Catch! - Recreational fishing news from Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia
Issue No.53, December 2020

Sustainable fishing practices the key as demersal season reopens

With recreational fishing for demersals in the West Coast Bioregion reopening on 16 December, it’s important that all rec fishers keep playing their part to help the stocks recover. The resource is now halfway through a 20-year recovery plan, and while there are some early signs of recovery, there is still a long way to go until stocks have fully rebuilt.

If you catch your bag limit for demersal scalefish species such as dhufish, pink snapper and baldchin groper, fish for other species to minimise the impact of fish dying post release.

Our research shows that catch and release fishing for demersal scalefish is not a sustainable fishing practice – they’re susceptible to barotrauma and if returned to the water, there’s a chance they won’t survive. So it’s important you either stop fishing once you’ve reached your bag limit, or target other species of fish on the surface or inshore.

‘High-grading’ (fishing for the same species after you’ve reached your bag or boat limit in an attempt to catch bigger fish) is not a responsible use of our fish resources and will slow down the stocks' recovery, and if you have already taken your daily bag limit, it will result in you exceeding it.

If you have to release a fish because it’s undersized, you can increase its chances of survival by using a release weight, handling the fish appropriately, and returning the fish to the water as soon as possible. Keep in mind that under the WA fishing rules, you must have a release weight on board if fishing for demersal scalefish in the West Coast Bioregion.

Find out more about how you can fish sustainably on our catch care page.

Abalone season 2020-21

Hands holding freshly caught abalone

The 2020/21 West Coast Zone (WCZ) abalone fishing sessions have been released and are scheduled for between 7.00am and 8.00am on the remaining days:

• Saturday 9 January 2021
• Saturday 23 January 2021
• Saturday 6 February 2021
• Saturday 20 February 2021

This season, an extra fishing hour has been added on Saturday 23 January in the WCZ so abalone fishers will have another chance to get out and fish. Adding an additional hour is consistent with our Harvest Strategy, and only possible because of the efforts and good stewardsip of all recreational abalone fishers in sticking to the fishing rules.

The WCZ daily bag limit for Roe’s abalone is 15 per fisher, and the total allowable WCZ recreational catch for the season has been increased to between 28 and 32 tonnes, following recruitment levels of Roe's abalone returning to levels prior to the marine heatwave in 2010/11.

Anyone wishing to fish for abalone must have a current abalone fishing licence. If your licence has expired since the last abalone fishing day you will have to purchase a new licence to legally fish for abalone. Licences are valid for 12 months from the date of issue. Check the rules in the Abalone recreational fishing guide or on the fishing rules website.

Send us Your Skeletons winners are grinners!

Phil Michael and his granddaughter out fishing

Fishers Phil Michael and Thomas Cremasco have two things in common – they love fishing and they had their names drawn out as winners in the latest Send us Your Skeletons (SUYS) quarterly prize draw.

Courtesy of Recfishwest, WA’s peak recfishing body, they’ve each taken home a Daiwa fishing rod, reel and braid combo. As the winner of the demersal prize Thomas was also lucky enough to win a Crewsaver lifejacket to keep him safe while boat fishing. Phil and Thomas are proof that every fisher who donates their fish frames to the program is in with a chance to win a great prize.

For your chance to win one of these great quarterly prizes, or the annual prize of a trip to the Montebello Islands, courtesy of Montebello Island Safaris, put your fresh or frozen frames (or demersal heads) in a bag with your name, phone number, date and location of capture. You can then drop them off at one of our many handy locations. All info given about location of capture is kept strictly confidential, so your fishing spots will be safe.

Crabbing for blue swimmers in the Swan and Canning rivers?

Image of several fishing guide publications

There is a health warning for recreational fishers in the Swan and Canning rivers due to the potential for toxic algal bloom events of Alexandrium to bioaccumulate in crustacea and mussels. Consumption of affected crabs may be dangerous.

The advice is to not eat mussels and remove the head, guts (mustard) and gills from crabs caught in the Swan and Canning rivers before freezing, cooking or eating. All crabs must be landed and transported whole to your home.

For more information and step by step instructions, including a video, on how to prepare your crabs safely, visit our website.

Meet the scientist - David Fairclough

David Fairclough, fishing

This issue we profile Senior Research Scientist David Fairclough, who leads a team of people who conduct, monitor, assess and research the West Coast demersal scalefish resource, such as WA dhufish, snapper and baldchin groper, for the commercial and recreational sectors.

David has had an interest in science since he was a child living in Kenya, East Africa. He moved to Australia when he was 13 and discovered surfing on the WA coast. David worked as an accountant before he realised his passion was for the living world, biological sciences and sustainability.

“I enjoy the challenge of working in the biological sciences,” he said. “The methods we use are diverse and constantly evolving, which keeps the work extremely interesting. I’ve been very lucky during my career to work in places from Exmouth to Esperance, and have great memories of working in Shark Bay during my PhD, studying the biology of tuskfish species, getting to experience that incredible ecosystem and working with a fantastic group of people.

“One of the highlights of my role is that I get to use my passion for biology to ensure sustainability of an important fishery resource. Even more so is knowing that I am contributing to the social benefits of fishing for many Western Australians, including the ability to catch a fish, buy a fish, see a fish and earn a livelihood from those fish.”

New trainees welcomed to the team

Minister Tinley with the new trainees on a jetty near the ocean

We welcomed 13 new fisheries and marine officer trainees to our compliance team in October. The trainees have completed an intensive 12 weeks of compliance training and have now been deployed to coastal areas from one end of the State to the other, putting more eyes on the water to monitor our fisheries and to make sure everyone sticks to the fishing rules to help ensure there will be plenty of fish for the future.

The trainees will undertake a range of duties including checking recreational and commercial fish catches, checking boats for safety equipment such as lifejackets and flares, educating fishers on the rules and regulations, and when required initiating legal proceedings for non-compliance.

Rock lobster survey

Western rock lobster on sea floor

Calling all rock lobster recreational fishers – we’ve started our sixth annual on-site survey of recreational fishing for Western rock lobster. From now until January, keep an eye out for our research staff at metropolitan boat ramps. The days we will be there are randomly selected within the survey period.

We will be asking recreational fishers to participate in a short survey to collect information on their fishing trip, method (potting or diving) and trip duration. We will also collect length and weight measurements of their kept catch. This important data helps us obtain an index of average weight for Western rock lobsters caught by recreational fishers.

Shark bite-off research in full swing

Image of two sharks following a fish on a line up through the water

Our scientists are working on shark depredation and the effect it has on both commercial and recreational fishing, and this year have embarked on a RFIF funded project to research how depredation could be mitigated in WA.

The first step was to survey charter and boat recreational fishers about their experiences. One in two fishers who fished north of Lancelin had experienced shark depredation and two in three had tried to reduce or avoid shark bite-offs in various ways, with the survey highlighting common concerns.

Phase two commenced mid-year, with field testing of three shark deterrent devices in various popular fishing locations. Trials have taken place at the Abrolhos, Shark Bay, Exmouth, Broome and the Montebello Islands.

Footage from cameras attached to the fishing lines was collected during these trials and will be analysed to determine the species, size and behaviour while the different shark deterrents were deployed.

Once trials are finalised the next stage will involve collating the results, with a series of roadshows to engage with recreational fishers on shark depredation scheduled for early next year.