Australian anglers out in force over ban plan

Anglers have signed the largest petition in Australian fishing history in a bid to stop a dramatic shortening of the fishing season in Western Australia.

If the proposal – for a nine-month ban on recreational fishing for key demersal species – goes ahead next summer, it could hit not just anglers but manufacturers, retailers and charter boat skippers, among others.

The petition, which has amassed around 18,000 signatures, is now (at the time of writing) sitting on the desks of Western Australia government officials although it is likely a decision will have been taken by the time you read this.

It was handed over by the Hon Bob Baldwin, chair of the Australian Fishing Trade Association to Hon Colin Stephen de Grussa, Deputy Deader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council and Shadow Minister for Fisheries. The move made headline news on Channel 7 (WA) TV.

Demersal species favoured by anglers include dhufish and pink snapper.

Mr Baldwin explained: “You can’t have blanket closures; you need seasonal closures that are effective and seasonal closures where everyone is contributing; that’s how you develop sustainability.

“[We want to] get the government to understand we all want the same thing, that a sustainable industry is critical. However, we believe the early approach unfairly targets recreational fishers.”

Colin de Grussa added: “I’m hearing stories from tackle shop owners up and down the west coast who are very worried about their businesses. They are unsure about what stock they should order and whether their businesses will be viable into the future.”

A meeting between AFTA and Fisheries Minister Don Punch to explain the “bottom line” effects of pursuing the ban for recreation anglers while allowing commercial fishing to continue, has already meant the consultation process had been extended.

Andrew Rowland from Recfishwest said his group had suggested alternative methods for the recreational and charter catch to be reduced to its allocated 135 tonnes.

He added: “West Australians spend $1.8 billion every year on their fishing activities and this is a major important fishery as part of that expenditure.

“And so the flow-on impacts through the community, jobs and businesses, wellbeing and fishing clubs that are closing down will be massive.”

Mr Baldwin and his WA team including Tim Farnell from Red Mullet Distributors, Brian Marshall from Compleat Angler Nedlands and Ash Ram from Tackleworld Miami had worked tirelessly to achieve the record e-petition signatures.