Six month ban on west coast demersal deemed an “unreasonable, unnecessary overreach”

DESPITE pushing the Government to wind back the proposed blanket nine-month west coast demersal ban to six months, Recfishwest is deeply disappointed by the Fisheries Minister’s decision.

Recfishwest said it has always supported action but shutting out 700,000 West Australians from being able to catch dhufish and pink snapper for six months of the year is completely unnecessary.

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said: “Our sector has a strong-track record in putting the fish first and we agree there needs to be some changes to help stocks continue to rebuild.”

“We presented clear, science-backed alternative proposals to Government which would have reduced recfishers’ catches by 50 per cent, met sustainability targets and allowed people the freedom to spend more time fishing with families and friends.

“Yet, the Minister has decided on extended bans for the recreational fishing sector and has put commercial profit over the public good with the lion’s share of this fishery given to a small number of commercial operators.

“Today’s announcement restricts recreational fishers to an annual catch of 115t, a reduction of more than 50% on current catches, while commercial operators will be able to catch 240t, a reduction of only 12% on current catches.”

Recfishwest’s proposals were developed during months of consultation with the recreational fishing community and a specially convened West Coast Demersal Expert Working Group.

One of these proposals aimed at speeding up the rebuilding of demersal fish stocks included a closure during the dhufish spawning period.

“The fact that this closure will not apply to the commercial fishing industry does not reflect best practice fisheries management,” said Dr Rowland.

“Recfishwest also called for a buy-back of commercial fishing licences and welcomes this element of the Minister’s package.

“A commercial licence buy-back will help deliver a fairer, more equitable outcome which will the greatest benefits for the greatest number in the community.

“The Government has a golden opportunity to fix a broken and outdated fisheries policy by ensuring the prompt and effective implementation of this buy-back and reduce its ill-advised six-month ban.”

Western Australia’s Fisheries Minister, Don Punch, claims the changes being introduced balance the fishing experience with the action needed to protect these fish.

“There is simply no other way,” said Punch.

“We have listened to the feedback – recreational fishers asked for more time on the water. We’ve been able to achieve this by putting in place more rigorous secondary measures, like stricter boat limits and wilderness fishing at the Abrolhos Islands.

“I understand the changes will be difficult for recreational fishers. I appreciate the feedback I have received, and I say to you that I have delivered the very best recreational package possible while also ensuring that you have sustainable fish stocks going forward,” said Punch.

More to follow.

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