Snapper numbers in the Spencer Gulf have declined dramatically in recent years, and government regulations are under fire because of it.
Last year 343 tonnes of snapper were caught in comparison to 1035 in 2010.
Cowell charter fishing operator Brenton ‘Ozzy’ Osborne is not surprised by the statistics.
“I’ve been charter fishing since 2007 and I’ve watched it deplete since then,” he said.
Mr Osborne said the regulations Primary Industries and Regions SA (PIRSA) had adopted, including closures and bag limits, were not helping.
He said recreational fishers had become aware of around five peak areas for snapper fishing since the six week closure was adopted, and descended on those areas the day the closure ended.
“Now you go there on open day and there’ll be 60 odd boats on them,” he said.
He said within a few days, the recreational fishers decimated the snapper population despite bag limits.
Many fish die in the water from barotrauma after being caught and released.
“There’s no way you can safely catch and release a snapper”, Mr Osborne said.
“I’ve been trying to tell them for years to put a ban on catch and release.”
Recreational fishing lobby group Recfishcentral said long-lining by commercial fishers was to blame, and proposed a ban on the practice.
However Mr Osborne said it would not fix the underlying problem.
He suggested a permanent ban on fishing in specific snapper hot spots to allow the species to thrive, while removing the ban season elsewhere and ending catch and release.
“They (PIRSA) should listen to the people that actually fish,” he said.
Removing the ban season would allow charter operators to book more customers during the summer months, which he said would put more tourism dollars into coastal towns.
“The tourism industry suffered a lot because of closures and they haven’t helped the fish,” Mr Osborne said.
He said zoning commercial fishers would help reduce their impact.