Angry West Australian anglers are up in arms in the wake of yesterday’s announcement by the WA government of major changes to the state’s fishing laws – expected to come into effect in mid October. The new laws will see the previous umbrella licencing system scrapped and individual anglers pay up to as much as $405 annually to fish WA waters.
Fisheries Minister Norman Moore said more restrictions on popular demersal (bottom dwelling) scalefish and some nearshore species as well as changes to the recreational licence system were needed to ensure the sustainability of WA’s fish stocks. Moore said there was wide recognition in Government and the community that significant parts of WA’s fisheries were at risk of collapse and needed greater protection. The minister added that revenue raised from the new licensing system would be quarantined in a recreational fishing trust and spent on matters related to recreational fishing.
Under the new laws a new West Coast demersal licence will cost $20 for one day, $60 for a fortnight or $150 annually to fish for any of the listed species and will apply in the West Coast bioregion from Black Point, east of Augusta, to the Zuytdorp Cliffs north of Kalbarri – a two-month ban on recreational fishing for species on the West Coast bioregion demersal scalefish list will also apply from October 15 to December 15 each year – an outcome appearing largely accepted by rec fishing bodies.
While the current 50 per cent discount on all licences for pensioners and children under 16 will continue to apply that could leave individuals in these groups paying over $200 annually for an “umbrella” licence – an increase of nearly 400 per cent. Some in rec fishing circles have voiced fears such increases will force the young and elderly to pursue other less costly forms of recreation.
Boat anglers will require an additional boat fishing licence at a cost of $30 as well as individual licences to target demersal species, with activities such as fishing for rock lobster, fresh water species and marron costing a further fee of $45 each. The boat fishing licence will apply statewide (for any form of fishing where a boat is used) and will apply when: line fishing (handline, rod, squid jigging); crabbing; spearfishing; octopus trapping; dip netting for prawns; wading, diving or angling to catch fish; crabs or shellfish are taken where a boat is used to access the fishing location.
Recfishwest executive director Frank Prokop said that despite recognising the benefit of a recreational fishing licence system, his organisation did not support Minister Moore’s new fee structure.
“The addition of two new licences – $30 for anyone fishing from a boat and an additional demersal fishing licence costing between $20 a day to $150 annually – means that keen anglers who want the complete suite of fishing activities will have to pay $405 per year. This is in stark contrast to the previous umbrella licence which cost $81.”
Prokop added that despite flaws in the previous licensing system, Recfishwest believed that at the very least, a discount for anglers who undertake multiple licensed fisheries must be included in the new management structure.
Fishing World spoke to tackle industry identity and Recfishwest board member Tim Carter who is gravely concerned at what the changes could mean for rec fishing in WA in the short term and into the future.
“We just think it’s way over the top. By putting in these additional costs it’s just going to put added pressure on fish such as dhufish,” Says Carter who had been involved in consultation with WA fisheries regarding the West Coast bioregion demersal scalefish closures. He also says the new licencing structure also appears overly complex.
“The waters have been muddied with [the inclusion of] boat fishing licences.”
While anglers who wish to fish from a boat will require an additional boat fishing licence at a cost of $30, clients of charter boats must possess the $30 boat licence and additional licences to target demersal species at a daily cost of $20 or $150 annually.
Frank Prokop says “The extremely high fee structure is obviously aimed at helping to make the recreational West Coast Demersal fishery cost recovered and we are concerned this cost will act as a financial disincentive to fishers who wish to target these species.”
Prokop says there are some good elements to the package including moves to introduce new bag limits on category 2 and 3 inshore species and to fund new research into the status of these stocks. Recfishwest has strongly supported the change to the tailor slot limit to become two fish larger than 50 cm instead of two fish over 60 cm which will provide additional protection for larger tailor.
WA Bait Supply proprietor, Tim Bailey, who supplies bait solely tothe recreational market, is another West Australian taken aback by thelicence changes. “Incredibly expensive…way too excessive.”Bailey says of the widespread increases. As the father of youngchildren Bailey questions the reasons why, under the new licencingsystem, it will cost him $90 to take his family herring fishing for aday.
“Kids under 15 should be exempt,” he says.
In the current economic climate many in WA now question the reaons behind yet another cost increase as the state has recently endured large gas, electricity and boat registration rises – since the liberal government came to power. Strong opposition to these fishing licencing changes is now expected across the state from recreational anglers, representative bodies and those within the boating and tackle industries.
For detailed information on WA’s proposed new fishing laws click on link below: http://www.fish.wa.gov.au/docs/pub/RecFishArrange/index.php