Hefty proposed fishing licence fees in Western Australia are set to be cut and bag limits reduced in a major backdown by the state’s Liberal Government. As a result of widespread public opposition, the Barnett Government has put forward a compromise package to placate recreational fishermen incensed by the proposed introduction of the controversial licences, which would have cost anglers up to $405 a year.
According to a report in The West Australian newspaper, the revamped proposals include scrapping a planned $150 annual fee to catch five separate demersal (bottom dwelling) species, including dhufish and snapper. But a fishing ban from October 15 to December 1 for the demersal species would remain and already tight bag limits would be reduced by up to half in order to reduce total recreational catch by 50 per cent.
A lack of consultation by the WA Government is, however, the major sticking point for concerned anglers.
WA-based tackle industry identity Tim Carter, told Fisho: “We still haven’t had community consultation on this issue.”
Under the latest proposals, a boat fishing licence fee of $30 per angler will apply, with each additional angler who fishes to a bag limit also requiring a boat fishing licence. In short, each rec fishing boat will require at least one boat fishing licence. Under this rather complicated system a boat angler can take others out fishing – under a single licence – with the proviso only one bag limit is reached – two bag limits requires two boat fishing licences, three bag limits three licences, and so on.
Bag limits for demersal species have been halved. In the case of dhufish the bag limit would be one fish per angler (two per boat) – down from two. A two fish total of any species per boat will also apply.
In a significant backdown by the WA Government, a single “complete” licence which encompasses freshwater, rock, abalone, net and boat fishing activities has been reduced from $405 to $230 annually.
Carter says the new fees are still excessive, despite the government backdown. “Two hundred and thirty dollars is a rip off, too.”
While he doesn’t question the need to protect WA’s demersal fishery, Carter says the Barnett Government’s “take it or leave it” attitude to the changes has raised the ire of thousands of rec fishos across the state.
While Recfishwest spokesman Frank Prokop has said the latest proposal is a sensible compromise, WA Fisheries Minister Norman Moore has denied the Government had made its final decision on the issue.
Speaking on ABC radio, Moore said the number of fish being caught in WA has to be reduced by 50 per cent to ensure the resource remains viable.
“We’re trying to come up with a package that has the least amount of disadvantage to those people who have got a particular interest in fishing. To try to manage it in such a way that we don’t put tackle shops out of business, we don’t put coast community holiday houses out of business,” he said.
While Moore did not rule out scrapping the proposed $150 annual demersal fishing licence, he appeared firm on introducing a $30 boat fishing licence.
“I want to have a licence fee for boat fishers … not just to give us the chance to protect the west coast demersal fishery but to indeed give us the knowledge and information about the whole fishery from Kunnunurra down to Eucla … we don’t have enough information about lots of our fisheries,” Moore told ABC 720’s Geoff Hutchison.
The Fisheries Minister alluded to using the proposed boat fishing licence to track fishing activity across WA.
“A licensing system will give us the opportunity to find out what people are doing, to give them the information we want them to have and to get information from them about where they’re catching fish and how many,” said Moore.
It is believed the WA Fisheries Minister will soon announce the final licensing proposals – still without public consultation.
Fisho will keep you informed of any further developments.