Reference Groups Worth Their Weight in Crays

At the very core of Recfishwest’s business is talking to our community and providing well considered advice to decision makers on a range of issues that affect recreational fishing. We believe good public policy comes from engaging a wide range of people, and we do this in a number of ways depending on the issue. Sometimes it’s through face to face engagement, other times through online polls and surveys or visiting regional communities during their major fishing events.

In the case of cray fishing, in which participation rates are currently about 55,000, we have a dedicated reference group composed of passionate and devoted fishers who are interested in contributing to the management of cray fishing in WA.

The Rock Lobster Reference Group met recently to discuss matters including:

  • Reviewing the recreational catch and allocation
  • Opportunities for charter fishing to increase local availability of crayfish
  • Possession of cray tails outside of the permanent place of residence
  • The need to tail clip tropical crayfish
  • Recreational catch estimate methodology
  • Rock lobster harvest strategy review

The group’s advice on these matters is considered by the Recfishwest Board and used to guide our organisations views.

You can read more about the Rock Lobster Reference Group members here.

Positions on all of Recfishwest’s Reference Groups are voluntary, and these members should be recognised and congratulated for giving their time to make your fishing experience better.

”I would like to take this opportunity to provide my personal thanks and understanding that much of what makes my own cray fishing experience so great was borne out of this group,” says Recfishwest CEO, Dr Andrew Rowland.

”In particular I would like to thank the groups outgoing Chairman, Recfishwest life member Norm Halse whose expertise in crayfishing and natural resource management has been vital to the success of this group.”

Top banner image: Rock Lobster Reference Group members left to right; Brian Snook, Ross George, Norm Halse (Chair), Brody Laroux, John Baas, Rob Hoefhamer and Recfishwest Operations Manager Leyland Campbell.

Diving For Rock Lobster – Our Position

In response to discussion on social media relating to the taking of rock lobster by divers, Recfishwest would like to put forward our position on the matter.

Recfishwest believe that people diving for crays must be afforded the same rules as those who use pots and be given a reasonable opportunity of 5 minutes to sort their catch when they return to the boat.

This would allow divers to accurately check for spawning conditions such as fine hairs on setose lobster whilst out of the water.

It is the view of Recfishwest that within the bounds of sustainability and in order to maximise recreational fishing experiences, management arrangements for this recreational-only component of the fishery should have significant input from the users themselves.

We always believed there has to be a better way to resolve this case than through the legal system simply to satisfy the legislative curiosity of a government Department. We’ve been calling on the Division of Fisheries to work with the community to clarify the rules on this matter over the last year.

If the law does not clearly state how you are allowed to fish then it is not a good law and needs to be changed – it’s as simple as that.

Recfishwest has written to Minister Kelly requesting changes to this regulation prior to the start of the 2017/18 Rock Lobster season.

If you’d like to listen to what Recfishwest’s CEO Dr Andrew Rowland had to say on ABC South Coast on July 7, 2017, click the link below.

Freshwater Fishing in Good Hands

For the majority of West Aussies, fishing means jumping on a boat or heading to the coast and enjoying the fabulous saltwater fishing opportunities available. There is, however, the option to escape into the wilderness of the south-west and be swallowed up by the whole freshwater fishing experience.

Freshwater fishers will tell you there is no experience like it, as it is so incredibly different to any other type of fishing. Many people see freshwater fishing as the thing to do if you do not have access to the ocean or a boat. This is far from true, and often fishers become so enveloped with freshwater fishing that they live and breathe it.

Recfishwest strives for great fishing experiences for all in the WA community forever and many of our members feel this passionately about giving back to fishing in WA as well. It is these members that make up Recfishwest’s Freshwater Fishing Reference Group (FFRG) whose combined experience and knowledge go toward providing well-informed advice on behalf of the community around the management of freshwater fishing.

Chair of the FFRG, Ian Sewell, has been a long time avid fisher and works tirelessly with Recfishwest to ensure that there will be sustainable, accessible, enjoyable and safe freshwater fishing for generations to come.

“This dedicated group allocates where the available trout, which includes, fingerlings, yearlings and ex-brood stock will be stocked for the coming season as well as providing feedback on management issues that may affect this unique fishery.’’ He said.

With a mild wet summer, WA’s Put and Take Trout Fishery is looking set for a great 2017/2018 season. Stream flows have remained good over the summer period which is when most fish face their hardest times. In celebrating our unique freshwater fishing experience, the FFRG are pleased to announce the inaugural community stocking and fishing day, scheduled for September. This event is set to highlight the fantastic fishing available at Drakesbrook weir, where participants will have the opportunity to release trout grown at the hatchery in Pemberton, as well as receiving expert advice and tutelage on freshwater fishing from some of WA’s experts.

Freshwater Reference Group Chair Ian Sewell fishing in New Zealand.

“The community stocking and fishing day will be a great opportunity for families and friends to get along to a regularly stocked waterway to experience what freshwater fishing is all about. For many, this fishery is clouded in mystery where in reality it is all about getting into the bush, having a cast and enjoying some of the best parts of WA” Ian Sewell said.

For those interested in attending, please keep an eye on the Recfishwest website and social media channels for further information. Recfishwest wishes to acknowledge the fantastic work put in by the FFRG in ensuring the continued success of freshwater fishing in WA.

 

Rock Lobster Science Predicts Great Fishing To Come

The 2015-16 western rock lobster season drew to a close at the end of June. Good news for crayfish lovers is we are less than three months from the opening of the 2016-17 season, starting October 15. General consensus among lobster fishers was that the past season was another extremely productive one, highlighting just how well this fishery is managed.

There were plenty of good crays caught, with an excellent early season run of whites. This white migration phase is typically from November to late January where large numbers of pale pink (whites) lobsters, recently moulted from their deep red colour, migrate from inshore reefs to deep water. During this migration, the lobster are highly exposed to fishing and large catches are taken by fishers. Adult and non-migrating lobsters are known as ‘reds’ and form the catch between February through to June. Then again once the season starts in October until when the “whites” start again in November.

Two changes to rules this season also proved popular with recreational fishers. The first was the removal of a maximum size limit for female lobster. The size limit requirement on female lobster was an old management tool before it was managed as a ‘quota managed fishery’ (management that sets out a defined number of lobsters that can be removed from the water each year by rec fishers). It’s also important to note, any female in breeding condition such as in setose, tar spot (see above) or carrying eggs must be promptly returned to the water. The other change, which proved to be very well accepted by recreational fishers, was the ability for two licenced fishers to share a pot. This change to the rules enabled more people than ever to enjoy the experience of catching a feed of our fantastic crayfish.

There will be plenty of recreational fishers counting the days to a great 2016/17 fishing season, as an above average juvenile count forecasts healthy stocks and a great fishing season for all.

New Lobster Rule Changes

With new changes coming into effect when the season opens on October 15, two people can now share a lobster pot.  This will mean fishers can share the costs of lobster gear and that pots can be pulled by either licensed fisher on any given day. In turn, this will lead to a reduction of pots in the water, which will lower the risk of whale and boat entanglements.  Previously, if the one licence holder couldn’t fish on a particular day the pot would remain unattended, under the new rules, the pot can still be tended to by the other licence holder. This should reduce the rate of pot theft and interference, given that pots can be pulled by either licenced fisher.
In more good news, lobster fishers now have the option of removing lobster tails after they get their catch home. Previously, the law required lobsters to be kept and stored whole (with head and tail) unless they were being prepared for immediate consumption.

Frequently Asked Questions:
Does this affect the amount of pots I can use?
A: No, each fisher can still only fish a maximum of two pots.

Does this affect how many crays I can take?
A: No, the same bag, boat and minimum size limit applies.

Do I now have to have two floats on my pot?
A: No, you can continue to fish with a single float if you wish.

If I share a pot with a friend and he is not on the boat, can I still pull the pot?
A: Yes, the pot can be pulled as long as one of the licence holders is on board whose gear ID is attached to that pot.

Does the person
sharing my pot need to hold a rock lobster licence?
A: Yes, anyone actively fishing for rock lobster must hold a valid licence.
This rule will benefit fishers who cannot make it out to pull their pots all the time as well as those fishers who want to share costs with another fisher.

Here are some scenarios where fishers may benefit:
“Neither my mate nor I can go out each day, so being able to share a couple of pots means that even if one of us isn’t available, the other can still go and pull our pots that day.”

“My mate works FIFO, so he will pull our pots when he’s home, and I’ll pull them when he’s away. We can go halves in the gear, and hopefully still have plenty of crays for Christmas!”
“I can really only get out to pull cray pots on weekends, so I’ve never really bothered, but this new rule will mean I can share my friends pots. He will tend to them during the week and I’ll tend to them on the weekends. This will give me an opportunity to give it a go without having to fork out lots on money on my own gear.”

“My mate and I have never fished for crays before, but now that we can share gear, we’re going to give it a go. If I can’t get out to the pots every day, it won’t matter, because my mate likely will. Ive heard reports of people having gear stolen, so I feel better about our gear being attended to every day.”

“I’m the only one of my friends with a boat, and every season I’ve had to make sure that the licence holders who’s ID was on the pots came out every time. If they weren’t available, then we didn’t pull their pots. With this new pot sharing rule, it effectively doubles the chances that one of the licence holders will be available to come out.”

“My kids love coming out on the boat and pulling our craypots, however due to school commitments during the week it is unfeasible for them to come out on weekdays, being able to share the pots with other family and friends during the week the kids can come out on the weekend help to pull the pots before we head off for our family fishing day.”

“My fishing partner works FIFO and another mate works the opposite swing, now with pot sharing we do not have to be on the boat at the same time to do float / rego swaps before one or the other flies out, if there is bad weather on the day of float swap over we could not pull the pots for the time he was at work.”
“I do not have a lot of money but get the opportunity when the budget allows to go out fishing with a mate on a semi-regular basis, being able to go part share on a craypot with another one of his mates means I will be able to do some crayfishing next year.”

Other Rules:

– The maximum size limit on female rock lobster has been removed, provided they are not in spawning condition
– Tropical Rock Lobster bag limits have halved to 4 per person per day