SAFA claims SA rec fishing survey flawed

Image: PIRSA

THE 2013/14 Recreational Fishing Survey (2013/14 RFS) is the report used by Fisheries Minister Leon Bignell to justify wide ranging cuts to SA anglers’ bag and size limits. The driver for these cuts is the “allocation” of shares between recreational and commercial fishing sectors for primary fish species.

Using King George whiting (KGW) as an example, PIRSA Director Mr Sean Sloan explained the allocation.

“The recreational sector is currently taking closer to 60 per cent of the total catch, whilst the pros are in the low 40s. PIRSA insists the split should remain at 50.5 percent pro versus 48.5 percent rec [sic], and has targeted the recreational sector with reduced bag and boat limits as a result,” Sloan said.

However, the chairperson of SAFA, Mr Graham Keegan, states a significant concern in opposition to PIRSA’s conclusions and data.

“Mr Sloan’s stance is incorrect based on PIRSA’s very own data. The allocation/share Mr Sloan refers to is calculated as the percentage annual catch weight for anglers or commercials with respect to their combined catch over the same period. The respective value is then compared to those specified in PIRSA’s Management Plan,” Keegan said.

“Neither recreational anglers or the general SA public had a say in, or knowledge of what essentially amounts to privatisation (to varying degrees) of SA’s natural aquatic resources,” he said.

The 2013/14 RFS measured the recreational catch between December 2013 and November 2014. However those findings were then compared, incorrectly, to the commercial catch for 2013/2014 (July 2013 to June 2014, see p2).

Hence only a 7 month time correspondence occurred, making calculation of allocation values impractical. Consider how the commercial 2013/2014 KGW catch was the lowest on record, but increased 17 per cent in 2014/2015, so a decrease in the recreational KGW share is expected, due to higher commercial KGW catches in the latter half of 2014.

“PIRSA Fisheries has to correct the commercial catch timeline, and issue new allocation estimates. The present values are of no practical use in any form of decision making process. PIRSA Fisheries should also suspend the proposed cuts until all identified errors in the 2013/14 RFS have been resolved in an open manner, which is strictly compliant with the scientific method,” Keegan said.

PIRSA Fisheries has to finally recognize and accept, that numerous authors of past recreational surveys, like the 2013/14 RFS, have emphatically declared that conversion from fish harvest numbers to total catch weight is extremely unreliable, due to the large degree of error, including both systematic and introduced. The recreational harvest weight, as now determined, is simply an indicative or qualitative guide.

The release of South Australia’s regulation changes for key recreational species is due on December 1st.

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