Recreational fishers hoping to snag a South Australian snapper in south east waters from 1 February must go in a ballot for tags as part of a trial designed to protect the state's snapper stock.
A total closure on snapper fishing for the Spencer Gulf, West Coast and Gulf St Vincent is currently in place until 31 January 2023 with controlled fishing allowed in the South East between February and October each year.
Up to 606 recreational fishers will be randomly selected to receive five recreational snapper tags each in the ballot, with applications open today, 6 January, and closing at 4pm on Sunday 19 January. The limited allocation of 3,030 tags for recreational fishers is part of the State Government's strict control measures for snapper and will be allocated between two groups:
- 50 per cent allocated at random to residents applying from the South East region, based on postcode (which includes Kangaroo Island and the lower Fleurieu Peninsula)
- 50 per cent allocated at random to residents applying from the rest of South Australia.
A Total Allowable Catch (TAC) of snapper from the waters of the South East region for the snapper fishing season (1 February 2020 to 31 October 2020) will also apply to prevent overfishing in the South East during the snapper closure for the rest of the state.
Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Tim Whetstone said the control measures were recommended by the newly formed Snapper Management Advisory Committee (MAC).
"The Snapper MAC is independently chaired by the Honourable Amanda Vanstone and comprises Graham Keegan, Gary Lloyd, Julian Morison, Franca Romeo, Keith Rowling, Dr David C Smith and Dr Michael Steer," said Minister Whetstone.
"The Committee has provided expert and considered advice on the best way to manage South Australian Snapper fisheries going forward, and this included the use of a ballot.
"The Committee has representation from the commercial, recreational and charter boat fishing sectors as well as significant experience in fishery science and management. I am confident that we have the very best advice to support a sustainable future for commercial and recreational Snapper fishing.
"With the tag system we've ensured that recreational fishers living in the South East are given precedence with a 50 per cent allocation of tags, and the remaining 50 per cent allocation for the rest of the tags means that all other prospective fishers in South Australia get a fair go.
"This approach will give our iconic fish stock a chance to recover in the Gulfs and West Coast, yet still provide an angling experience for hundreds of recreational fishers. Charter boats with an active licence will each get 49 tags, which opens up snapper fishing for tourists or any South Australian fishers who are not successful in the ballot."
As well as the recreational fishing ballot, the Committee also proposed a series of catch limits which have now been approved by Minister Whetstone.
A Total Allowable Catch (TAC) of snapper from the waters of the South East region for the snapper fishing season (1 February 2020 to 31 October 2020) has been set at 75,000 kilograms, including the following:
- Total allowable commercial catch of 60,750 kilograms.
- Total allowable Charter Boat Fishery catch of 7,500 kilograms (equivalent to 3,788 Charter Boat Snapper tags).
- Total allowable recreational catch of 6,000 kilograms (equivalent to 3,030 Recreational Snapper tags).
- Nominal amount set aside for Aboriginal traditional fishing activity.
"Snapper numbers in our gulfs are dangerously low – the science and anecdotal evidence from fishers all tell us this – and strong action must be taken to protect the fishery for the future," said Minister Whetstone.
"Whilst snapper fishing is banned in South Australia's gulf water and West Coast it will be permitted in the South East waters during the non-spawning period between 1 February and 31 October each year, as these stocks have been assessed as sustainable and these strict control measures will prevent overfishing.
"A range of support measures is being made available to help fishers adjust to the closure of the snapper fishery, including fee relief for commercial fishers, business diversification support for charter boat operators, and mental health and wellbeing support services.
"The State Government is also investing $500,000 over two years from the Regional Growth Fund to undertake a snapper restocking trial in Spencer Gulf and $1 million is being invested in more snapper scientific monitoring and research during the 2019-20 spawning season."
Minister Whetstone has accepted all recommendations of the Snapper MAC regarding the conduct of snapper fishing in south east waters in 2020. The Snapper MAC's recommendations were informed by advice provided by the Minister's Recreational Fishing Advisory Committee (MRFAC) and the Surveyed and Charter Boat Owners and Operators Association.
All charter boats with active licences will be provided with 49 tags each, but recreational fishers can also use their own tags on a charter boat. Charter boat tags are able to be commercially traded amongst charter boat operators, but not sold to recreational fishers. This measure will help provide financial assistance to all active South Australian charter boat operators, not just those located close to south-east waters.
Recreational fishers will be responsible for reporting all snapper catches to PIRSA, and use of snapper release weights to improve chances of survival will be mandatory. Tags are colour-coded to ensure that they are only used in the 2020 snapper season, and are not transferable between recreational fishers. Commercial and charter fishers are also required to report all snapper caught to PIRSA, consistent with statutory reporting requirements for these sectors.
Applicants are strongly encouraged to apply online to ensure their application for recreational snapper tags reaches PIRSA by 4pm Sunday 19 January and can participate in the ballot. Tags will be mailed to successful applicants prior to February 1. For more details and to find out how to apply for the ballot and which postcodes are included in the South East, go to www.pir.sa.gov.au/snapper