Fisheries Minister Gordon Hill today closed the recreational abalone season in Perth and Geraldton early because reef-top stocks of legal abalone are nearly exhausted.
Mr Hill inspected the reef at the Marmion Marine Park today, after receiving a research report from the Fisheries Department.
The report reveals that only about five per cent of pre-season stocks of legal sized reef-top abalone remain and there is evidence that because of this, some recreational fishers are discarding undersized abalone in order to collect their bag limit of legal animals.
Stock depletion has also been reported on the reef platform at Greenough, near Geraldton.
Mr Hill said if the remaining undersized abalone were left untouched, there were good prospects of another recreational abalone season being declared next year.
"However, if they are further depleted in the search for a few legal-sized animals, then the number of abalone available next year will be seriously reduced," he said.
"I am disappointed that the season has to close three weeks early, but reef-top stocks can only support limited fishing and we have reached that limit.
"These undersized abalone are next season's catch - therefore it is crucial that they are not reduced by irresponsible fishing.
"The season began last month, and abalone catches have been good. The majority of people have observed bag limits and have taken legal sized animals only, but there are always a few who will abuse the situation.
"I am glad to say that this season more people have complied with the rules, and I believe this is due to the introduction of a licensing system for the first time this year.
"The $20 licences were easily available from all Australia Post offices and from the Fisheries Department, and included a pamphlet outlining the rules as well as the best way to take abalone without damaging the reef.
"These measures not only controlled the number of people taking abalone, but acted as an important educational tool."
"Unfortunately, now that almost all the abalone on the reef-top are undersized, people might be tempted to remove these juvenile animals and to exceed bag limits.
"As a result, I have accepted the advice from the Fisheries Department and will close both the metropolitan recreational abalone fishery and the Mid-West coast recreational abalone fishery for this year," Mr Hill said.