Update on the West Coast Roe’s Abalone Fishery in WA

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.
West coast Roe’s abalone
Fishing for abalone is only one of the great hands-on fishing experiences available in WA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Pink Snapper Need Our Help Again!

Minister Dave Kelly has provided his support for our proposal to increase protection for spawning snapper in and around Cockburn Sound.

You can find the details of the closure here.

You can read the story about the issue on WAToday here.

We would like to thank you all for your support of this proposal, without your support, we cant get stuff like this done!

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On Tuesday 9th July, we wrote:

Following last year’s pink snapper spawning season in Cockburn and Warnbro Sounds, Recfishwest held concerns over the effectiveness of the current rules in providing adequate protection for spawning snapper.

Recfishwest asked the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development to provide an update on current research, which was supplied yesterday.

Click here to view the Fisheries research update.

Recreational fishers have a long history of looking after pink snapper in Cockburn Sound. Each year, families release thousands of snapper fingerlings as part of the Snapper Guardians program.

This Fisheries research update indicates that:

  • There are fewer older snapper in the south-west/metro population than there should be;
  • There are a limited number of age classes in the population;
  • Pink snapper in spawning condition begin to gather in Cockburn and Warnbro Sounds in August and September; and,
  • Evidence suggests that fishers are actively targeting pre-spawning fish as they make their way to the spawning grounds.

What does all this mean?

Put simply, snapper require more protection, particularly during the spawning period when they are very easy to catch due to their schooling nature and predictable migration pathways.

Given this Fisheries research update, Recfishwest propose the following:

  1. An extension to the current spawning closure period to include September (currently October to January),
  2. An extension to the current closure area to outside of Garden and Carnac Islands (see map below).
Recfishwest’s proposed pink snapper spawning closed area from 1 September to 31 January

We believe these measures will provide adequate protection to spawning fish whilst still letting fishers catch pink snapper on the Five Fathom Bank and along the rock groynes at Fremantle.

These measures will allow fish to spawn undisturbed as well as provide protection along the known migration pathways to snapper spawning grounds.

The Cockburn Sound pink snapper spawning aggregations are the largest and most important on the lower west coast. The breeding success of these fish is critical to maintain the future of snapper across the region.

The right time to do the right thing is right now and we’d like to see these measures introduced immediately.

See what our CEO Dr Andrew Rowland had to say below:

Dhufish Boat Limit to Remain at Two

The iconic Dhufish remains a favourite species for West Aussie fishers, as tens of thousands of us hit the water each summer in an attempt to snare one of these magnificent fish. Despite their popularity, concerns have been raised for the sustainability of Dhufish stocks and strict regulations on bag and boat limits have been in place alongside the annual demersal closure to protect recovering stocks.

In the September issue Recfishwest’s Broad Cast, we brought you an update on Recfishwest’s request, on the back of multiple requests from the community, for a review of the boat limit on Dhufish which currently sits at two.

Given the slow growth of this iconic fish, this is not a decision we took lightly, but was prompted after recent anecdotal reports from fishers indicating that the resource was recovering well, including a high abundance of juvenile fish not seen for many years. Current recreational catches are well below the sustainability target level set for an adequate recovery, in fact recreational take had reduced by 62% since 2009 when management was introduced to reduce the catch by half.

We were pleased to report in September that the Department of Fisheries had agreed to review our request once the most recent stock assessment information was available. Unfortunately the full stock assessment for Dhufish has been delayed, and is now expected to be available in mid-2017, however a preliminary assessment of WA Dhufish was undertaken to assist in evaluating potential changes to the boat limit.

In late November, preliminary information from the stock assessment was available and although Recfishwest’s calculations indicated the recreational take will remain below the sustainability target with an increased boat limit to three Dhufish, the assessment indicated that the stock may be recovering more slowly than expected in the northern and metropolitan areas of the West Coast Bioregion.

The Department of Fisheries made the decision that the rate of recovery was not sufficient enough to allow an increase in the boat limit at this time.  This news will be disappointing to some fishers, however, in the face of current uncertainties, Recfishwest does not support a change to rules that may put the recovery of this iconic species at risk. It is important to understand that Recfishwest will only support management changes when there is clear evidence of sufficient Dhufish stock recovery, and with confidence that any changes will not compromise future sustainability.

Additional analysis of the status of WA Dhufish will be completed as part of the full assessment of West Coast demersal scalefish due to be delivered in mid- 2017. This full assessment will include more complex stock assessment analysis than what was possible at the time of the preliminary assessment and will further inform any potential management changes.

The full assessment will also include the results of the third iSurvey due for release later this year and a more detailed examination of the potential impacts of any management changes. Recfishwest’s request will be revisited when the full assessment is available.

The iconic Dhufish story has many twists and turns, particularly in the last decade, but we have come too far to increase the risk to these fish in any way. The stock assessment indicates that current fishing levels are allowing the stock to recover.Ongoing anecdotal reports of high abundances of juvenile fish, particularly in the metro area, are encouraging. The long term forecast indicates sunny skies for Dhuies.

Demersal on the Menu in time for Christmas

Demersal on the Menu in time for Christmas

Prized Dhufish, Pink Snapper and Baldchin Groper will be the catch of the day for Christmas with anglers in the West Coast Bioregion once again allowed to fish for demersal scalefish.

In another positive for recreational fishers and demersal fish stocks, the closures over the past six years are proving successful going on the catches from earlier this year.
Recfishwest Chief Executive Officer Dr Andrew Rowland said the two-month closure on catching demersal scalefish (from October 15 to December 15) in the West Coast zone introduced in 2009, has been effective.

“The goal of achieving a 50 per cent reduction in catch numbers since management changes were introduced has been reached, and we’ve made great strides toward allowing stocks to recover, and ensuring sustainability of this fishery,” he said.

“This will have great flow on effects and it is a credit to responsible WA fishers that the recreational sector was able to meet the targets set by fisheries managers.

“If these fish stocks continue to show the same level of recovery, the easing of management controls on demersal fish species in the West Coast could be on the cards in the future.

The closure lifting does not include Cockburn and Warnbro Sounds, which remain closed to fishing for pink snapper until the 31 January. Dr Rowland said the additional closed areas are critical to spawning.
Recfishwest advocates for sustainable fishing resources and policies that ensure long term benefits to all recreational fishers.

For more information about Recfishwest visit www.recfishwest.org.au or phone Recfishwest on 9246 3366.