from-the-experts

RECREATIONAL fishers are being asked to take a whole new approach to their fishing habits under new rules proposed by the Department of Fisheries.For most anglers, it has been drilled into us for many years that we should always release small fish, especially with the strict guidelines on minimum size limits.

The need to release small fish to enable them to have the chance to grow bigger and breed has long been a cornerstone of the way we view recreational fishing in WA.For most of us, the last thing we would consider these days is keeping undersize fish, and indeed we get infuriated when we see someone doing the wrong thing.

However, for many iconic recreational fishing species in WA that is about to change under the new rules proposed by Fisheries which are due to be introduced next year. In an effort to simplify the state’s fishing rules, Fisheries has undertaken a major review of all finfish size limits across Western Australia. While many of the changes do appear to make sense, not everyone in the recreational fishing community is sold on the idea. Personally, I can see a lot of the changes being well thought out, but there are a handful I don’t agree with, but more on that later.

The full suite of suggested changes can be found at the Fisheries website, www.fish.wa.gov.au, in the discussion paper A Review of Size Limits for Finfish in WA. In announcing the changes, a spokesman for Fisheries said the review was science-based with the aim of ensuring size limits contribute in a meaningful way to the sustainable management of individual species.  Minimum size limits would be scrapped for demersal species like baldchin groper and breaksea cod, which suffer badly from barotrauma and don’t generally release well.

 

Because these fish don’t release well, Fisheries believes counting even small fish towards existing bag limits will actually reduce overall mortality and deliver actual sustainability benefits. Other species, which are largely viewed as sportfish and usually released, like salmon and samson fish, would also have their minimum size limits scrapped.

 

Further to that, fast-growing species like dolphinfish, cobia and spanish mackerel which are not regarded to face any sustainability issues would also have their limits removed, which would make the contentious filleting at sea rule much more logical. Another troublesome rule which would be scrapped is the interdorsal length rule for whaler sharks, which has caused major controversy in recent years and taken on a significance that was never the intention of its introduction.

Fisheries said size limits for finfish would remain, and could even be increased, where they were necessary to ensure ongoing sustainability for species that need a range of management measures to help protect them from exploitation. For example, the minimum size for mulloway would actually increase to 70cm from 50cm and king george whiting would be upped to 30cm. There is a six-week public consultation period closing on December 23, 2016 and more details are available at www.fish.wa.gov.au.

 

In the meantime, Recfishwest also wants to gauge public response to the proposed changes before making its submission on behalf of anglers and has an online survey at www.recfishwest.org.au until December 16.

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I took the survey this week and although I agreed with most of the proposals, there were a handful I rejected. Recfishwest has already expressed its concerns over aspects of the changes, including dropping the minimum size for red emperor for commercial operators while retaining it for anglers.

As a keen bream fisher, I wouldn’t like to see the Swan River maximum size limit of two 40cm fish scrapped. In fact I would like to see the same style of slot limit now used state-wide with barramundi applied to bream, with all fish over 40cm having to be released. I would urge anyone with an interest in recreational fishing to take the time to survey.