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.

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.

Annual Fishing Closure lifted: Rock Lobster Can Now Be Caught Year Round

Recreational lobster fishers can now look forward to catching this popular species year round with Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly today announcing a 12 month season for recreational rock lobster  fishing.

This change comes about following advice from Recfishwest’s Rock Lobster Reference Group who were keen to improve winter fishing opportunities, particularly for those fishing in the Mid-West and Gascoyne regions, including the Abrolhos Islands.

Calm weather windows are common in the Mid-West and Gascoyne regions during winter, making for safer fishing for everyone.

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said this change to the rules comes about through good management of this fishery with the opportunity to expand the fishing season supported by the latest stock assessment.

“With biological sustainability well in hand comes the opportunity to provide the community with an even greater return from this fishery”

“Such a healthy stock allows fisheries managers to focus on optimising the fishing experiences”

“A feed of fresh crayfish is an amazing Western Australia experience with more people getting on the water and catching their own seafood.”

This announcement builds on other positive changes to recreational lobster rules over the past few years to ensure people’s fishing experiences are maximised and the rules are as simple and as practical as possible, including:

  • In October 2017, lobster rules changes allowed fishers to keep lobster in Setose condition;
  • Divers now have 5 minutes to sort their lobster catch in the safety of their boat;
  • Fishers can keep lobster tails at home – Previously, the law required lobsters to be kept and stored whole (with head and tail) unless they were being prepared for immediate consumption.
  • Two people can share a lobster pot – meaning greater participation and enjoyment for everyone.

The introduction of year round fishing will also require some slight changes for those who use pots.

Recreational lobster pots will now have to be rigged in a similar fashion to commercial pots to mitigate the potential risk of interaction with migrating whales.

Any pot using more than 20m of rope will be required to hold the top half of the rope vertically in the water column.  This can be achieved by using sinking rope on the top half of the pot rope, or by simply attaching a weight such as a fishing sinker half way down the rope.  Additionally, a maximum of two floats will apply on recreational pots.

“Recreational fishers are the stewards of the marine environment, and are happy to do their bit to minimise any interaction with protected species” Dr Rowland said.

“As well as reducing chances of whale interaction, these measures will reduce the likelihood of rope entangling in boat propellers and loss of ropes from propeller cut-off when excess is left floating on the surface. It’s a win-win”.

Learn how to make your pots compliant by watching the video on You Tube here or on the Recfishwest Facebook Page.

Click here to view the updated rules

See the Ministers media release here: