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Recreational fishers voice disquiet over major changes

South Australian recreational fishers have used the State Government’s own Recreational Fishing Review survey on proposed bag, size and boat limits to voice their concerns about the changes, which come into effect today.

The State Liberals were forced to resort to Freedom of Information laws to access submissions by South Australia’s recreational anglers regarding the controversial changes.

Under the State Government’s changes, effective from December 1, bag and boat limits will affect 26 fish species and some SA waters will be subject to a spawning season closure.

“The individual surveys and submissions on the Weatherill Labor Government’s review show there is a great deal of disquiet amongst recreational fishers about the impact of the changes on themselves and coastal communities,” said Shadow Minister for Recreation and Sport Tim Whetstone.

“Given the significant reduction in bag and boats limits, particularly for King George Whiting, anglers are now wondering if keeping their boat remains viable.

“Others noted they will now be less likely to fish in regional South Australia and are more likely to travel interstate where the bag and boats limits are greater. That sentiment fed into concerns about the unfair impact of the changes on regional coastal communities.

“While there was also support for some of the proposed measures, the survey reveals there is a great deal of scepticism about the science on which the latest bag and boats limits are based.

“A common concern expressed in the survey was that the impact of the recently established marine parks didn’t inform the new bag and boat limits.

“The lack of enforcement of bag and boats limits by fishery officers was also raised by numerous participants. People are annoyed that the legal size of the catch they can take is constantly diminishing whilst some people seem to break the law with impunity.

“The State Liberals support ensuring South Australians fish stocks are sustainably managed but the process must be based on the best available science and up-to-date industry feedback.

“The fact the 2013/14 survey had significantly less people participate than was the case in 2007/08 undermines the value of the information gathered in the more recent survey.

“The Weatherill Government needs to begin the ongoing assessment of fish stocks based on best practice science to understand the impact of its latest bag and boats limits.”

Some of the comments in the State Government’s survey included:

“The economic impact to the small towns on the Adelaide side of the Yorke Peninsula would be devastating if we, and thousands of others, stopped going there to fish”

“I wouldn’t make trips to other locations in the state and would be more likely to travel interstate to target other species”

“There is the serious risk of major negative economic and social impacts for seaside townships and the major marine businesses if closures and reduced bag limits occurred”

“Recreational fishermen appreciate the need to protect and sustain fish stocks and would support reasonable changes but not ones that make the activity unworthwhile (sic)”

“Stockpiling of fish is becoming a concern with interstate tourists catching their limit every day for many days and filling up freezers. The allocation of all species for each sector should be monitored on a regular basis”

“Personally, if the bag limits were reduced to a level that it became uneconomical to justify, which you could argue is almost there now (with the) cost of boat ownership. I would sell it. Which I am sure there are many more like me considering the same”

“I am personally saddened and angry at the proposed changes on top of recent marine park introduction and possession limits. I feel it’s an unsubstantiated personal attack on my favourite hobby, sport and past-time.”

“There needs to be more compliance officers, I often see people with undersized fish. There needs to be some control of people from eastern states who go to the west coast to stockpile fish and there needs to be more surveillance of retired locals who fish at every opportunity, they surely cannot eat that much fish, I am sure they are traded or sold illegally.”

“There should be higher penalties for those caught breaching the rules, we also need to have more inspectors to police during the busy holiday seasons.”

“(KGW) Bag limits should not be reduced as they are already too low. In my time they have been reduced from 30 per person, no boat limit, to 20 per person, boat limit of 60, down to current 12 per person and boat limit of 36.”

“On the surface these goals appear to be fine, however, the decisions that need to be made to ensure they are met need to be based on sound research and data collected from a number of resources, including records of recreational fishermen."

“Humans around the globe need to be more responsible for ensuring a healthy and natural environment & all the creatures that live on this planet”

“Would like to see size limits the same in SA as Victoria – we live near the border and it doesn’t make sense to have them the way they are at the moment”