Something fishy…

SOUTH Australian fishers can volunteer to be part of a cutting-edge national research project to accurately estimate the number of recreational fishers and their catch.

While traditional phone/diary surveys to assess fishing catches and participation will start this month, fishers who have downloaded the SA Fishing app will also be ‘encouraged’ to self-report from March.

But is it enough?

Balaklava fishermen, Jeff Sutton and Ray Billing, who have been fishing for 61 and 73 years respectively, said the proposal is flawed and the only way to gain accurate information is via daily reporting and a logbook.

“This project is useless – it’s very difficult to get true statistics unless logbooks are put on boats, and a penalty imposed for not filling them out,” Jeff said.

“Ideally, and with little effort, rec fishers should also report their daily catch via email or an app – it wouldn’t be a great impost on fishers.”

“The professional fishing sector is stringently run and tightly self-regulated, and if rec fishers did this, we could rightly say, for example, what percentage of King George whiting has been caught, and the information then used to determine bag and boat limits.”

“There won’t be a definitive answer by not having a logbook, and the survey won’t be accurate as there is no list of rec fishers.”

“Apparently there are 275,000 rec fishers – but how do they know that? We don’t know if the figures from the phone surveys are right either.”

“South Australia will continue to be a ‘backwater’ of fisheries management, the longer fishers resist the implementation of a fishing licence.”

Phone and diary surveys were previously undertaken in 2000/01, 2007/08 and 2013/14 to assess recreational fishing catch and participation in South Australia.

Through this process, random people, both fishers and non-fishers, were selected and asked to fill in a fish catch diary for a year, but as Jeff and Ray agreed, there has been some scepticism by recreational fishers about how accurate this method is.

Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development David Basham said having an accurate estimate of recreational fishers and their catch is vital.

“Where there is low confidence in estimates of recreational fishing effort, fishery managers and fishing representatives are forced to adopt more conservative and cautious bag and boat limits to protect sustainability of fish species,” Minister Basham said.

“The more data we have, the more confident we will be to adopt bigger bag limits.

“A traditional phone/diary survey will start this month, and separately next month all fishers who have downloaded the SA Fishing app will be encouraged to participate in the count. In a year’s time, the researchers will look at the data and determine the most effective method.”

Professional fisher and president of the Net Fishers Association, Bart Butson, said it was encouraging that the government and fishing advisory groups were being proactive.

“It’s a step in the right direction but the more data the better,” Bart said.

“Currently professional fishers are legally obliged to report every fish that comes onto the boat that will be for sale.

“Snapper and whiting has to be individually counted and total weight recorded daily, and any other fish recorded by weight, along with all of our equipment usage and fishing locations, with the logbook sheet submitted monthly by post.

“It’s very detailed, and while the current system is for research purposes now, from July 1 the reporting will be for compliance purposes.

“There will probably be real-time reporting in the future for recording and submitting, and maybe we should navigate to make everything online,” he said.

Department of Primary Industries and Regions staff and Fishcare volunteers will be present on boat ramps, jetties and other fishing sites collecting fishing data over the next year.

This information will also feed into determining the best data collection method.

For more details on the project visit: www.pir.sa.gov.au/fisherscount

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