New measures will be developed to boost the recovery of West Coast demersal scalefish to ensure there are stocks of these prized fish for the future.
These measures follow the release of the latest scientific stock assessment of pink snapper and dhufish, two key demersal indicator species, issued in November 2021. This stock assessment found the West Coast Demersal Scalefish Resource (WCDSR) was not recovering fast enough to safeguard the sustainability of these prized fish.
The State Government has accepted the recommendation of an industry-led Harvest Strategy Reference Group to reduce the total catch for demersal species by 50 per cent to meet 2030 recovery targets.
The State Government has also accepted another recommendation of the Reference Group to investigate and prioritise additional measures to support recovery, reduce fish mortality and improve management and research of the resource.
This includes consideration of measures such as stock enhancement opportunities, targeted protection for spawning activity and recruitment pulses, increasing education of post-release mortality, investigation into shark depredation, and additional management, monitoring and compliance resources.
The Reference Group, comprising of Recfishwest, Marine Tourism WA, WA Fishing Industry Council (WAFIC) and the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD), considered the latest scientific stock assessment of pink snapper and dhufish stocks against recovery targets.
Under the 2010-2030 recovery plan for the resource, demersal stocks have not recovered fast enough to safeguard the future sustainability of the valued fish. Current management arrangements have helped halt the decline in dhufish and pink snapper indicator species stocks, but more needs to be done to ensure recovery of stocks, particularly of older breeding fish.
Consistent with the recommendation to halve total catch limits and the principles of the WCDSR Harvest Strategy 2021-25, the new total catch limit for demersal species will be 375 tonnes, reduced from 750 tonnes, with 240 tonnes allocated for the commercial sector and 135 tonnes for the recreational and charter sectors, in line with existing integrated fisheries management (IFM) allocations.
DPIRD will work closely with the fishing sectors to develop management options to meet the new catch limits and additional measures to reduce fish mortality. The State Government welcomes any proposals from the sector to assist with the implementation of the new total catch limits for demersal species to meet the 2030 recovery targets.
The proposed management options to support the recovery of demersal fish stocks are due to be released for wider public consultation in April.
More information on the stock assessment is available from DPIRD’s website.
As stated by Fisheries Minister Don Punch:
“The sustainable management of our West Coast Demersal Scalefish Resource is based on world class fisheries science and research.
“For the past 11 years, our commercial and recreational fishers have done their part to help these valuable fish stocks to recover, but it is clear we need to do more.
“I would like to acknowledge the work of Recfishwest, Marine Tourism WA, WA Fishing Industry Council and DPIRD for supporting a reduction in allowable take that will help boost the recovery back to sustainable levels.
“It is vitally important we continue to work together on new measures and management options that ensure we have these important fish for the future.”