State-wide finfish management review update

Coinciding with proposed changes to the west coast demersal fishery, the State Government also released proposals on State-wide finfish management changes which included a range of measures such as a decreased bag limit of three for demersal fish outside of the West Coast Bioregion (WCB). 

We share the community’s concerns about the impact the implementation of any final management decision for the west coast demersal scalefish fishery will have on areas outside the West Coast Bioregion.

However, we strongly believe further consultation is required before any changes to management regulations are made and have impressed this view upon Government.

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said a State-wide management review would be welcomed, but it needed to be given the full and proper consideration it warranted. 

Recfishwest support developing and maintaining great fishing experiences for all in the community, forever,” he said. “Recfishwest acknowledges concern in recent years about the potential for localised depletion of important species in proximity to popular regional areas.   

“But we do not support DPIRD’s recent proposals as part of a State-wide review into finfish management and believe further consultation is required before any changes to management regulations are made.”    

A review of State-wide finfish management arrangements must look at action to address shark bite-off especially in the Gascoyne and North Coast Bioregions.

Further consultation expected

Recfishwest will be making the case to Government that further consultation should consider a range of factors including the following areas:  

  • Current possession limits;   
  • Current bag limits, especially in the South Coast Bioregion; 
  • The impact of removing boat limits for important recreational species such as coral trout and blue groper;  
  • Management regulations which force fishers to release fish that are unlikely to survive;  
  • Action to address shark depredation, especially in the Gascoyne and North Coast Bioregions;  
  • Current bioregional boundaries given a changing environment; and 
  • Understanding and incorporating social and economic values of recreational fishing into management frameworks.   

Andrew said, “Given the current community interest in finfish management outside the West Coast Bioregion and, given there are no current sustainability concerns for finfish outside the bioregion, we support further consultation with the community. This issue is too important to rush.”

Scientists get their teeth into shark-bite off study

Shark bite offs are a big issue all around our State and fishery scientists trialling a range of deterrents have carried out their first test-run filming sharks savagely hitting baited hooks and hooked fish in the Abrolhos.

The work is part of the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund (RFIF) project, surveying recreational fishers about their experiences and views on the shark-bite off issue while also gathering more information to help find solutions.

This first run out by the research team, led by DPIRD Principal Fisheries Research Scientist Dr Gary Jackson, used cameras attached to fishing lines to film bait and fish being hit by sharks.

As you can see from the video below, the ‘taxmen’ obliged and moved in and resulting the video footage the team captured was dramatic!

Dr Jackson said the Abrolhos trip was a pilot “shake-down” trip to lay the groundwork for the ‘guts’ of the research project that will be carried out in the weeks ahead.

“We were able to get the sharks excited by hooking up with baldies and pinkies, which allowed us to test out some of the gear, the cameras we’re using and the logistics,” Dr Jackson said.

“We’ve still got a lot of footage to work through, but we’ve already learned a lot from this first trip.”

What’s next?

The next phase of the project will see DPIRD researchers heading to, first, Shark Bay and then Exmouth and the Montebello Islands to get into the meat of the project testing three specific types of gear whose manufacturers say have already shown promising results.

“We need to test the gear at different locations and habitats and on different species of sharks,” said Dr Jackson. “Then it’s a case of analysing the hours of video we’ll be shooting to assess the effectiveness of each set of gear.

Sharks have a major impact on the recfishing experience in WA’s northern waters.

“Two of the devices work by disrupting the shark’s highly developed sensory system as it moves in on its prey, whereas the third uses sound of orcas to effectively scare sharks.

“There is a long history around developing shark repellent technology going back to the 1940s when the American navy put a lot of money into it to protect servicemen who might find themselves in the ocean.

“But with large global leisure industries like the surfing, diving and now recreational fishing looking to use this tech, product development is speeding up now.”

Recfishwest will keep you posted as to how this important project develops in the coming weeks and months with Dr Jackson indicating the results of the online and phone survey components of the project expected to be ready soon.

The taxman unfortunately got to this coral trout before it reached the boat.