A package of proposed initiatives to save some of Western Australia’s most popular and iconic oceanic fish species has been released by Fisheries Minister Jon Ford.
This package, being released for a four-week consultation period, comes as WA faces unprecedented pressure from its escalating recreational fishing fleet.
The package of 11 recommendations is aimed at saving some of the State’s most vulnerable iconic fish by improving the management of recreational fishing off a section of the WA coast (between north of Kalbarri and east of Augusta, called the West Coast Bioregion).
Mr Ford said a new approach to managing recreational fishing was imperative to ensure the survival of some of the State’s most sought-after fish - especially the ‘Vulnerable 5’ - dhufish, pink snapper, baldchin groper, breaksea cod and red snapper.
The Minister said recent scientific research showed that populations of some of the State’s most vulnerable and iconic species were at risk of collapsing because of overfishing. One of the contributing factors to this overfishing had been the burgeoning recreational fishing sector.
'These warning signs tell us that we have to act now to save our vulnerable and iconic fish.
Everyone has a role to play to save our fish to ensure we have fish for current generations as well as fish for the future,' he said.
'A balance between preserving the enjoyment of the recreational fishing experience and saving our iconic fish is achievable. And importantly, it’s crucial that we strive to achieve this balance.
'I believe the package of recommended changes that I am releasing today will achieve this balance between the social value of recreational fishing and the need to save our fish for the future.
'The package is designed to achieve a 50 per cent catch reduction of these key species in the West Coast Bioregion. Our best scientists say this is a necessary target to help stabilise and replenish these fish populations.'
The package of 11 recommendations includes reduced bag and boat limits for certain species, increased size limits for pink snapper, a split seasonal restriction for the ‘Vulnerable 5’, and greater protection of fish in the Abrolhos Island fish habitat area.
Mr Ford said it was vital for Western Australians to note that the package of recommended changes only applied to iconic species that were most at risk - especially the ‘Vulnerable 5’.
'The changes that I am recommending will allow recreational fishers to still catch a wide range of fish species,' he said.
'Specifically, the proposed package will not apply to people fishing for the usual fish species that are caught from beaches, jetties and groynes. Nor will changes apply to people fishing for species such as squid, whiting, skippy or fishing for ‘pelagic’ fish such as Spanish mackerel and tuna.'
The Minister said the proposal for a split seasonal restriction would prohibit the take of the ‘Vulnerable 5’ in two parts; October 15 to December 25, and February 1 to March 31. This split approach to the seasonal restriction would reduce the amount of fish caught over any year and offered some spawning protection.
'This split season restriction is a balanced approach to offer reasonable protection to our most vulnerable fish, while also giving people the opportunity to still catch these fish during the height of the summer holiday season, which is when most Western Australians want to go fishing,' Mr Ford said.
The recommendations, which apply only to the West Coast Bioregion (between Zuytdorp Cliffs, north of Kalbarri and Black Point, east of Augusta), include:
1. Reducing the individual mixed bag limit of Category 1 ‘high risk’ Fish from seven to four fish;
2. Reducing the daily bag limit of pink snapper from four to two fish;
3. Increasing the size limit of pink snapper from 41cm to 50cm;
4. Introduction of a boat limit of two daily bag limits for Category 1 ‘high risk’ Fish. Charter
boats will be allowed to have a bag limit of two Category 1 ‘high risk’ Fish per customer;
5. Seasonal restriction that prohibits the take of the ‘Vulnerable 5’ species - dhufish, pink snapper, baldchin groper, breaksea cod and red snapper. The restriction will apply October 15 to December 25, and February 1 to March 31 each year;
6. Prohibiting spear fishing on compressed air for ‘high risk’ Fish. Also prohibiting the use of power-assisted fishing reels;
7. Initiating discussions with fishing clubs to discourage public fishing competitions from targeting high risk species such as the ‘Vulnerable 5’;
8. Reducing the finfish possession limit at the Abrolhos Islands, and the Fish and Fish Habitat Protection Area;
9. Enhancing the existing voluntary Recreational Angler Logbook program to provide additional data;
10. Establishing a Recreational Fishing Trust, using existing current revenue that is raised through existing fishing licences; and
11. Investigating the introduction of large fish reserves.
The Minister urged Western Australians to make their submissions to this package of recommendations, contained in the Ministerial Position Paper. Submissions can also include references to additional proposals and issues detailed in the Fisheries Management Paper 228. Both documents and submission details can be found online at http://www.fish.wa.gov.au
The deadline for submissions is 5pm, Wednesday, April 30, 2008.