Remember the latest management changes, including seasonal closures, for both pink snapper and blue swimmer crabs in the West Coast Bioregion came into effect on 1 September.
Both of these closures are critical in protecting spawning snapper and crabs, helping to secure the future of the fantastic fishing experiences both of these iconic recreational species offer in the metro area and South West.
We’ve received some great feedback from you about the new crab management changes announced this week, along with a number of questions you’ve had. Here’s answers to some of those questions – don’t hesitate to contact us if there’s anything else you want to know or have any feedback for us.
Q. I fish in the Peel-Harvey region, how’s it going to affect me?
A. The seasonal closure will be extended by a month and will now run from 1 September to 30 November, but with no changes to the bag limit of 10 and boat limit of 20. These changes should ensure the crabs have longer to grow and moult before they are able to be caught. This means there will be more size crabs for once the season starts in the summer, whereas in recent seasons there has been large numbers of crabs caught early in the season that are under the 127mm minimum size limit. We reckon with more protection given for breeding female crabs, we will see more abundant and bigger crabs around in the next two to three years making for a better crabbing experience for everyone.
Q. Why has the Swan now got a special limit of five crabs?
A. Over the last few years there has been an explosion in the popularity in crabbing in the Swan and Canning rivers placing considerable pressure on crab stocks in the system. The introduction of a special five-crab limit for the Swan recognises the trophy nature of the fishery, which includes bigger sized crabs that were typical in this fishery but have been in decline in recent years. The new limit and the introduction of a seasonal closure should ensure bigger, better quality crabs will be ready to crab for when the season opens in the summer. In the next two to three years, these changes should see the re-establishment of the Swan/Canning as a crab fishery famed for its quality sized crabs. The boat limit of 20 still applies, but you will now need four RFBLs (recreational boat fishing licences) to take your boat limit.
Q. Do I now need four RFBLs if I am boat fishing for crabs if we want to take our 20 crab boat limit in the Swan/Canning rivers?
A. Yes – the bag limit is now five crabs per fisher. In order to take a boat limit of 20 crabs, you will need at least four people on board who have a recreational fishing from boat licence. Click on this link on the Fisheries website here http://www.fish.wa.gov.au/Fishing-and-Aquaculture/Recreational-Fishing/Recreational-Fishing-Rules/Pages/Bag-And-Size-Limits-Explained.aspx for more information.
Q. Tell me more about this commercial licence buy-back scheme?
A. As part of the package announced by the Minister for Fisheries, and following an agreed proposal to the Minister and the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) between us and the commercial sector, 15 oceanic commercial fishing licences in waters from Cockburn Sound to Bunbury will be bought out by the government and permanently closed to commercial fishing. This will result in protection of the female breeding stock underpinning the stocks’ sustainability. This announcement is particularly important for protecting female breeding stock when they leave the estuaries and use the nearshore oceanic areas to spawn each winter. These female crabs traditionally made up a significant proportion of the commercial catch during winter.
Q. Does the spring closure apply to Geographe Bay?
A. No, Geographe Bay will remain open all year-round. The only change in Geographe Bay will be that from 1 December, you will only be able have a maximum of five female crabs within your bag limit of 10 crabs.
Q. Does the closure apply to commercial fishers as well as recreational crabbers?
A. Yes – the three-month spring closure (1 September 1 to 30 November inclusive) applies to both recreational and commercial crab fishing in oceanic and estuarine waters from the Swan/Canning down to just south of Bunbury.
Q. You say Cockburn Sound might be reopening for recreational crabbing. When is this likely to happen?
A. We have long had an interest in reopening Cockburn Sound for recreational crabbing. Now with the buy-back of the commercial crab fishing licences in Cockburn Sound, there is no reason why the Sound shouldn’t reopen to recreational crabbing by next summer.
Recfishwest joined the Minister for Fisheries Dave Kelly in Mandurah and colleagues from the commercial fishing sector to announce a series of changes that represent a watershed moment in the management of the crab fisheries in Perth and the South West.
The significant reform will offer much more protection for the female crab breeding stock and secure a more resilient recreational crab fishery with more, bigger crabs and a better crabbing experience for everyone.
Through some constructive negotiations with the Western Australian Fishing Industry Council (WAFIC), the Southern Seafood Producers WA (SSPWA), we reached a point of agreement that has secured the best outcome for recreational fishers given the very real sustainability issues the fishery was facing.
Taking on board the views of nearly 4,000 recreational fishers who responded to our survey on the initial discussion paper, we put forward 10 proposed management changes to the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) in November last year.
The package announced by the Minister today met eight out of 10 of our recommendations – a great result, particularly in the context of what had been proposed.
A stark alternative
But before we got there, we were potentially looking down the barrel of a broad-scale five month closure from the Swan/Canning to Geographe Bay (inclusive) and a night curfew on crab fishing between 11pm and 4am.
This blunt proposal by DPIRD galvanized ourselves, WAFIC and the SSPWA to sit down and hammer out a joint response which would ensure we could get a sensible, better outcome by working together.
Had we ended up in a Mexican stand-off with the commercial sector and DPIRD, we could have seen the process painfully drag out – possibly for years – which would have been in no one’s interests and yet again delayed vital management intervention.
Instead, we arrived at the following positive outcomes for the recreational fishing community:
A buy-back of commercial fishing licences from oceanic crab fisheries in Cockburn and Warnbro Sounds and from Mandurah to Bunbury, leading to their permanent closure and with an indication from the Minister that this will happen swiftly as a matter of priority.
The buy-back opens the door to the very real possibility of Cockburn Sound opening for recreational crab fishing in the near future.
A mixture of management measures introduced that will, within near future, result in better crabbing and bigger crabs and help to establish the Swan/Canning system as a trophy crab fishery right on Perth’s doorstep.
The blunt flat five-month closure across the resource and a night-time crab fishing curfew was averted avoiding impact on local businesses in Geographe Bay and Mandurah that benefit from crab fishers flocking to town. Instead, a three-month September to November closure has been introduced, excluding Geographe Bay which will remain open all year-round.
In Geographe Bay, a new limit of five female crabs within the bag limit of ten will ensure more female crabs remain in the system leading to bigger crabs and better crabbing in the near future.
Protecting a prized part of the WA lifestyle
Increasing pressure on Perth and South West crab stocks has taken its toll in recent years leading to an ongoing decline in the number of size crabs.
The writing has clearly been on the wall for some time and those of you who completed our survey on the future of the resource also backed our message loud and clear: the sustainability of the crabs must come first.
Negotiating the best outcome for our community
We will always do whatever it takes to ensure the best outcome for our members and our community. Delivering on that commitment was/is paramount for us for such an iconic fishery as this. That meant doing the wise and mature thing and working with our colleagues in the commercial sector to achieve the best outcome.
In the complex world of fisheries management, with the often fiercely competing interests of different sectors, being able to negotiate an outcome like this was a watershed moment.
Recfishwest is looking forward to seeing the flow-on effects of these management changes in the near future, resulting in many more people across the board enjoying better crabbing and catching bigger, better quality crabs.
Great fishing experiences rely on plentiful fish stocks and healthy and productive aquatic ecosystems. This is especially true in estuarine environments, which act as nursery habitat for many key fishing species as well as a lifetime habitat for others.
Murdoch University have been working on a project to improve the recreational fishing experience in the Swan River Estuary by providing and restoring complex habitat and prey communities with funding from the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund.
The health and habitat of the Swan River Estuary System is extremely important for its inhabitants and the community who access it. A habitat that provides shelter for fish, as well as acting as an attractant for prey communities is what sets the scene for a healthy and self-reliant eco system. In turn, it can improve the overall health of the system which will in turn, improving recreational fishing experiences.
Part three (final stage):
VOLUNTEERS and FAMILIES NEEDED to help restore the Swan rivers mussel populations.
Did someone say free sausage sizzle? Yep! Come down this Saturday, to help Murdoch University researchers with a project to restore habitat and help bring back an abundance of black bream to the Swan River, as part of a project titled ‘Snag for a Snag.’ It’s a great day to come down and enjoy the beautiful swan river, lend a hand and even have a fish afterwards! Volunteers will help by preparing the banks of the river for the arrival of the Black Pygmy Mussel spat.
The newly hatched black pygmy mussels, called spat, attach themselves to the clean snags, increasing important prey communities for black bream, thereby improving the breams growth rate, body condition and therefore enhancing the recreational fishing experience.
WHEN: 10am Saturday 16th November
WHERE: Kings meadow Oval Guildford
WHAT TO BRING: sturdy footwear, boardshorts/bathers, waders.
Water, snacks and a BBQ will be provided.
The second part of this project commenced on March 22nd with the deployment of a mussel reef, the first of its kind in the Swan River Estuary System. Not only will this reef increase the diversity of habitat around the flats in the estuary basin, thereby attracting fish through provision of greater food abundance and diversity as well as shelter, it will also improve the general health of the Swan River in that particular location. The mussels, filter feeders by nature, are already attached to these reefs and will immediately begin to consume plankton and non-living material from the water column, in turn improving light penetration and growing conditions for aquatic vegetation plants.
‘’Mussels can positively affect an ecosystem by its capacity to filter water and greatly improve the health of the water system in which they inhabitant.’’ Project coordinator Alan Cottingham says.
You can see the difference they make in a tank full of water here.
Local volunteers have been enthusiastically putting their hand up to engage in the project, assisting in the restoration and deployment components whilst raising awareness of the importance of environment quality for fish stocks. Check out the reef’s deployment video below all made possible with help from volunteers from the Marine Men’s Shed, Murdoch University Dive Club, Murdoch University students and other local volunteers. Reef locations are yet to be announced.
This trial project will explore the potential for scaling-up of such projects, providing valuable evidence to support future habitat enhancement and restoration projects in other estuaries.
Earlier in the year, Murdoch began part one of the project by cleaning and re-snagging existing habitat in the upper Swan River to align with the expected mussel spawning cycle. The newly hatched black pygmy mussels, called spat, attach themselves to the clean snags, increasing important prey communities for black bream, thereby improving the breams growth rate, body condition and therefore enhancing the recreational fishing experience. A short video of this project can be viewed below.
The Swan River plays a huge part in the culture and lifestyle of many fishers in Perth – giving safe and easy access to great fishing for everyone.
There are 60km of accessible water for every level of fisher in the Swan River, with fishing platforms, jettys and grassed banks providing the thousands of Perth based fishers access, both day and night, to a world class fishing river.
Which other river running through an Australian Capital City can you access:
World class bream fishing on flats or near structures such as snags and jetties
Soaking big baits under the city lights or deep amongst the Mosman moorings for mulloway
Flathead and flounder on the flats during warm summer days
Drop netting for crabs from the dinghy or jetties
Diving or scooping for school and king prawns
Diving for crabs at night
Trolling for tailor as the Fremantle doctor whips up the water on a summer arvo
There have been plenty of studies that have highlighted the rejuvenated health of the Swan River in recent years and the recent Swanfish event proved again the river is in good shape with plenty of fish caught and released.
Perth’s premier family fishing event, Swanfish, took a new direction this year focusing on catch and release fishing and the results were exciting for the future of the Swan. To showcase the health of the Swan River, the 2018 Swanfish event had 166 fish submitted across 14 species by 249 competitors – in only 24 hours.
The prized catch (which was safely released) was a monster 51cm Black Bream – earning the name ‘Breamosauras’, caught by local bream fisher Clay Anderson.
Not only will the majority of fishers never get to catch a bream this big in their life, many wouldn’t believe a fish of this size still lives in Perth’s Swan River.
Here are some interesting facts about the catches from Swanfish and some to suggest the river is healthy and thriving!!
It’s a High Tide Thing!
Here’s some insight as to when the fish were caught during Swanfish 2018. Although people could fish for a whole 24 hours and some competitors would have only fished the daylight hours, the below graph gives you a good understanding as to when the fish were biting in the Swan – and may help you when fishing the Swan in the future!
Bream are Capable of Travelling….a lot!
The average distance covered by tagged bream throughout a four month innovative and exciting fish tracking program was 33km, with one fish covering a whopping distance of 130km! Another bream on one instance recorded travelling 11km in less than 15 hours.
When not on the move, the tagged fish in the study spent most of their time around Ascot and Caversham (we know this from the underwater acoustic tagging receivers).
There was also movement of some fish between the Swan and Canning Rivers, confirming these populations are interconnected. Some of the bream’s movements through the rivers were found to be linked to heavy rainfall events. While bream are hardy fish that can handle a high salinity range, the tagged fish favoured areas where salinity ranged between 10-20ppt (normal sea water is around 35ppt).
To Read more about this interesting bream project, click here.
Swanfish 2018 Results
With a focus on catch and release fishing and for the first time ever, the use of a purpose-built smartphone app, Swanfish provided participants with a live scoreboard and an instant method of logging their catches.
The Swanfish App, built by the team at TrackMyFish, allowed fishers to take a photo of their catch and enter it into the competition with only a few simple clicks. The app included a live feed with photos so fishers can see in real time what’s being caught elsewhere on the river. This style of app has been utilised in other fishing events throughout Australia and has proven to be extremely useful for competitors.
The app also turned all competitors into citizen scientists for the weekend, as each logged catch went into a database which will be built on over future events. Long term data such as this is vital in providing insight into decision making around river management going forward.
Perth’s premier family fishing event, Swanfish, is on again this weekend, with a new direction aimed at better engaging fishers throughout the event. With a focus on catch and release fishing and for the first time ever, the use of a purpose-built smartphone app, Swanfish will provide participants with a live scoreboard and an instant method of logging their catches.
The Swanfish App, built by the team at TrackMyFish, will allow fishers to take a photo of their catch and enter it into the competition with only a few simple clicks. The app includes a live feed with photos so fishers can see in real time what’s being caught elsewhere on the river. This style of app has been utilised in other fishing events throughout Australia and has proven to be extremely useful for competitors.
The app will also turn all competitors into citizen scientists for the weekend, as each logged catch goes into a database which will be built on over future events. Long term data such as this is vital in providing insight into decision making around river management going forward.
The use of the app has also allowed Swanfish to change its format to a catch and release event. Whilst Swanfish has included a catch and release section for years, this new technology has allowed the event to go almost fully catch and release, with only large Mulloway able to be captured and brought to the award ceremony on the Sunday.
See what Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly had to say about the exciting new direction Swanfish is taking, read his statement here.
Thanks to our Swanfish sponsors, there are 20 categories and over $9000 worth in prizes. Please note you must be in attendance on Sunday at Garvey Park to win.
These changes will ensure that Swanfish continues to provide Perth families with the opportunity to connect with the river and enjoy the health and wellbeing aspects of fishing for many years to come.
Swanfish is extremely excited to announce a new direction for our event.
The Swan River is the jewel in our city’s crown, and we’ve always promoted the community’s connection to the river through fishing. Going forward, we will be striving to highlight that connection even further and we’ve got some new and exciting announcements that we believe will ensure Swanfish has a bright future.
For the first time in its history, Swanfish will be catch and release only, for all species. There is nothing more important than the sustainability of our favourite species, and this change will ensure that the impact we have during Swanfish remains low forever.
We’re moving! Swanfish will now be held at Garvey Park, in Ascot. It’s a centralised location that has plenty of shade which we feel will make for a much better Swanfish experience for all.
We’re adopting new technology, which makes submitting your catches easier. We’re partnering with the great crew at TrackMyFish, and will be utilising their smartphone app to submit catches over the weekend.
We’re being more inclusive by partnering with Fishability, who offer fishing experiences for people who need help with fishing. This will ensure that anyone who wants to, can participate. Fishability will be running fishing clinics during the event to ensure that those that need help whilst fishing are given the opportunity to participate.
We’re going to teach more people to fish. We’ll be running specialised Swan River fishing clinics over the weekend to ensure that everyone can get the right knowledge to fish successfully in the Swan River.
We’re going to celebrate fishing! The traditional Sunday ‘weigh in’ will now be an event that showcases fishing clubs, tackle stores and fishing activities as well as awarding the prizes for the competition itself.
We’re very excited about what the future holds. Whilst we will be retaining the core competition elements of the event, we also want to promote it as a chance for people to come and learn about fishing in the river.
We’re grateful for the support over the years, and we look forward to seeing you at Swanfish 2018.
Banner photo credit: Perth International Boat Show.
West Australians will once again have reason to celebrate as an additional 400,000 Western School Prawns were released in the Swan and Canning rivers last week bringing the total number of prawns released since 2013 to four million.
Although the prawns released now are only small (3 mm), they will grow and breed by around Christmas this year and help in the future sustainability of the population. Recreational fishing for the iconic Western School Prawn had all but disappeared as prawn numbers had fallen to record low levels. Then a three-year project partly funded using recreational fishing licence money through the Recreational Fishing Initiative Fund led to the development of world first spawning techniques and the stocking of 2.5 million prawns.
Last year an addition investment of recreational fishing licence money capitalised on the great work from the original project and resulted in an additional 1.5 million prawns being stocked in the Swan and Canning rivers this summer.
Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said the Swan and Canning rivers are popular recreational fishing sites and perfect for families.
“We want people to reconnect with the Swan and Canning rivers which are arguably the most important estuary systems for recreational fishing in WA and we are excited to see recreational fishing licence money being invested to produce tangible benefits for the community” Dr Rowland said.
Murdoch University’s Dr James Tweedley was ecstatic with the results of the project including the positive response from the community, who now can be seen prawning on the river most nights during summer.
“During this project our research team have put in over 3,000 hours on the rivers monitoring prawn numbers monthly across 36 sites, determining when and where they breed but also looking which predators eat the newly released prawns to help maximise survival rates,” Dr Tweedley said.
“Our findings suggest that, contrary to popular belief, the dreaded Blowfish is not a significant predator of the juvenile school prawns, but rather the little known, but aptly named, ‘Gobble Guts’ seems to find the prawns particularly tasty.
“Last weeks’ midday release in the Canning River was selected as Gobble Guts are less abundant here and also less active during daylight. We are trying to use good science and research to maximise the survival of these prawns” Dr Tweedley said.
This recent release is the result of a joint project between Recfishwest, the Department of Parks and Wildlife, the WA Fish Foundation, Murdoch University, the Australian Centre for Applied Aquaculture Research the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation and the Department of Fisheries. This project was partly funded through the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund.
• Between May 2013 and March 2015, 2.5 million juvenile prawns were released into the rivers. Another 1.1 million prawns were released in December 2015 and today’s release brings the total number to an impressive 4 million prawns released.
• Every year 25 per cent of recreational fishing licence fees are placed in the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund (RFIF) to enable projects and research aligned with enhancing recreational fishing in WA – and this prawn restocking project is a great example where the community can see the benefits of the RFIF.
• The prawn restocking project is an excellent example of the recreational fishing licence fees working towards managing and improving recreational fishing experiences. Since its inception in 2011 more than 30 projects valued at over $8 million have been funded.