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‘Catastrophic’ changes could see 80% of WA charter businesses forced out of business


Government imposed fishery management changes in Western Australia are being described as ‘catastrophic’ as 80% of the state’s charter businesses face going out of business from July 1st.

Australia’s premier fishing magazine, Fishing World, reports that charter operators will lose thousands of dollars because anglers aboard their boats will no long be able to fish for prized species like dhufish and pink snapper.

The six-month sustainability plan applies to the west coast bioregion (WCB) from Kalbarri down to Augusta, a 900-kilometre (560-mile) stretch of coastline popular with anglers. Shore fishers are exempt from the regulations because the number of fish taken from the shore is believed to be too small to affect fish stocks.

Despite charter fishing being responsible for only 12% of demersal catches in the WCB, charter operators must slash their catches to stay in line with the new ruling. The result is that popular coastal towns will be unable to offer charter fishing opportunities.

A tag system introduced for the charter sector equates to one tag allowing the capture of one demersal fish. But in a stunning blow for the sector, the 99 charter fishing licence holders affected have learned that 78 of them will receive no tags, nullifying the value of their licence.

The Government has offered those that did get tags up to $20,000 in grants and those that didn’t only $5,000.

“That is cold comfort when licence values have likely just fallen by ten times that,” Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland (above) told Fishing World.

“While the Government has told charter businesses to diversify, Rowland says it is impossible for them to change their businesses model in such a short space of time and that cancelled bookings will mean the end of many family businesses.

Matt Howard, President of Marine Tourism WA, also criticised the Government’s decision. “The charter sector has demonstrated excellent economic and social use of the fish they catch, generating significantly more economic activity and employing more people from a relatively small number of fish than other sectors do from ten times as many fish.

“The Minister has never provided a reasonable explanation as to why 6,000 demersal tags is an appropriate amount for a sector that generates such significant social and economic value,” he added.

The mood of the recreational fishing community is further angered by the fact that commercial fishermen are still allowed to catch demersal fish during the restriction periods.

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