Recreational anglers outraged by plans to ban bottom fishing for nine months of the year have taken a short break from catching herring.
Daily limits on herring have been increased from 12 to 20 from this month amid a favorable stock assessment last year which showed a significant increase in the number of fish that families like to catch from jetties, rock walls or the beach.
In 2015, quotas for both recreational and commercial fishermen were cut in half when stocks off the American West coast were deemed to be at extreme risk.
Recfishwest chief executive Andrew Rowland said it was an excellent result of a sensible approach to restoring the fishery – something he wants to echo in the current debate over the bottom fishing ban.
“Let’s not forget that at one point prior to the management changes made in 2015, the fishery closed to herring for three months, including the Easter holidays, a traditional time for West Australian children to fish with their families for herring, said Dr. Rowland.
“Thankfully, the original herring proposal was not implemented as the Department listened to the community and found a better way to protect sustainability without destroying social benefits.
“That’s exactly what needs to be done with the proposed nine-month demersal closure on the west coast.”
Boaties also chastised the timing of the herring announcement by Fisheries Minister Don Punch this week, with some calling it a “consolation prize” and an “orchestrated distraction” from anger over long-term bottom fishing shutdowns.
“I think those who have dropped big bucks on boats for the freedom to catch real fish most of the year will be thrilled to be able to park outside the boat ramp and catch 20 herring,” shared Michael Harris in response at Recfishwest welcoming growth.
The announcement comes just days before the annual two-month ban on fishing for snapper and other demersal species between Kalbarri and Augusta comes into effect, and with the prospect of much longer shutdowns.
Mr Punch is considering introducing either a 94-day season in phased openings from December to May, or a 123-day cap from April to October.
Both options represent a large reduction from the current 10-month season and have been criticized by Recfishwest and recreational anglers as disproportionate and unfair, who want tougher commercial fishing conditions.
Mr Punch said the higher bag limits for herring showed the benefit of fisheries researchers and WA’s recreational and commercial fishing sectors working together.
“I’m very pleased that we can make this change that will allow fishermen to catch enough food for themselves and their families,” he said.
“Both recreational and commercial fishermen have played an important role in reducing catches to help restore herring stocks.
“They are now reaping the benefits of their commitment to the conservation of the Australian herring resource.”
Australian herring is an inshore fish found in the waters off the south west coast and is a popular catch for young anglers and families.
It is also a popular bait choice for boat and beach anglers chasing larger fish.