Recfishwest continues to call on Government to adopt a more sensible approach to west coast demersals

Following the Government’s proposed nine-month ban on fishing for more than 100 demersal species from Augusta to Kalbarri, the call for an alternative – including a dhufish spawning closure – continues to build in the fishing community.

Recfishwest has been communicating with thousands of fishers concerned about the impact a nine-month closure will have on them and their families, as well as regional caravan park owners, charter operators and tackle shop owners who hold very real concerns about the future of their businesses.

Coral trout will be one of the iconic species to come under the nine-month ban from Kalbarri to Augusta if the Government’s proposal goes through. Photo: Al McGlashan.

Fishing clubs, who have been a central part of their communities’ social fabric for generations, have told Recfishwest the Government’s proposal will force them to close their doors.

The current proposals will also bankrupt genuine long-term charter fishing operators, depriving the community of great fishing and tourism experiences.

“We are all committed to the sustainability of this great fishery,”  said recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland. “We have a strong, extensive track record in supporting dhufish and snapper conservation including tagging programs, release weight research and subsequent legislation, snapper spawning closures, released fish survival projects, investments in shark deterrents and the Snapper Guardians program,”

“Recfishwest knows there is a better way to speed up the rebuilding of these fish stocks without the massive social and economic damage, which is why we reject the Government’s proposed nine-month ban.”

Good friend of Recfishwest and editor of Western Angler Magazine, Scott Coghlan, summed up the Government’s proposals on the front page of this week’s Albany Advertiser, “It’s like using a chainsaw to fillet a herring,” he said.

It’s been great to hear from so many of our members who, supporting our efforts, want to know what they can do to help.

What you can do – ask the Government to adopt a more sensible approach

Encourage your family, friends and fishing mates to:

  1. Sign the parliamentary petition to voice your opposition to DPIRD’s proposed nine-month ban. You can find the petition here – more than 10,000 people have already signed – make sure you add your name and encourage anyone you know to do the same.
  2.  Contact your local Member of Parliament and let them know how the proposals will impact you and your family. If you need tips on how to reach out to your local MP, our guidelines here will help.
  3. Encourage your family and friends to join Recfishwest – send a clear message that recreational fishers are united in supporting a more sensible outcome. They can join through this link here.
Come and see Recfishwest at the Perth Boat Show next week from Friday 16 September to Sunday, 18 September.

The better way – in case you missed it 

A WA fishing community record survey of nearly 6,000 respondents also helped inform the package of recommendations.

The package was well balanced and focused on protecting the sustainability and spawning of the fish while delivering the best social and economic benefits, along with better fishing rules, enhanced education and more research.

The story has attracted more media attention than any other fishery-related issue in recent times, reflecting just how important this fishery is to the Western Australian way of life.

Read some of the articles that have featured in the media on the west coast demersal issue here. 

We hugely value your support – and we’ll keep working hard to protect these fish as well as all the benefits this fishery provides to so many West Australians.

An update on the west coast demersal scalefish issue

Yesterday (30 August) Recfishwest Chief Executive Officer Dr Andrew Rowland wrote to our members via our Members First e-newsletter to provide them with an update on the west coast demersal issue. We’ve published the newsletter in full below.

If you would like to get all of our Members First e-newsletters sent directly to your inbox to ensure you are right up to speed with all the important fishing developments in WA, click here to become a Recfishwest member today!

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The Minister for Fisheries announced on Tuesday  that he would extend the consultation period on the Government’s proposal to implement bans on the west coast demersal fishery back out to six weeks.

This extension comes after we wrote to the Minister seeking a reinstatement of the original agreed timeframe. We welcome the additional consultation period.

We continue to meet with senior members of Government to advocate on this issue to make sure your interests are being represented at the highest level.

We are committed to making sure decision-makers recognise there is a better way to speed up the recovery of these fish without destroying fishing clubs, businesses and all the benefits our sector provides to the WA community and economy.

Hopefully, this latest development allows time for the Government and Recfishwest to have a proper discussion on the package of recommendations developed through our Expert Working Group process that was presented to DPIRD (Fisheries) in July.

We firmly believe each element of our package when combined can meet the catch reduction targets required while avoiding the catastrophic loss of value under the current DPIRD proposals.

We want to walk DPIRD through our recommended package and have a detailed discussion around our calculations, which we haven’t been given the opportunity to do to date.

In case you missed it – former Recfishwest CEO Frank Prokop and Ash Ramm from Tackle World Miami discuss the proposed nine-month ban on Channel Seven’s Flashpoint Show.  

Truth a casualty in this process

Last Friday, DPIRD’s Catch e-newsletter sent out to tens of thousands of recreational fishers stated:

“DPIRD has considered feedback and preferred management tools from Recfishwest, the WA Fishing Industry Council (WAFIC) and Marine Tourism WA, and developed targeted management packages for the recreational, charter and commercial sectors.”

We have had clear feedback and concern from our members that this statement implicates Recfishwest in providing support for the current proposed eight or nine-month demersal fishing bans.

This is simply not the case and we would like to set the record straight.

Recfishwest, with the considered input of our Expert Working Group, provided a set of 17 recommendations in July to help inform the current consultation process.  An eight or nine-month west coast demersal fishing closure was never part of these recommendations.

As we have publicly stated a number of times, we believe, as a package, our recommendations will meet the catch reduction targets without the devastating social and economic impact the current DPIRD proposals will have if implemented.

Recfishwest expects all dealings with Government departments to be transparent and, in accordance with this principle, we’ve published all the outcomes of our engagements along the way.

Recfishwest hopes to continue to have an open and trusting relationship with Government stakeholders to protect the interests of the recreational fishing community. Our autonomy on these matters is not negotiable – we operate in these processes in good faith and we will not be pushed into choosing between two unacceptable options.

Stewardship of our fisheries – a shared responsibility between Government and the fishing community

Under the current collaborative co-management model, certain responsibilities for supporting great fishing outcomes are shared between DPIRD and Recfishwest.

Under these arrangements, accountability and responsibility for outcomes is also shared.

Recfishwest, fishing clubs, the fishing trade, the boating industry, and marine tourism businesses do much of the heavy lifting in creating better fishing opportunities and delivering stewardship programs.

In recent times, we have found ourselves frustrated that DPIRD’s regulatory and management functions often do not understand or support the needs of the recfishing sector.

If we are truly to progress with modern recreational fisheries management, it’s time for DPIRD to look at the way they allocate their available resources and provide recreational fishers with support commensurate with our $2.4 billion sector which directly involves a third of the WA community.

Blunt tools

In the current situation DPIRD has simply reached for the bluntest tool in their management toolbox. Given the catastrophic impact a nine-month ban will have on so many families, tackle stores, charter operators and local businesses in popular coastal communities, we are surprised we cannot see any apparent consideration of these impacts within the development of these management proposals.

We believe the current proposed bans tick every box for an assessment through the Government’s Better Regulation Program. A simple Regulatory Impact Statement would highlight other management options that can provide the same protection for fish stocks while delivering a greater net benefit to the community.

Understanding the true impact of these proposals is a critical step in informing the Minister’s decision.

There is a better way to speed up the rebuilding of these fish stocks, which are not in ‘decline’ as has been suggested in the media, but ‘recovering at an acceptable rate’ according to the Government’s own fisheries experts.

We are pleased to see the Minister take measures to begin to resolve this issue and we look forward to discussing reasonable and more innovative solutions that will achieve the required outcomes with much less economic and social damage.

Given the level of angst in the fishing community at the prospect of the damage caused by a nine-month ban, some members of our sector have started a petition to Parliament calling on Government to review DPIRD’s proposals. You can find the petition here.

To all the fishing clubs, tackle stores, charter operators and boating businesses who have reached out to us over the past week with fears that these proposals will force you to shut your doors for good – stay strong. We’re in your corner.

Dr Andrew Rowland
Recfishwest CEO