Schemes open to support WA demersal scalefish recovery


A full set of management changes for commercial, charter, and recreational fishers that were announced in December last year as part of the recovery plan for the West Coast Demersal Scalefish Resource will be in operation by July 1, the Western Australia Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) confirmed recently.

Support schemes are now available for commercial and charter operators to assist these sectors in adjusting to the new management rules needed for the recovery of demersal scalefish stocks from Kalbarri to Augusta.

On July 1, a new quota tag allocation system is being introduced for charter operators who hold a Fishing Tour Operator Licence in the West Coast region. Under the quota system, 6,000 tags have been allocated between 21 charter operators in the region, based on their catch history over the past five years.

The accompanying Charter Diversification Scheme opens on Thursday, June 1. This scheme will allow eligible charter operators to apply for grants of up to $20,000 to diversify their business into other tourism experiences to help transition to the new quota tag system.

Grants of up to $5,000 are also available to eligible operators with some reliance on catching demersal scalefish who did not receive tags.

The scheme also supports operators who have received tags but have a high reliance on catching demersal scalefish and will therefore still need to diversify their operations.

To assist the commercial sector manage the reduction in their allowable catch level, the Voluntary Fisheries Adjustment Scheme is now open to all holders of a current West Coast Demersal Scalefish Interim Managed Fishery permit.

The scheme allows commercial fishers to voluntarily surrender units of entitlements and their associated Fishing Boat Licence in return for agreed compensation.

Commercial fishers have until September 30, 2023, to submit an offer to the voluntary scheme.

DPIRD Aquatic Resource director Nathan Harrison said the department had written directly to all commercial permit holders and charter licence holders informing them of the changes and support schemes.

“All sectors – recreational, commercial and charter – need to continue to work together to support the sustainability and recovery demersal fish stocks which includes pink snapper, West Australian dhufish and baldchin groper,” Mr Harrison said.

“We acknowledge that the introduction of the tagging system will have a significant impact on charter operators. However, the changes are necessary as part of the recovery plan.

“The tagging system will ensure the charter industry can still provide opportunities for clients to catch demersals and the diversification package will assist operators provide alternative experiences.

“The voluntary adjustment scheme will help ensure the viability of this fishery in the West Coast region so it can continue to supply WA seafood to local markets, particularly in regional communities, while also contributing to the recovery of demersal fish stocks.”

The DPIRD will review the tagging system for charter operators in 12 months.

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