More demersal fishing opportunities for charter and recreational fishers

  • Spring recreational demersal fishing period doubled to four weeks
  • Commercial and charter sectors to receive support from purchased entitlement
  • Changes made possible by the success of the Cook Government’s $4.1 million West Coast Demersal Scalefish Interim Managed Fishery Voluntary Fisheries Adjustment Scheme

Commercial fish supply to local markets is being supported, and charter and recreational fishers will have more opportunities to fish for pink snapper and dhufish, thanks to the success of the Cook Government’s $4.1 million voluntary fisheries adjustment scheme (VFAS) for commercial operators.

The Hon. Don Punch

The adjustment scheme requested by the commercial fishing industry is a key initiative of the $10 million West Coast Demersal Scalefish Resource (WCDSR) recovery support package.

The scheme allowed commercial wetline fishers to voluntarily sell units of entitlement (available fishing hours) and their associated Fishing Boat Licence back to the Government.

Due to high demand from commercial fishers wanting to voluntarily relinquish entitlements, the Government increased the funding available from $2.5 million to $4.1 million.

A total of 12 offers were accepted by commercial operators, equating to approximately 38.5 tonnes of demersal scalefish annually – 18.5 tonnes will be reallocated to other commercial fisheries that primarily target non-demersal species but were facing potential restrictions.

This will support the continued supply of locally caught, affordable, quality Western Australian seafood to the hospitality sector, and WA consumers.

Closures to the recreational fishery will be partially eased, with an additional 10 tonnes per year provided to allow recreational fishers with more time on the water. The spring opening will be doubled from two to four weeks between 16 September and 14 October (inclusive) each year.

From Monday, 1 July 2024, the allocation for the charter sector will also be increased by 50 per cent to 30 tonnes annually – recognising the importance of this industry to regional WA communities, and the tourism opportunities it provides.

To provide an immediate boost to the charter sector, an additional 1,500 tags will be distributed to eligible charter operators for the remainder of the current season. This year, the number of charter operators eligible for tags will also increase by 50 per cent from 21 to 33.

These changes do not affect the 375 tonne benchmark set for the recovery of the demersal scalefish resource by 2030.

The new access arrangements for the recreational and charter sectors will be reviewed once the resource has fully recovered.

More information on demersal recovery is available from fish.wa.gov.au/demersal

Minister Punch announced this morning a reallocation of 20t of Demersal catch to the Recreational sector. This is a direct result of the Voluntary fisheries Buyback scheme of commercial license announced by the Minister when

The new Demersal rules were announced late in 2022, of which some commercial operators opted to take up and sell back their quota allocation.  38.5t was acquired back with the Buy Back from 12 operators, 18.5T goes to other commercial fisheries that primarily target non-demersal species, 10t to Charter, and 10t to the rec sector. Whilst we don’t support the 18.5t back to the pros, the other 20t has been used well.

What does this mean in short? Well, 10t of quota to the recreational anglers which equates to 2 weeks extra fishing a year, which will be added to the September school holiday opening, one week before and one week before this period.

It also gives 10t back to the Charter sector, which will allow more tags to be allocated to operators and give rec anglers further access.

This is not just about 2 weeks back on the water. It also sets a precedent in WA, as it is the first time in our history that a re-allocation has occurred and may well open the door to further re-allocations of not just this fishery, but other commercial fisheries which don’t meet social or economic acceptance. 

THIS IS GOOD NEWS FOR OUR INDUSTRY and WA recreational fishers. Our industry is also leading the charge in promoting other fishing targets to take some pressure off Demersal species. Whiting, squid, bream, flathead, FAD competitions, and beach casting days, have all been promoted through various channels and we should be proud of how we have led the charge in the department.

WARFFA applauds the Government on this announcement, and for finally recognising the true Social and Economic value of this valuable community-owned Resource to the WA community. Of course, we would have liked a bit more time on the water, but this is a very good start, after just 12 months of new restrictions.

WARFFA will continue to push for future wind back of restrictions and also changes to current regulations around size and bag limits, but applaud this first step by the Government.

We also call for the Dept. of Fisheries to land their long-awaited education program to educate rec anglers on the new rules and regulations and to promote the ‘switch your fish’ campaign, which was promised 12 months ago and is yet to be rolled out. Which is simply not acceptable.

This reallocation now gives the Rec Sector 41% of the 375t sustainable harvest and 59% is allocated to the commercial sector. Which is a win for rec fishers whilst still maintaining our stance of supporting a sustainable fishery.

This also allows the Charter sector a lifeline, which had their backs to the wall when the new restrictions were announced.

WARFFA also would like to thank Recfishwest for their tireless work behind the scenes in keeping a constant and steady pressure on the Government and the Minister to reallocate this important fishery. Without their work, which often goes unnoticed, this may not have been considered.

Tim Farnell

Executive Director, WARFFA

Recfishwest welcomes today’s decision by Fisheries Minister Don Punch to reallocate 20 tonnes of the west coast demersal catch to the recfishing sector – just over a year after changes to the fishery were made. 

Fast facts

  • Fisheries Minister makes unprecedented move to reallocate 20 tonnes of west coast demersal fish to the recfishing sector following voluntary buy-back of fishing entitlement from commercial fishers.
  • The shift in fisheries policy, coming after a decade of sustained effort by Recfishwest and recfishers,  is a “positive and encouraging step toward fairer management of the fishery” says Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland.
  • The decision will result in more time on the water for recfishers and help prevent several small charter operators from going under.

This is an unprecedented shift in fisheries management policy and a positive and encouraging step towards fairer management of this fishery.

Recfishwest has consistently called for reallocation since the existing share of the fishery (64% commercial, 36% recreational and charter) was determined in 2012.  

Commitments made to review this allocation “as soon as practical”, or every five years have never materialised.  

However, today’s announcement will finally see a readjustment of the shares of the sustainable catch to 59% for the commercial fishing sector and 41% for the recreational fishing sector.  

After a decade of sustained effort towards formal reallocation in our West Australian fisheries, this is a great start and we thank the Minister for this decision.  

For trailer boat fishing mums, dads and mates, today’s decision will see the current September demersal open season extended to a month from the 16th of September to the 15th of October. 

Recfishwest’s request for the charter sector to be allocated 10 tonnes more fish was also met by Minister Punch. 

Recfishwest’s objective has always been for more time on the water for recfishers and a fairer go for smaller charter operators, and today’s announcement takes us closer to a fair and balanced fishery.”

Dr Andrew Rowland

CEO, RecFish West