Jon Ford

Jon Ford

Minister for Employment Protection; Regional Development; Fisheries; the Kimberley, Pilbara and Gascoyne

    WA Government launches fishing package to save iconic fish for the future

    17/09/2007 11:36 AM

    Western Australia’s coastline between Lancelin and south of Mandurah will become an exclusive zone for recreational line fishing under a State Government move to avoid the overfishing of iconic fish such as dhufish and pink snapper.

    In making the announcement today, Fisheries Minister Jon Ford said the Metropolitan Fishing Zone would exclude all commercial line and net fishing of demersal finfish.

    Mr Ford said it was a significant measure that demonstrated the WA Government’s commitment to ensuring sustainability of fish stocks in a metropolitan coastal region.

    “Creating this Metropolitan Fishing Zone is one of the world’s most innovative moves to make sure our grandkids can still catch these iconic fish in years to come,” he said.

    While the new Zone will exclude commercial take of demersal finfish (such as sharks and demersal scalefish), it will still allow various managed fisheries such as lobster and abalone. Demersal scalefish include iconic species such as dhufish, baldchin groper, pink snapper, red snapper and breaksea cod.

    The Minister said the Zone was part of a new ‘fishing management package’ that would impact on the whole State, particularly the West Coast Bioregion, which stretched from Kalbarri to Black Point near Augusta.

    “This package will secure fish for the future in WA by preserving key demersal fish, which new research shows are at risk of collapsing,” Mr Ford said.

    “New research which I’m releasing today shows that unless we take action now, stocks of key demersal fish will collapse within four to five years and these fish will all but disappear from our waters.

    “Two of the ‘at risk’ species, dhufish and baldchin groper, are not found anywhere else in the world and WA has a responsibility to preserve them.

    “I am committed to ensuring these iconic species don’t become a fond and distant memory to Western Australians.

    “This would be a shocking legacy for Western Australians to bear, so we must take action now to guarantee future generations are able to fish for these species.”

    Features of the fishing management package announced today for the WA coast are:
    • Metropolitan Fishing Zone stretching from Lancelin 31S to south of Mandurah 33S. Excludes all commercial fishing for demersal finfish and is effective as of November. State Government funding of more than $5million has been allocated to buy out all commercial line and demersal gill-net fishers in the Metropolitan Zone;
    • New research that shows key demersal fish are under such serious pressure that stocks of these fish along the West Coast Bioregion could collapse within four to five years if action is not taken now;
    • More than $5.3million research funding over four years to undertake detailed monitoring of demersal fish catches by recreational and commercial fishers. This research will evaluate the effectiveness of management practices to rebuild these fish stocks;
    • Release of a discussion paper calling for the WA community to comment on the future management of recreational fishing of demersal fish. This discussion paper is the start of a process to determine a more effective long-term strategy before July next year; and
    • Interim fishing measures to protect ’at risk’ demersal fish species, phased in from November until the new recreational fishing strategy is determined. These interim measures will be:
      • extending the closure to fishing for pink snapper in the Cockburn area;
      • extending the existing possession limit to place of residence throughout WA;
      • total protection for baldchin groper in the Abrolhos Islands; and
      • a limit of four Category 1 (high risk) fish per person on aquatic charter boats operating along the WA coast.
    “Growing concerns about the sustainability of key demersal fish is based on evidence of escalating fishing effort, particularly by the burgeoning recreational fishing sector,” Mr Ford said.

    “The number of registered recreational boats has grown rapidly as the State’s population continues to climb. Recreational fishers have also become more effective as they have quickly adopted new technology.

    “In particular, global positioning systems (GPS) and high quality sounders have now become standard items on fishing boats and this has made recreational fishing much more precise and targeted.”

    The Minister said the commercial fishing sector had undergone considerable transformation in the past two years and the exclusion of commercial line and net fishers from the Metropolitan Fishing Zone recognised the significance of increasing fishing pressure in the metropolitan region.

    “This action will provide immediate relief to fish stocks, but further action is necessary and the burden of responsibility cannot and should not be carried alone by commercial fishers,” he said.

    “Recreational fishers in WA are to be commended for the way they have supported the existing management system based on bag and size limits, but it is clear that the problems we now face require new and innovative solutions.

    “The research and discussion papers show we really need to focus on cutting back the fishing mortality of our key demersal scalefish species.”

    Mr Ford said interim measures were aimed at reducing the fishing pressure on key species until the consultation period was completed by July next year, when a more effective long-term management strategy would be introduced.

    The discussion paper, which marked the beginning of the consultation process, is called ’Fisheries Management Paper No. 225 - Managing the recreational catch of demersal scalefish on the West Coast’. This paper, and the Fisheries Research Report No. 163 on the stock status of key species, is available from the Department of Fisheries website at

    Minister's office - 9213 7200