Backdown hoped: WA law changes

About 13,000 letters have been sent to WA politicians calling for a disallowance of controversial new fishing regulations. Concerned stakeholders are asking for proper public consultation over the issue.

As reported on last month, the new laws will see a previous umbrella licencing system scrapped and individual anglers pay as much as $405 annually to fish WA waters.
Fisheries Minister Norman Moore said at the time that more restrictions on popular demersal (bottom dwelling) fish and some nearshore species as well as changes to the recreational licence system were needed to ensure the sustainability of WA’s fish stocks.
Moore also said there was wide recognition in government and the community that significant parts of WA’s fisheries were at risk of collapse and needed greater protection.

Under the laws a new West Coast demersal licence will cost $20 for one day, $60 for a fortnight or $150 annually to fish for any of the listed species – which includes popular recreational species such as snapper, dhufish, cod and mangrove jack.
The regulations will apply in the West Coast bioregion from Black Point, east of Augusta, to the Zuytdorp Cliffs north of Kalbarri. A two-month ban on recreational fishing for species on the West Coast bioregion demersal scalefish list will also apply from October 15 to December 15 each year – an outcome which appears to have been largely accepted by rec fishing bodies.
A number of WA Liberal backbenchers are reportedly nervous about the public anger building over these proposals. WA angling groups are hoping several backbenchers will “cross the floor” should the disallowance motion be put.

Despite public concern, the WA Premier Colin Barnett and Minister Moore have been reported as saying they will not be swayed on the issue and the proposed new licence scheme is the way to achieve a 50 per cent reduction in the total dhufish take.
Scientific studies recommended a 50 per cent reduction in the take of Western Australian dhufish as at a datum point of the last creel survey. WA’s recreational anglers have since had the dhufish bag limit halved from 4 fish per angler/8 per boat to 2 per angler/4 per boat.

WA-based tackle industry represenatative, Tim Carter, told Fisho that “nobody is disputing the need for this closure in response to the science”.

“The (bag limits) alone must go a very long way to reducing the take of dhufish by 50 per cent,” said Carter.

He also disputes the claim by the WA Government that the $150 demersal licence will reduce the take of dhufish by about 25 per cent.

“This is simply not true,” Carter said. “Anyone you ask – be it fisheries, informed anglers, etc – will tell you that 90 per cent of these fish are taken by 10 per cent of the anglers out there. Those anglers will not be put off by these licences, in fact they may well be encouraged as the small time occasional fisherman that got lucky every now and then and actually caught a fish will now be priced out of the fishery leaving it all to the real good anglers that know how to target these fish effectively.”

Carter also points out that existing fishing licences have increased by amounts varying from 45 per cent to nearly 100 per cent and the “blanket” licence removed.
Carter, like many concerned WA anglers, believes these increases are “nothing short of a rip-off by our government”.

Fisho will keep you updated with any future developments.

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