The west coast Roe’s abalone stock has gone through some tough times over the past decade and is currently managed under a recovery plan. Recfishwest recently met with the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (Fisheries Department) to get an update on the status of abalone stocks. Abalone population surveys are undertaken annually and can tell us if our efforts are leading to a recovery.
Some points to note from the latest research information include:
- The cooler water temperature over the last three years (2016-2019) has resulted in good recruitment with lots of smaller abalone starting to show on the reef tops.
- The cooler water temperature has also resulted in increased growth of abalone meaning they are reaching legal size quicker (abalone generally take three-four years to reach legal size, i.e. 60mm).
- Conservative management and favourable weather conditions over the last few years has meant Roe’s abalone stocks are slowly returning to a healthy fishery.
Although this latest research shows abalone haven’t yet recovered enough to increase bag limits or fishing days, the good news is things are moving in the right direction. The next management changes are more likely to be positive, although we shouldn’t expect these changes for a year or two.
It’s important we all play a role in assisting with the recovery of these stocks by understanding and respecting management that is looking to improve the future of these iconic species. You can find out about the current abalone rules here.
Fishing for abalone is one of the great hands-on fishing experiences available in WA. Even though the metropolitan Roe’s abalone fishery is currently under recovery, it’s fantastic to know this fishery has some of the most innovative and proactive management of any of WA’s fisheries.
So what caused the problem with the stock in the first place?
The 2010/11 marine heatwave has been linked to changes in many fisheries for almost a decade and there is no doubt this extreme weather event had a devastating impact on Roe’s abalone stocks.
Following this heatwave, abalone numbers in the Geraldton to Kalbarri area suffered an almost total collapse and the number of juvenile abalone on our metropolitan nearshore reefs also suffered badly. This meant tough decisions had to be made to prevent the collapse of the fishery. The fishery north of Moore River was closed in 2011 and in 2014 the bag limit for Roe’s abalone was cut from 20 to 15.
In 2015 there was a reduction of fishing days from five to four to ensure the recreational catch did not exceed 20t, making this four-hour fishery the shortest recreational fishery in the world.