West coast demersal update

Recfishwest continues to work with DPIRD, the Fisheries Minister and the State Government towards a sensible outcome that ensures west coast demersal fish stocks continue to recover without wrecking the lifestyle and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of WA fishers. 

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland met with the Fisheries Minister, Don Punch, last week and had a “frank, but constructive” conversation around the Government’s proposals – further discussions have also taken place with DPIRD fisheries managers around our alternative proposals.  

“I reiterated our sector’s commitment to sustainability and our opposition to a nine-month ban when there are alternative effective measures available,” said Andrew, “The meeting with the Minister was frank, but the communication lines appear to be now open. While the official public consultation period is over, we have received assurances from Government that no decisions have been made. The Minster also told Parliament he has committed to re-discussing the issue with Recfishwest prior to any decision being made.  

“We are continuing to meet with DPIRD and we’re pleased that the conversation is continuing. We’re having discussions around solutions that put the fish first, while delivering a more balanced outcome than the Government’s initial nine-month proposal.

“As WA’s not for profit, independent peak sector recfishing body, it’s really important that Recfishwest continues to impress upon Government that the 700,000-plus West Aussie fishers we represent, who spend $2.4 billion on fishing every year, is too important as a sector to neglect.

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland was recently on the road visiting tackle store crews from Geraldton down to Augusta to discuss their concerns and views on the west coast demersal issue.

A loud and clear message from the WA fishing community 

Andrew spent the previous week out on the road talking to local fishing club members and tackle store owners from Geraldton to Augusta. The Recfishwest team also had a big presence at this year’s Perth Boat show and we would like to thank the thousands of fishers who came and gave us their support. 

“What we continue to hear from our community hammers home the level of concern there is out there about the future of our fishing lifestyle, community life and associated small businesses.  

“It also highlighted how united our community is in finding a better way to speed up the recovery of the fish stocks without the social and economic fall-out of a nine-month demersal ban. The Government needs to understand this.” 

“The messages we have received loud and clear from fishers, fishing clubs and businesses is everyone cares deeply about sustainability, supports protection of fish during peak spawning times and are happy to support science-backed rule changes. There is also great concern about fair and equitable sharing of publicly-owned fish stocks and the lack of consideration given to the social and economic impacts of management proposals.”   

The online petition is another example of just how much the fishing community’s oppose the Government’s proposals. At nearly 18,000 signatures, it is the biggest online Parliamentary petition in WA history! There’s still time to sign it if you haven’t already done so, but be quick as we hear it is planned to be tabled in Parliament next week. 

How’s this for a show of strength! Lancelin Angling and Aquatic Club showing how united they are on this issue.

What you can do 

While the official community public consultation is over, the Government is yet to make a decision – so you can still make your views known by: 

  1. Contacting your local MP and let them know how the proposals will impact you and your family. Find tips on how to reach out here.  
  2. Calling your local talk back radio station and let listeners know what fishing means for you and your family. 6PR and ABC mornings are great places to start in Perth. 
  3. Writing aletter to the West Australian newspaper - all letters must be SIGNED and include the writer’s full-name, address (not postal) and telephone number.   
  4. Sign the petition if you haven’t already and encourage your family and mates to do the same. 
  5. Become Recfishwest membersto show recfishers are united in support a more sensible outcome.  

Let’s keep working together to make sure the Government continues to listen – our collective voice must be heard!  

(Banner image sourced from Daiwa and Fishin Wishin Life)

 (Feature image sourced from Ozfish website)

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.

Help sew the seeds for a healthier future for Cockburn Sound

Recfishwest is encouraging metro fishers to get involved and back in Ozfish’s latest Seeds for Snapper drive – its program to help restore critical seagrass habitat in Cockburn Sound.

Since 2018, Recfishwest has collaborated with OzFish and the University of Western Australia to restore seagrass meadows in Cockburn Sound, which are vital as a nursery ground for countless fish and species of marine life including pink snapper, King George whiting, herring, Western rock lobster, prawns, squid and blue swimmer crabs.

Now in it’s fifth year, Seeds for Snapper has already helped collect more than one million seeds in Cockburn Sound, but as volunteers are the driving force behind this project, Recfishwest is encouraging everyone to dig deep and help out by collecting the seeds or dispersing them.

By helping disperse these seeds through Cockburn Sound, you help create vast juvenile fish habitats. Photo courtesy of the OzFish website.

Watch OzFish’s video highlighting the importance of Cockburn Sound’s seagrass meadows here

The Seeds for Snapper program relies on community support from recreational anglers, divers, businesses and residents to help disperse the seeds, which are the key to helping rejuvenate juvenile fish habitats.

It is estimated that a single hectare of restored seagrass produces on average 207 kilograms of fish per year and stores 35 times more carbon than the same equivalent area of rainforest.

Over the last century, 85 per cent of these crucial seagrass meadows – equivalent to nearly 2,000 Optus Stadium-sized ovals – have been lost in Cockburn Sound.

With the Government recently proposing a shock eight to nine-month west coast demersal species ban per year and with the Government’s plans to build a new port in Cockburn Sound starting in 2027, the Seeds for Snapper program underpins why preserving the sustainability of these seagrass meadows is more important than ever.

“Cockburn Sounds seagrass meadows act as a nursery area for important species such as crabs, snapper, squid, whiting and garfish and supports the only known spawning aggregations of pink snapper in the West Coast Bioregion, said Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland.

“Merely maintaining the status quo is not an option after the huge loss of seagrass habitat in the Sound over the years. It is vital, therefore, that initiatives like this are supported and boosted to help improve the environmental state of Cockburn Sound.

“The Sound’s protected waters on the doorstep of our capital city offer great land and boat-based fishing for fishers of all ages and abilities and fishers can play their part to by helping collect and disperse seagrass seeds and breathe more life into these vital nursery grounds.”

There are various ways you can help out with Seeds for Snapper, whether it’s on the shore, on the boats or in the water! Photo courtesy of the OzFish website.

There were more than 350 registered volunteers dedicating their time last year with the Seeds for Snapper program through a variety of roles, including as boat-based netters, qualified scuba and free divers, shore crews and as seagrass seed dispersal units.

The seagrass fruit harvesting and seed dispersal season will take place from November. Collection and dispersal days and times are subject to weather and tides, so if you want to take part in the fifth year of this great program, Recfishwest encourages volunteers to dig deep and register through the link below.

Sign up as a Seeds for Snapper 2022 volunteer here!

The Seeds for Snapper program is funded by the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund (RFIF) using your licence fees and is made possible by Recfishwest, OzFish, the University of Western Australia, the WA Government’s Recreational Fishing Initiative Fund, Water Corporation and BCF – Boating, Camping, Fishing.

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

Proposed west coast demersal nine month ban? There is a better way.

Following last week’s shock announcement about the Government’s proposed nine-month west coast demersal scalefish ban, Recfishwest has written to Minister Punch. We have asked him to explain how the package of 17 recommendations we put forward in July did not meet the Government’s catch reduction targets.

Our recommendations were developed after months of hard work, working through the responses from the biggest recreational fishing survey in WA history and with months of considered input from our West Coast Demersal Expert Working Group.

READ THE PACKAGE OF WEST COAST DEMERSAL RECOMMENDATIONS WE MADE TO GOVERNMENT HERE 

Recfishwest has also asked the Minister to restore the public comment period back to six weeks as originally agreed, rather than the four that the Government has now made it.

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said, “The Government’s current proposals largely ignored key recommendations put forward by Recfishwest – including a dhufish spawning closure during the peak spawning time. Instead, the Government is asking fishers to choose between two totally unacceptable options that will cause a huge amount of social pain and economic hardship.

“We worked in good faith over the last few months, yet after all the input from the community and the constructive solutions put forward, we learnt through the media that our package was deemed by the Minister to be insufficient to achieve the desired catch reductions. We have not been informed how each element of our package was assessed and exactly where the package was deemed to have fallen short of meeting the challenge set by the Minister.”

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT – RECFISHWEST ON NINE NEWS

Recfishwest has already been contacted by hundreds of fishers concerned about the impact a nine-month closure will have on their way of life, as well as regional caravan park owners, charter operators and tackle shop owners who hold grave concerns about the future of their businesses if these proposals are implemented.

There is a better way

Andrew said, “Without question 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. The fishery is clearly sustainable with DPIRD’s latest State of the Fisheries report classifying this fishery as ‘recovering at an acceptable rate’.

“Only giving fishers the choice between an eight or a nine-month ban is simply unacceptable, especially while we know our package will achieve the required outcomes with much less economic and social carnage. We have asked the Government to explain how our recommendations were assessed and where they fall short.”

What you can do

Recfishwest will continue to communicate with the fishing community on our course of action right through the consultation period and beyond.  Many people are asking how they contact their local MP to let them know how the proposals will impact them and their families. If you need tips on how to reach out to your local MP, our guidelines here should help.

“We appreciate your support and we’ll stand strong to protect your fishing experiences and the fish stocks upon which these experiences rely,” said Andrew.

Recfishwest rejects Government’s proposals to ban fishing for dhufish and pink snapper for up to nine months

Recfishwest is bitterly disappointed by today’s discussion paper released by the Government on the future of WA’s dhufish and snapper fishery.

The discussion paper has ignored key recommendations put forward by Recfishwest, including a spawning closure to protect dhufish and a properly funded voluntary fisheries adjustment scheme to ensure a long-overdue fairer restructure of the fishery.

Fishing for iconic fish like these is a key part of the WA lifestyle.

Recfishwest’s recommendations were developed following months of extensive consultation with the fishing community. Under the Government’s proposals, WA’s 40,000 west coast demersal scalefish fishers could be locked out of fishing for iconic recreational fishing species dhufish and pink snapper for nine months a year.

Read Recfishwest’s package of west coast demersal recommendations to Government here

Fast facts:

  • It’s more important than ever to get sustainable management right;
  • However the Government proposals fail to protect spawning dhufish, are inequitable and represent a “complete failure of fisheries policy;
  • 40,000 recreational fishers access the West Coast demersal scalefish fishery every year with WA recfishers spending $2.4 billion a year on fishing; and
  • 6,000 recreational fishers completed Recfishwest’s survey on the future of west coast demersal scalefish fishery to help develop Recfishwest’s recommendations to Government.

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said, “The package of recommendations we made to Government was well balanced and focussed on protecting the sustainability of the fish while delivering the best social and economic benefits.

“Whereas, the Government’s discussion paper suggests constraining the recreational sector to a nine-month closure, while commercial fishing continues all year round – this is completely unacceptable to our sector.

“The opportunity to set this fishery on a secure pathway through proper reforms should not be missed and this discussion paper represents a complete failure of fisheries policy which destroys value rather than creates it.

“The Minister has an obligation to ensure a sustainable catch delivers the highest and best use to the community and we believe the primary management measures outlined in today’s discussion paper do not even come close to achieving this.

“We will be examining the consultation papers we only received today and provide the fishing community with our thoughts to assist them in providing a response.”

The future sustainability of west coast demersal scalefish must come first.