West Coast demersal catch cut by 50 per cent

Following a recommendation from an industry-led Harvest Strategy Reference Group, WA Fisheries Minister, Don Punch has committed to reduce the total catch for demersal species by 50 per cent to meet 2030 recovery targets.

In addition, the Minister has confirmed 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.

The 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 was not recovering fast enough to safeguard the sustainability of these prized fish.

The research data showed that while the rate of decline was slowing, there was no indication of a recovery in stock numbers. You’ll find more here.

The State Government has also accepted the other recommendation of the Reference Group to investigate and prioritise additional measures to support recovery, reduce total fishing 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 WAFIC, Recfishwest, Marine Tourism WA 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. Under the reduction 240 tonnes is allocated for the commercial sector and 135 tonnes for the recreational and charter sectors, which is 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 has welcomed any proposals from the sector to assist with the implementation of the new total catch limits for demersal species.

The proposed management options to support the recovery of demersal fish stocks are due to be released for wider public consultation in April.