Saving snapper needs to be joint effort

Back in 2013 PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture released a proposal to introduce spacial closures to minimise the disturbance to spawning aggregations.

The closures, which eventually came to fruition, prevent fishers from targeting snapper in selected spawning areas during critical reproductive periods. 

That measure followed an announcement to extend the state’s annual snapper fishing closure and introduce lower daily allowable commercial catch limits.

So the news snapper stocks in the Spencer Gulf are under pressure or even in crisis is not good news; not for charter, commercial or recreational fishers. 

It is interesting that despite the measures to ‘safeguard’ snapper stocks that their numbers are in decline. 

Getting the balance right between recreational and commercial fishers is no doubt a tough task. 

Each group has an equal right to the fish, and an equal responsibility to ensure healthy fish stocks, but clearly something isn’t working. 

In today’s front page story charter fisherman Brenton Osbourne says he has been watching snapper numbers deplete since he started his business in 2007.

He has suggested the closures had caused snapper to congregate to a few areas where they basically become sitting ducks to fishermen when the ban is lifted.

Late last month a recreational fishing group RecFish Central claimed the commercial long-line fishers were to blame for the decimation of snapper in the Gulf.

However, Mr Osbourne disagreed with that and said simply banning long-lining would not fix the underlying problem – and maybe he is right. 

Commercial and recreational fishers both have a stake in this game; commercial fishers need healthy fish stocks to continue earning their living year after year and recreational fishers, who have a right to be able to go out and catch a fish, don’t want bag limits cut. 

Perhaps Mr Osbourne’s suggestions of permanent fishing bans in known snapper hot spots, removing the ban season and catch a release would be a good start. Even RecFish Central’s idea of an annual quota might be the way to go.

The solution to this is never going to suit everyone but hopefully any new management arrangements spread the load between both lots fishers.