WA’S sensible approach

YOU’D like to think that in this day and age most anglers would support the concept of fair and sensible size and bag limits. You can have all the accessible stretches of water you like but if they’re aren’t any fish in them, due to over harvesting or environmental degradation, then so what?

Current changes proposed in some states look to be a bit old fashioned and incremental, that is reducing a bit here, increasing a bit there … and maybe giving commercial operators exemptions if their complaints are loud enough. Size and bag limits are too important to be based on who lobbies or whinges hardest.

Over in WA, a few years back the sandgroper fisheries regulators introduced a whole swag of bag and size limits based on bioregional differences and stock pressures. Great in theory, and presumably science-based, but a devil of a job to interpret for locals fishing across the regions and almost impossible for visiting anglers to keep on top of as they moved up and down the coast in their camper vans.

Last year they had a go at simplifying rules and regulations, without losing the thrust of the overall approach. That seems to be, in summary, to hold down catches of popular species through pretty modest daily and trip bag limits and to minimise opportunities for illegal fish trading.

While the current recreational fishing guide is still a fairly complex document, differences in rules between the four bio-regions – West Coast, South Coast, Gascoyne, North Coast – have been minimised, with only the most populated West Coast having some lower limits.

For bag and size limit restrictions, fish are categorised according to the aquatic environment they’re most prevalent in, out to the 200 mile economic exclusion zone boundary. These are freshwater, estuarine, near shore, demersal and pelagic. Size limits are generally common across the bioregions but as mentioned, West Coast has some lower bag limits than the other three. Bag limits are low by east coast standards. For example, in the demersal category you can only keep two high-value finfish per day in West Coast, and five in the other regions. That could be one blue morwong and one baldchin groper, or two of the one species in the West Coast, or five listed fish in the others.

For pelagics, there’s no difference statewide. A bag limit of three, which could be one cobia, one kingfish and one marlin. It could also be three kingfish or three cobia, but only one marlin is allowed in the bag of three. Similar principles are applied to nearshore species (16 mixed species bag totals) and freshwater (4 mixed). For species not specifically listed and not subject to size limits (including garfish, yellowfin whiting and herring) there’s a combined species 30 bag limit.

In possession, you can have 20kg of fillets, or 10kg of fillets and one day’s bag limit of whole fish or trunks, or two day’s bag limit of whole fish or trunks. You can fillet fish with minimum size limits at sea if you leave the skin and scales on but the fillet must be 30cm long. Fish with maximum size limits must remain whole. There are some special rules for the Abrolhos Islands and there are some totally protected species. It’s still a bit complex, but at least it’s sensible. And there is some shore based fishing allowed within marine park sanctuary zones, as is currently being hotly debated in NSW.


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