AFTA Ambassador Tim Farnell of WARFFA reports there has been plenty happening in WA in the last month. Whilst the Demersal Season is still open and set to close on the 31st of July for 4 months (excluding a 2-week open period during 3rd term school holidays),  some news rules continue to confuse and divide anglers and industry stakeholders.

The newly introduced increased Bag Limit of 4 Dhufish, up from 2, and removal of size limits of WA Dhufish, Baldchin Groper and Breaksea Cod has undoubtedly been a big talking point amongst anglers.  With a 50% reduction goal on Demersal species set by the Dept., it seems absurd to double the bag limit on one of the three key indicator species.  The aim here from DPIRD is to decrease the overall mortality of fish affected by barotrauma; however, the education on this from DPIRD has been weak at best and left to Tackle Stores to Promote the Keep What You Catch and go chase other species. DPIRD’s poor messaging on banning double paternoster rigs and the new rules of only one bait or lure allowed has meant that it’s been left to the tackle stores again to educate anglers.

The West Australian Family Fishing Alliance and Tackle Trade members continue to ask WHY are Commercial operators allowed to continue to fish year-round and WHY they can continue to take breeding stock out of the water.  This does make any logical sense and doesn’t pass the pub test.

The Charter industry has also been hit with a significant blow recently.  With the 50% reduction target of Demersals, the Commercial sector was reduced to only 20 tonnes of quota to allocate across 99 licence holders in the West Coast Bioregion. A set number of tags was allocated for the industry, and only 21 operators out of the 99 were assigned tags based on historical catches.   One such operator, Al Bevan from Shikari Charters, was allocated zero tags.  Al has been a stalwart in promoting WA angling opportunities to local and International anglers and has also been involved in many studies of fish movements etc. A meeting was recently held at DPIRD Hillarys Office with most operators in attendance and DPIRD staff to discuss new regulations.  DPIRD staff were under extreme pressure by all accounts, and it certainly didn’t go unnoticed that the Fisheries Minister, Don Punch WAS NOT in attendance. 

Unfortunately, We have had two well-known tackle stores close down in the space of 6 weeks.  The last of Harvey family-owned Bluewater stores have closed their doors, with Joondalup closing in May and Myaree announcing their closure in early June. Many things have contributed to this, with increased rents and obviously the new six-month ban on demersal fishing cited as a few reasons for the closures of these iconic stores.  The Harvey family has 91 years of History in the Tackle Trade, with Hal Harvey’s grandfather, Ted Harvey, opening the first General store/Tackle store in Scarborough in 1932. Hal’s dad Jack took over the reins, followed by Hal.

Branching out to 4 stores across metro Perth and early involvement with the Exmouth store, the Bluewater Tackle stores have been the leading name in Tackle in WA for many decades.  It is extremely sad to see these iconic stores close their doors for the last time.  They have been well known to be at the forefront of tackle innovation and fishing techniques, and this expertise will be sadly missed.

On a more positive note, the Recfishwest lead,  three-year FAD trial has been deemed successful, and the State Government has now committed to funding and coordinating a Statewide programme from June this year.  Under the arrangement, DPIRD will take the reins from RFW to manage the FAD programme completely.  RFW has done a great job over three years to get to this point and must be commended for giving WA anglers access to some fantastic sportfish! The Mahi Mahi fishing has been exceptional through Summer/Autumn, with some crackers being landed up to 19kg. This gives WA rec anglers another option instead of chasing demersal species, and hopefully, these highly sustainable fish will become increasingly popular amongst anglers.  WA’s metro Tuna fishery is also yet to be fully explored, and a few good tackle Stores have really pushed this type of fishing to take some pressure off demersal species.

With the primary demersal closure drawing close, the pain is yet to come for the WA retailers and anglers. With some Industry members pushing other angling targets, such as squid, surf and whiting fishing, we can only hope Anglers adopt these other angling options and that the State Government start to understand the total value that Recreational fishing contributes to the WA Community and Economy.