Report gives thumbs up to health of bio-region fisheries

A STUDY into fisheries management in WA has indicated fishing restrictions recently put in place have achieved their intended results.

The joint study, conducted by the Department of Fisheries and Murdoch University and funded with a grant from the Commonwealth Government’s Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC), ran for five years. Researchers say the study revealed no evidence to suggest fishing activity was having any major impact on the aquatic food chain within WA’s four marine bioregions.

“The study found that, although species composition of catches has changed, there had been no detectable change in the food chains that underpin healthy ecosystems in the state’s four bioregions,” said Dr Dan Gaughan, the Department of Fisheries’ Acting Director of Research.

“On the contrary, the research reveals that overall food chains are stable in each of those
bioregions, which suggests that, at least at the bioregion level in WA, reports about ‘fishing down the food web’ are highly exaggerated.”

Dr Gaughan said over recent years the department had adopted a range of initiatives that have culminated in an ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM) approach.
The EBFM approach takes into account not only the direct effects of fishing on the target
species, but also the indirect effects of fishing on other species within the ecosystem.

“One of the major drivers for this new approach was a concern that a number of prominent
demersal (bottom-dwelling) scalefish species, such as WA dhufish and pink snapper, were being overfished in the West Coast Bioregion,” Dr Gaughan said.

“The department responded to these concerns by bringing much of the recreational and
commercial open access line fishing under more robust and formal management arrangements, aimed at reducing catches of those demersal species by 50 per cent.
“Simulations undertaken in the research study found that stock numbers have increased as a result of this approach and should continue to rise over the next few years.”

A final report – “Development of an ecosystem approach to the monitoring and management of Western Australian fisheries” – is available at the WA Fisheries website and FRDC site

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