim freely.

• After 19 days from hatching, the project reached an important milestone with the Megalopa undergoing their final metamorphose into a Crablet. This is a dangerous stage in the development of the crabs as the crablets quickly become highly cannibalistic and aggressive, apparently maximising the use of their newly grown claws.

• From the broodstock crabs that contributed to the spawning, the final stage of the projects saw the release of 3700 crablets into the Peel Harvey Estuary.

The success of this WA first project has opened the door to future potential restocking programs for crabs that could play a role in continuing to create great fishing experiences for the WA community forever. A second project, also funded through licence fees aims to release up to 100,000 crabs into Metropolitan waters and start to design a larger scale stocking program for WA.

This project was funded through the RFIF and supported by DPIRD, Division of Fisheries and Recfishwest.

Current Management Puts Iconic Mandurah Fishery at Risk

Almost everyone has a story about the time they went fishing in Mandurah. It is a part of being West Australian.  This highly valued waterway provides enjoyable, accessible and safe fishing experiences for locals and visitors alike. It has forever been a summertime escape for families wanting to get out and enjoy what Mandurah has to offer.

Recfishwest exists to protect great fishing experiences for the community forever. We’ve had significant concerns about current management arrangements for commercial Yellowfin Whiting fishing in the Peel Harvey Estuary for some time.

Current commercial catches for Yellowfin Whiting have been allowed to reach record levels, well beyond the threshold set out in the current harvest strategy for finfish in the Peel Harvey Estuary/

Recfishwest was heavily involved in the establishment of the harvest strategy for this fishery. This strategy was put in place to provide the public with confidence that community owned resources are being effectively managed.

Recfishwest and the community were involved in the negotiation and accepted the current catch threshold for this species. This was done in good faith and as a measure to protect the high level of fishing enjoyment a healthy stock provides.  It’s disappointing that commercial catches of Yellowfin Whiting have been allowed to increase by over 250% since 2011. To now see the agreed threshold exceeded by more than double feels like the West Australian community have been robbed.

We believe these catch levels pose a significant risk to the quality of current and future fishing experiences in Mandurah. Fishing for Yellowfin Whiting is a key part of our culture and we are now calling for action to restore the balance.

While we understand the value and role commercial fishing plays in delivering fresh, local seafood to the market, we believe that unconstrained catches in such a small system such as the Peel Harvey Estuary no longer meet community expectations.

If Mandurah is to continue to provide fantastic fishing and we are to genuinely preserve what is so important to the West Australian lifestyle, then the time to act is now.

Recfishwest will be working with the Government to find an outcome that will restore the balance and protect amazing fishing experiences in Mandurah forever.

 

Slow Start to South West Crabbing Season Predicted

A lengthy winter and lower than average water temperature is predicted to cause a slow start to Crabbing this season. The iconic Mandurah crab fishery opened on November 1st, however fishers are not expected to encounter good numbers of legal sized crabs for at least another month.

It is important to recognise that many crabs will still currently be undersize, and that your crabbing efforts may be better spent later in the season. Crabs grow rapidly as water temperatures warm up in late December and January and this is considered the best time to fish for crabs. Whenever you go crabbing remember to always carry a crab gauge and measure the crabs correctly from point to point on the carapace (body) to ensure they are larger than the minimum legal size of 127mm.

Be sure to abide by the personal bag limit of 10 and boat limit of 20 crabs, and a maximum of 10 pots is allowed per person/boat. A Recreational Boat Fishing Licence is required if taking or transporting crabs by boat.

New rules regarding the immediate release of protected crabs are now in effect, meaning that undersize and berried (egg-carrying) crabs must be released as soon as they are caught before resuming fishing. It is also important to know that uncooked crabs MUST be maintained whole and not dissected or altered in any form prior to preparation for consumption.

Lastly, it is always important to be mindful in your fishing activities and respect the environment in which you are accessing. The surrounding environment adjacent to crab habitat is also important for a host of other fish, invertebrate and bird species and there are many environmental groups actively working at restoring much of the riparian vegetation and coastal plants that help to maintain the health and function of our estuaries.

Groups like the Peel Harvey Catchment Council are actively involved in some of these efforts and we urge fishers to think before you step, and use designated access points to your fishing grounds in order to preserve the delicate plants that are invaluable to improving the fishing environment.

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.