Latest licence package unveiled in WA

As has been widely reported at over the last two months, the West Australian government has been pushing for the introduction of a controversial recreational fishing package for the state.

While WA Fisheries Minister Norman Moore has said a new licensing sytem and reduced bag limits were needed to protect the state’s vulnerable demersal (bottom dwelling) fishery – a factor largely unopposed by the rec fishing sector – most opposition has centred around the complicated package’s exorbitant fees.
This culminated in 13,000 public signatures of protest being lodged with the WA State Government.  

Yesterday the WA government unveiled its latest, somewhat watered down package, the make-up of which was reported by Fisho last week.

Fisheries Minister Norman Moore announced the modified package had been reached after extensive talks with interested parties and industry players. Fisho was told by a spokesman from Minister Moore’s office that the rec fishing sector was represented at these meetings by Recfishwest, concerned charter boat operators and tackle shop owners, amongst others.    

In announcing the new plan, Mr Moore acknowledged the State Government had faced significant challenges in the management of at-risk demersal species such as dhufish and pink snapper.

“On taking office, I ordered a comprehensive independent review of the scientific research that showed high-risk demersal species like dhufish and pink snapper were at risk of overfishing,” he said.

Under the new measures a two-month season closure from October 15 to December 15 would still apply. As reported last week, new bag limits will be introduced and an earlier proposed $150 fishing licence for demersal scalefish scrapped. People fishing from boats will still require an annual $30 recreational boat fishing licence.

“All funds generated from the boat and other recreational fishing licences will be held in the Recreational Fishing Trust Fund and all those monies will funnel back into fisheries research, management and compliance,” Moore said.

Features of the latest proposed package include:

  • Abolishing the proposed annual $150, fortnightly $60 and daily $20 demersal scalefish licence
  • Introducing a mixed daily bag limit of two demersal scalefish, of which only one can be a dhufish
  • A daily boat limit of two dhufish will apply, however, there will be a boat limit of six dhufish permitted for charter boats in recognition of the business pressures on charter operators
  • A requirement to carry a release weight will apply to all anglers fishing for demersal species, to assist in mitigating barotrauma* and improve survival rates of demersal scalefish returned to the water
  • A two-month season closure from October 15 to December 15, inclusive, remains
  • The $30 recreational boat fishing licence applies (per person not as per boat as previously reported) to people fishing from registered boats and will be used by researchers to build a database of boat fishers and their catch 
  • Any non-licensed fishers – not just those under the age of 16 – may fish for free with a licensed fisher provided the provisions of the licensed fisher’s daily bag and size limits are honoured
  • A simple $15 ‘ticket’ system is proposed for charter clients who don’t already hold a boat fishing licence
  • Standardisation of other fishing licence fees to $40 for marron, lobster, abalone, rock lobster, net fishing and freshwater angling. Licences taken out concurrently are entitled to a 10 per cent discount on the transaction
  • All funds raised through the sale of recreational licences will be placed in the Recreational Fishing Trust Fund to exclusively fund activities related to recreational fishing
  • A 50 per cent discount for fishing from a registered boat licence will apply for pensioners and people under 16.

Of note is that under the new outlined package is the removal of the previous “umbrella” licence that allowed anglers to have a full licence that encompassed all five listed fishing practices at a cost of $85. Obtaining all licences now costs $184 – plus an additional $30 for the boat licence for a total of $214 annually. 

WA Department of Fisheries also says it aims to complete a review of the licence structure of the charter boat industry by early 2010.

While the new demersal restrictions appear to be widely accepted, some are critical of the early stance taken by rec fishing body Recfishwest. Tackle industry spokesman Ben Patrick says the representative body was too quick to agree to the WA government’s proposals.
“Recfishwest did not take a strong stance on this issue which made the starting point for negotiations quite challenging.” said Patrick.

“After a month long political fight over licences, the combined industry groups felt it was time to push for an open debate on licenses and to develop options going forward. Unfortunately Recfishwest were not in support of consultation over licences and accepted the government’s position.
“It has been a great win but with some opportunity lost.” concluded Patrick.

Fisho was unable to contact Recfishwest for comment prior to posting this story.

Fisho was told by the Fisheries Minister’s office the next process for WA’s new licensing system will see it tabled in parliament at an as yet unknown date. Once tabled WA’s proposed new laws are expected to face further opposition from the opposing Labor government – and possibly members of the government. 

It is understood the new closed season for demersal species take effect next month.

Stay tuned for any further updates. 





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