Snapper stocks still in decline in state waters

Snapper catch in south east waters.
Snapper catch in south east waters.

While the waters of Encounter Bay are included as being South East, snapper closures in the South Australian Gulfs and West Coast will continue.

South East waters allows the catching of snapper, albeit fishers last season needed to be in a ballot to receive an allocation of five tags.

Recommended management arrangements for recreational and charter boat fishing in the South East snapper fishery in 2021 will be finalised at the next meeting of the Snapper Management Advisory Committee and announced in November.

The necessity of the State Government's bold decision to close the snapper fishery has been reinforced by new science which shows snapper populations in Gulf St Vincent have fallen to new lows.

The most recent South Australian Research and Development Institute scientific assessments show snapper stocks remain 'depleted' in Spencer Gulf and West Coast waters and has regressed from 'depleting' to 'depleted' in Gulf St Vincent.

Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development David Basham said the latest snapper stock assessment highlighted the need to take action to protect the iconic species.

"The State Government has invested $1 million in vital research into the snapper stocks to better inform our decision making and unfortunately the most recent stock assessment report has shown a further decline in numbers across South Australian waters," Mr Basham said.

"This clearly shows that closing those fisheries was the right thing to do to allow stocks to recover. The science and anecdotal evidence from fishers all point to critically low snapper numbers in our gulfs and prompted the need for strong action to be taken to protect the fishery into the future.

"Unfortunately the former Labor Government cut snapper research funding and failed to take action to protect this iconic species."

The State Government has also released the latest round of information under the $24.5 million Marine Scalefish Fishery reform, providing fishers with details of the total allowable commercial catch limits for whiting, garfish and squid from July 1, 2021.

"This latest information will help commercial fishers decide whether they should stay in the fishery and invest into the future, or exit the industry and participate in the voluntary licence surrender program," Mr Basham said.

"We have already seen 57 fishers decide to leave the industry which means there's less than 100 voluntary licence surrenders remaining before applications close on November 13, 2020.

"Our historic $24.5 million Marine Scalefish Fishery reform package is aimed at improving the profitability of seafood businesses and improving the long-term sustainability of fish stocks in South Australia."

Mr Basham said the further drop in snapper populations is not unexpected given scientific sampling was undertaken soon after the fishing closure was implemented.

"The State Government will undertake scientific sampling over Autumn 2021 to see if there is any evidence of a successful spawning pulse after the first full year of the fishing closure," Mr Basham said.

"Snapper is a long lived, slow growing species and takes approximately four years to grow to legal size."

There is a total closure on snapper fishing for the Spencer Gulf, West Coast and Gulf St Vincent until January 31, 2023, however controlled fishing is permitted in the South East waters during the non-spawning period between February 1 and October 31, each year.

Mr Basham said the Snapper Management Advisory Committee reviewed and recommended catch limits for priority species under the new Marine Scalefish Fishery arrangements being implemented from July 1, 2021.

Two separate sets of snapper catch limits were determined for South East waters, for the period February 1, 2021 to June 30, 2021 and from July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022.

"South East snapper catch limits for 2021 are consistent with recent years, but less than the level set for 2020 and are based on the current best available scientific data," he said.

Snapper catch limits for South East waters - February 1, 2021 to June 30, 2021.

A Total Allowable Catch (TAC) of 26,666 kilograms.

A Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) of 21,600 kilograms.

A Total Allowable Recreational Catch (TARC) of 4800 kilograms (Charter Boat Fishery: 2667 kilograms, Recreational fishers: 2133 kilograms).

A Chair's Summary of the Snapper Management Advisory Committee and the latest snapper stock assessment report are available in full on the Department of Primary Industries and Regions website via www.pir.sa.gov.au/fishingreform

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