The effort to rebuild snapper populations in South Australian waters has commenced with the delivery of adult breeding snapper to the South Australian Research and Development Institute's West Beach facility to kick start the Marshall Liberal Government's $500,000 restocking program.
The restocking program is expected to produce 150,000 juveniles over two years for release into South Australia's Spencer Gulf. The project was one of the response measures to the snapper closure announced earlier this year to help stocks recover from critically low levels.
Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Tim Whetstone said the restocking program is a significant step in the recovery of the iconic fish.
"The $500,000 restocking program and introduction of 150,000 juveniles into our gulf waters, is an important element in our plan to help our South Australian snapper stocks recover," said Minister Whetstone.
"The juveniles will be reared for up to 100 days at SARDI's West Beach facility before being released to give them the best chance of survival. We want to create a sustainable snapper fishery for future generations of recreational and commercial fishers and the snapper restocking program is a key part of that.
"Earlier this year we received alarming assessments showing snapper biomass in Spencer Gulf has reduced by an estimated 23 per cent and by 87 per cent in Gulf St Vincent over the past five years.
"Low numbers of juvenile snapper entering the fishery over a protracted period is a contributing factor to the reduction in snapper numbers in our coastal waters.
"On the back of this scientific information I was left with no choice but to extend the snapper closure in the gulfs and West Coast through to 31 January 2023.
"Unlike the former Labor Government I was not going to 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.
"Mother Nature needs a helping hand when it comes to breeding snapper and this scientific restocking program aims to fill the gap. By growing snapper fingerlings in a controlled environment we hope to enhance survivability of eggs enabling them to grow to fingerling stage before releasing them into the Spencer Gulf.
"The restocking program incorporates collection of adult broodstock as well as fertilised snapper eggs from Spencer Gulf to maximise production of fingerlings for release in 2020, as well as establishing reliable hatchery production into the future.
"SARDI scientists have been liaising with counterparts in New South Wales and Western Australia, to learn the lessons from their respective snapper enhancement programs."
Chair of the Minister's Recreational Fishing Advisory Council, Graham Keegan, said the restocking program was a fantastic step for the snapper recovery program.
"We welcome this State Government initiative and SARDI's work so far in making this happen," said Mr Keegan.
"This is a significant project, particularly for the Spencer Gulf area, where there hasn't been any substantial recruitment for quite a number of years.
"Having seen what is being achieved in Western Australia we believe a similar initiative in South Australia is a vital step towards recovering our own snapper stocks."
As part of the restocking program, SARDI is undertaking a $121,000 infrastructure modification at the Aquatic Science Centre to enable egg hatching, larval rearing, live feed and broodstock maintenance systems to be implemented on site.
Minister Whetstone said these alterations have already commenced and are expected to be completed by the middle of January.
"We are committed to having sustainable fisheries and this restocking program together with other scientific research initiatives we are instigating as part of our snapper recovery efforts have been decided with this big picture in mind."
"We want to do all we can to restore populations so our recreational, commercial and charter boat fishers can be out in the water plating quality fish and growing the South Australian economy," Minister Whetstone said.
As well as the snapper restocking project other support measures include commercial fee relief, increased science funding and a charter boat diversification grant program.
For more information on the latest management measures to protect South Australian snapper stocks visit pir.sa.gov.au/snapper