A statewide snapper fishing ban will commence on 1 November 2019 as part of the State Government’s plan to rebuild South Australia’s decimated snapper stocks.
After extensive public consultation the State Government is implementing a total ban on snapper fishing for the Spencer Gulf, West Coast and Gulf St Vincent until 31 January 2023. However, controlled snapper fishing will be permitted in the South East waters during the non-spawning period between February and October each year, as these stocks have been assessed as sustainable.
The Marshall Liberal Government will provide a multi-million-dollar support package including commercial fishing licence fee relief, funding for additional snapper science, recreational fish restocking programs, and a charter boat diversification support package.
The catch of snapper in the South East region will be open to recreational, commercial and charter boat fishers under strict controls to prevent over-exploitation of snapper stocks. These strict controls will be consistent with the arrangements outlined in the consultation paper and will be implemented in consultation with each sector.
While fishing for snapper will continue to be allowed in South East waters, a full spawning season closure will apply from 1 November to 31 January each year. Analysis of the snapper science and consultations with commercial and recreational fishers have debunked Labor's politically-driven micro spawning closures (from 1 Nov – 15 Dec) as ineffective at best and harmful to the species at worst.
Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Tim Whetstone said the decision to extend the spawning closure and close fishing in the gulfs and West Coast was made using the best available science but also took into account the submissions made during the consultation process.
"The science shows drastic action is required to ensure we have a sustainable snapper fishery for future generations," said Minister Whetstone.
"Unlike the former Labor Government we will not take a back seat and watch this species decline and put at risk the chance of our grandchildren being able to catch this iconic species in South Australian waters.
"We received more than 900 submissions during the consultation period, which shows how passionate South Australians are about the future of the snapper fishery.
"The Marshall Liberal Government is focussed on growing sustainable fisheries and these measures − along with our long-term commercial fishery reform agenda − will ensure this. These are tough decisions for South Australian fishers, seafood consumers and regional fishing communities and we have put together a support package to reflect this.
"Marine Scalefish Fishery licence holders impacted by the new management arrangement will have their licence fees cut by 50 per cent for the duration of the ban, at a cost of more than $3 million.
"We have committed more than $1 million from the Regional Growth Fund to conduct further snapper scientific research over the 2019-20 spawning season.
"The State Government will establish a Management Advisory Committee comprising fishers and scientists, to oversee the scientific research program and provide further management advice to government in mid-2020.
"As recommended by the Minister's Recreational Fishing Advisory Council, we will support recreational fishing opportunities by undertaking snapper fish stocking in Spencer Gulf and Murray cod stocking in the River Murray.
"The charter sector will have access to a $500,000 program to revitalise their businesses to make the state's charter boat fleet more attractive for local, interstate and international tourists.
"Importantly there will be increased mental health support programs in place to support those business people affected by the changes to snapper management."
Minister Whetstone encouraged fishers to look at other species such as Nannygai, Tommy Ruff, Snook, Yellowfin Whiting, Yelloweye Mullet, Silver Trevally, Western Australian Salmon, Mulloway, Flathead and Leather Jackets.
"The latest snapper stock assessment confirms snapper stocks in Gulf St Vincent have continued to decrease and have been reclassified as ‘depleting'. The science also reconfirmed snapper stocks remain classified as ‘depleted' in Spencer Gulf/West Coast," said Minister Whetstone.
"This science backs up anecdotal evidence from fishers who have reported snapper have been harder and harder to find for years in traditional fishing grounds. If the scientific evidence shows snapper stocks improve to an extent where sustainable fishing can be undertaken again before February 2023, the government will work with industry and fishery managers on how to safely re-open the fishery.
"The South Australian community is a generous one and now is the time to support our regional communities and enjoy fishing in our beautiful waters, but for other species."
Additional support measures
Commercial fee relief: Marine Scalefish Fishery licence holders impacted by the new management scenario will have their licence fees cut by 50 per cent for the duration of the ban, at a total cost of more than $3 million.
Science funding: The State Government has committed more than $1 million from the Regional Growth Fund to ensure a full suite of snapper science will be conducted for the 2019-20 spawning season. Under the former government's research program, fully funded by cost recovery on industry, snapper stocks would not have been assessed again until 2022. A Management Advisory Committee will also be established to improve the management and engagement of key stakeholders in the fisheries management process.
Recreational fish restocking: $500,000 over two years from the Regional Growth Fund to fund snapper fish stocking in Spencer Gulf to help replenish depleted fish stocks, as recommended by the Minister's Recreational Fishing Advisory Council. $200,000 over two years to fund Murray Cod restocking in the River Murray to create recreational fishing opportunities.
Increase penalties for poaching: Review and increase penalties for offences under the Fisheries Management Act 2007. With few exceptions, the current expiation fees under the Act have not increased for over 15 years. In many cases the Victims of Crime Levy exceeds the amount of the fine. Increased fines on illegal fishing is expected to raise $1.4 million over four years.
Underutilised species awareness campaign: The State Government will invest in promoting many of South Australia's fantastic lesser known seafood species to consumers, recreational fishers, charter boat clients and tackle shops to promote the great diversity of local seafood and promote the range of fishing experiences and opportunities we have here in South Australia.
Charter Sector diversification program: A two-year program of $500,000 from the Regional Growth Fund will be established to support the charter boat sector diversify in light of the snapper closure and improve their businesses to offer a broader suite of tourism experiences in South Australia's majestic coastal waters. The State Government will work with the Surveyed and Charter Boat Operators Association to develop this program informed by the Charter Sector Growth Strategy to make the state's fleet more attractive for local, interstate and international tourists.
Mental Health Support: The State Government is expanding the Family and Business Support (FaBS) Program, launching Fisheries FaBS as part of a new ‘Stay Afloat' program, to support the mental health and wellbeing of affected commercial fishers, charter operators and seafood processors.
Commercial marine scalefish fishing sector reform: Consultation is currently underway on a number of options for reform, including proposals to reduce the number of commercial fishing licences. Commercial fishers have been meeting across the state. Consultation closes on 11 October 2019. Formal advice will be provided to the Minister by the end of 2019 as to industry's preferred reform package for this fishery.
Update to SA recreational fishing app: Working with the Minister's Recreational Fishing Advisory Council to update the SA Recreational Fishing guide app to make it more user-friendly - will include consumer education and awareness and the development of a new statewide fish maps feature displaying where/how to catch lesser known species.
Barotrauma research program: State Government will work with the charter and commercial fishing sectors to enable a small number of fishing trips to undertake a scientific catch, tag and release snapper program during the closure to contribute to new science about minimising barotrauma and enhancing survival of caught snapper.
Juvenile snapper monitoring program: A research project will be undertaken to develop a cost-effective method of monitoring the number of juvenile snapper that enter the South Australian population each year.
New recreational fishing survey: Over $1 million investment to undertake a new national recreational fishing research project, using South Australia as a case study, to design a more modern recreational fishing survey methodology which will use the latest technology to develop a more accurate picture of the recreational fishing catch data to improve fishing management in the future.
National snapper workshop: The State Government will convene a national snapper workshop in Adelaide in November 2019 to bring together fisheries management, science, recreational and commercial industry experts from around Australia and New Zealand to discuss the most effective ways to conduct scientific stock assessment and management of snapper stocks.
For more information on the support measures visit: www.pir.sa.gov.au/snapper