FADs in focus: State-wide trial program update

Following the launch of our trial FADs network back in November last year, we are getting excited to be in a position to deploy four new FADs off Exmouth opening up more fantastic fishing opportunities for local and visiting boat fishers.

We were very close to rolling this latest round of FADs in our State-wide network – but with cyclonic conditions forecast in the north of the State, we took the decision to hang fire until the weather conditions settled.

Imagine catching billfish off the Exmouth FADs!?

But everything is in place and once the conditions are favourable, deployment will go ahead with the new FADs catering for those who intend to target a range of highly-sought after pelagic species.

While species such as dolphinfish and tuna are expected to be encountered around those FADs located closer to shore, those located further offshore are expected to attract bigger species such as wahoo, yellowfin tuna and marlin.

The Exmouth FADs deployment has been a long-time coming, with the community asking for them for a number of years and it’s another example of how recfishing licence fees can be used to create fantastic new sports fishing opportunities aggregating abundant schools of fast-growing, spectacular-fighting pelagic species.

Delivering on our FADs promise

We promised a trial State-wide FADs network and that’s exactly what we’re delivering- once they go in off Exmouth, we’ll have deployed FADs in four different locations in the southern half of the State (off the north metro, south west of Rotto, Cape Naturaliste and Albany) and Exmouth in the north, with Geraldton and Broome to follow soon.

We have also received positive reports from fishers in the south, with fish, mostly dolphinfish being caught off both the Albany and Cape Naturaliste FADs. The Perth metro FADs are also firing, with plenty of fishers getting amongst the action and landing some great dolphinfish and tuna.

Learning the lessons

This FAD program was always designed as a trial. We’ve deployed different types of FADs in different locations to assess their suitability. Unfortunately, this has meant some break-off’s. Currently, we have had two FADs break away from Albany, one of which has been replaced in a more suitable location, and one break away from south west of Rottnest, which has yet to be replaced.

Due to all our FADs having trackers placed inside them, we are able to track wayward FADs, and when conditions are suitable, we’re able to recover them with the assistance of Western Angler editor Scott Coghlan and some of our supporters in the region – thanks, guys – your efforts were greatly appreciated! We will continue to refine locations and the design of these FADs to improve their ability to aggregate fish, but to also improve their robustness. This enables them to be deployed for longer periods of time, even in particularly heavy seas, such as those experienced along the south coast.

Gero and Broome FADs coming soon

By the time you read this article, Recfishwest will be closer to deploying FADs off Geraldton and Broome. We plan on deploying one FAD closer inshore to Geraldton and the remaining three, west of the Abrolhos Islands, in the hope of attracting larger gamefish. The Broome FADs in particular are somewhat of an experiment, as we’re deploying them in shallow water, relatively close to shore making them easily accessible to fishers in all boat sizes including tinnies. This presents the tantalising prospect of opening up some great bait-holding potential to enhance fishing action for pelagic species within just a quick run-out from the shore.

Hit up the fab FADs photo comp

Want to be in the mix to win a Shimano Stella 4000 in our fabulous FADs photo comp?  We have made the entry conditions as easy as possible so more of you can enter and be in for the running for this top of the line reel, which is also perfect for taming any small to medium-sized pelagics you might encounter while fishing the FADs. This competition will be running till June 30 and includes all FADs deployed across Western Australia.

So, here are some basic rules and what you need to send us to be in the running:

  • A high-quality picture of a fish caught at any of the FADs deployed across the State (see contact details below);
  • In your picture make sure the FAD is clearly visible in the background;
  • If the fish is bleeding heavily, wash away excess blood before taking the photo;
  • Fish must be caught during the competition time;
  • Unlimited entries per fisher;
  • Competition is open to both line and spear fishers;
  • By entering you waive any intellectual rights to the image and agree to us to use the image you sent for any of our promotional materials including all of our digital channels and for any content we provide for external publications

Email in your high-quality pictures to aaron@recfishwest.org.au

Now, it’s over to you – get out there, give the FADS a crack and let us know how you go – we’d love to hear from you and see some of your pics of prized catches on the new FADs.

Clay Lewis with a nice metro FAD dollie and in the mix to win a Stella 5000!

Solution for Derby Barramundi Resource Sharing

Solution for Derby Barramundi Resource Sharing

  • Fishing sectors work together to achieve positive solution
  • High abundances are critical to high value fishing experiences
  • More Barra left in the water for local and visiting fishers

We welcome the recent announcement from Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly, providing improved recreational fishing opportunities off the Derby coast, after the Minister approved the removal of commercial barra netting for King Sound South.

Recfishwest, the local community, WAFIC (Western Australian Fishing Industry Council) and the local commercial Barramundi licence holder have worked together to present this package to Government which resolves conflict between the recreational and commercial fishing sectors.

The issue was not one of sustainability, but rather how the sustainable catch close to town was shared.

High abundances of Barramundi close to the town of Derby are critical for ensuring high value fishing experiences for this iconic Kimberley species.

In an effort to find an outcome which best meets the needs and aspirations of both recreational and commercial interests, Recfishwest and WAFIC conducted a formal mediation process involving community representatives and the commercial fisher in February of this year.

In May, as an outcome of this mediation, Recfishwest and WAFIC finalised a joint proposal to the Minister for Fisheries that proposed a set of agreed principles which included spatial separation between commercial and recreational fishing sectors as a suitable solution.

An important part of this proposal was that the agreed set of principles would be used for determining compensation for any loss incurred by the commercial licence holder, based on historic catch efforts.

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland praised all parties involved in negotiating this outcome.

“Today we are pleased to announce that this matter has been resolved in a manner that satisfied all parties, with the use of compensatory funding from the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund,” Dr Rowland said.

“This is the first time that recreational fishing licence money has been used to resolve such a conflict in a specific area and we’re pleased it has been used in this manner that returns benefit to the recreational fishing community.”

This decision sets a precedent for the representational arms of WAFIC and Recfishwest to work with government towards agreed solutions to resource sharing issues.

To read what the Fisheries Minister said, click here.

ENDS

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.