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Catches of pink snapper will need to be slashed

Catches of pink snapper will need to be slashed

The raw figures around the looming cut in the recreational take of demersal species like dhufish and pink snapper make for sobering reading for anyone who likes to catch them.

Fisheries Minister Don Punch has announced there will be need to be a 50 per cent in the take of these species for WA anglers, and a consultation process is currently underway with a plan to have the new rules in place next summer.

Although stocks of these species are seen to be recovering as was the aim when strict new management rules such as the annual demersal ban were introduced in 2010, research suggests it is not fast enough to meet the 20-year recovery timeline set at that time.

Recfishwest, the peak body for recreational fishing in WA, has formed a working group to help find fair and workable solutions for recreational fishers, and they have also had a huge response to a public survey on the issue with more than 5000 people already sharing their ideas.

These responses will be collated in the coming weeks for the working group to consider as part of Recfishwest’s advice to the Department on the issue ahead of formal public consultation planned for July.

A lot of options have already been thrown up by the fishing community, but a quick look at the catch figures reveal just how significant this cut is likely to be, with potentially huge economic and social ramifications given the popularity of this type of fishing on the lower west coast.

Recreational fishing tourism is a lifeblood of many coastal towns and countless businesses along the west coast rely on the money generated by visiting and local anglers.

One thing has become very clear, with less fish to go around it is more important than ever to make sure we are using the fish we do have in the best possible way.

The likely cuts are tied to a 2012 allocation based on historical catches that will see recs get 36 per cent of the catch and commercials the other 64 per cent.

This means the recreational take of a range of around 100 species including dhuies, pinkies and baldchin groper will be 135 tonnes.

That would be 115 tonnes for general rec fishers, and 20 tonnes for charter boats and just what this potentially means is revealed by Fisheries data.

There are currently 132,000 Recreational Fishing from Boat Licence (RFBL) holders in WA and 69,000 of them are in the West Coast Bioregion that will be covered by the cuts.

It is estimated that 40,000 of these target the various demersal species in question.

Using dhufish as the example for those 40,000 fishers, the recreational allocation would be just 68 tonnes, and with an average size of fish caught (according to Fisheries research) of around 3.4 kilos, this means a total take of just 19,500 dhufish per year.

Crunching those numbers, that is less than one dhuie per year for every two anglers chasing them, or just 1.7kg per angler per year.

The pink snapper allocation is likely to be set at just 17.5 tonnes, which according to Fisheries is 8500 fish, so that is just over one per year for every five anglers who target them, or just 400 grams each.

For those who love to target dhuies and pinkies, and particularly those who are successful, these are seriously stark figures that should demand their attention.

The scale of management restrictions looming being faced by WA offshore anglers are unprecedented and I’d urge anyone who has an interest in this style of fishing take the time to learn more before it’s too late as this process will almost certainly have huge ramifications for an industry valued at $2.4 billion annually.

Caption: Catches of pink snapper, like this one by Tim Carter, will need to be slashed under looming changes to fisheries management.

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