Snapper management review 2019

Snapper is an iconic fish in South Australia and a primary target species for the commercial, recreational and charter boat fishing sectors.

However, South Australia faces a challenge in relation to the sustainability of Snapper in this state.

In June 2019, SARDI provided updated information on Snapper spawning biomass estimates from the Daily Egg Production Method (DEPM), which identified that over the past five years, biomass in Spencer Gulf has reduced by an estimated 23% and biomass in Gulf St Vincent has reduced by an estimated 87%.

This information was integrated into a recently finalised 2019 Snapper stock assessment (PDF 1.7 MB) which identified:

  • an extended period of poor recruitment of juveniles entering the Snapper stock, especially in Spencer Gulf
  • a reduction in commercial catch rates
  • concerning declines in biomass.

The report also confirmed the classification of Snapper stock in:

  • Spencer Gulf/West Coast as ‘depleted’ (overfished)
  • Gulf St Vincent stocks were classified as ‘depleting’ – the first time the Gulf St Vincent stock has received this assessment.

These findings support the need for urgent action to protect the future of Snapper stocks in South Australia.

New management measures for Snapper

From 1 November 2019 new management measures were introduced to achieve long-term improvement and return the Snapper fishery to sustainable stock levels.

These measures were introduced following consideration of the latest available science and feedback from all stakeholders.

What has changed?

  • Total Snapper closure apply to waters in the West Coast, Spencer Gulf and Gulf St Vincent regions from 12:01 am on 1 November to 11:59 pm 31 January 2023.
  • Annual seasonal Snapper closure applies to waters in the South East region from 12:01 am on 1 November to 11:59 pm on 31 January each year.
  • During the closures, the targeting, take and/or possession of Snapper is prohibited in these waters. $315 on-the-spot fines or, if prosecuted, a maximum penalty of $20,000 may apply.
  • Accidentally hooked Snapper caught while fishing for other species must be carefully handled to immediately return it to the water. Catch and release fishing is strictly prohibited.
  • For the remainder of the year, the South East region will be open to fishing. However, to ensure protection of the South East Snapper stock, a total allowable catch (TAC) will be set and shared between all fishing sectors - commercial, recreational and charter. If the TAC is reached, the fishery will be closed.

See map of Snapper Closures 2019 – 2023 (PDF 489.0 KB)
View Frequently Asked Questions - Snapper management arrangements (PDF 638.1 KB)

Specific commercial fishing restrictions

In addition to these closures, the following measures will apply to commercial fishers:

  • A total allowable commercial catch (TACC) will be set for South East region from 1 February to 31 October each year. The existing proportional catch shares taken by the commercial fishing sector will be maintained at 81% of the Total Allowable Catch as in the management plan.
  • Further consultation with the commercial sector will be undertaken to determine how the TACC will be managed, including whether there will be an allocation of TACC among fishers.
  • During the open season, increased management restrictions and appropriate compliance and monitoring will be undertaken in South East waters to ensure any shift in effort is controlled and does not jeopardise the health of the South East Snapper stock.
  • Once the Commercial Marine Scalefish Fishery Reform process is finalised, commercial restrictions will again be reviewed.

Specific charter and recreational fishing restrictions

In addition to the closures, the following measures will apply to charter and recreational fishers:

  • A total allowable recreational catch (TARC) will be set for the South East region from 1 February to 31 October each year. When the TARC is caught, the fishery will be closed to recreational and charter activities.
  • The TARC will be set based on a scientific assessment of the maximum sustainable yield from this stock. From this total allowable catch, the proportional catch shares taken by the recreational and charter fishing sectors will be maintained at 18%.
  • During the open season, increased management restrictions and appropriate compliance and monitoring will be undertaken in South East waters to ensure any shift in effort is controlled and does not jeopardise the health of the South East Snapper stock.
  • A system to trial the use of Snapper recreational harvest tags will be developed and trialled in the South East. The number of tags will be limited to ensure the total recreational catch is constrained to within the TARC. During the trial, the recreational and charter catch of Snapper in the South East will no longer be managed by current bag and boat limits, but through the tag system instead. Size limits will still apply.
  • Before a recreational fisher can target Snapper, they will be required to have a recreational harvest tag. Any legal-sized Snapper caught will have to be tagged upon capture. Full details on the harvest tag system will be released prior to the fishery opening on 1 February 2020.
  • When the South East fishery reopens on 1 February 2020, recreational fishers will be required to use methods to maximise the survival of releasing Snapper, including using release weights.

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. 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.

Commercial marine scalefish fishing sector reform: Consultation has been undertaken on a number of options for reform, including proposals to reduce the number of commercial fishing licences. Commercial fishers across the state have been met and consultation closed 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: The State Government is partnering with the Commonwealth Government Fisheries Research and Development Corporation to 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: Commencing in 2019-20, the State Government is partnering with the Commonwealth Government Fisheries Research and Development Corporation to conduct a research project 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: The State Government is partnering with the Commonwealth Government Fisheries Research and Development Corporation by investing $1 million 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 is partnering with the Commonwealth Government Fisheries Research and Development Corporation to 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.

Mental Health support for fishers

The State Government is aware the change in Snapper management arrangements will have economic and other impacts, particularly on commercial fishers and charter boat operators.

A new program has been established to promote and support the mental health and wellbeing of commercials, charter and seafood processors. The Fisheries Family and Business (FaB) Support Program as part of a ‘Stay Afloat’ program is now available to assist those experiencing tough times.

Our Fisheries FaBs are experienced in discussing and addressing difficult issues that come about as a result of hardship and other adverse events. Mentors will:

  • work closely with other service providers such as Centrelink, Rural Financial Counselling and local health networks and connect people to those services as required
  • provide a free, informal, confidential, independent and understanding approach available for individuals, families or businesses in South Australia who may be affected by hardship.

The program is provided at no cost to the South Australian fisheries industry.

Counselling support contacts

You can contact our Fisheries FaB support mentors direct on their mobile:

Professional counselling support is available 24/7 through the Regional Access program:

Technical advice contact

For technical advice regarding a fishery, a licence or a lease, you can contact PIRSA:

More information on the Fisher FaB Support Program (PDF 330.1 KB)

How you can help

Fisheries Officers conduct regular patrols and inspections to monitor fishing activity both on land and at sea. However as South Australian waters are expansive, officers can’t be everywhere at all times.

The South Australian community can play an important role in protecting Snapper stocks by reporting suspicious or illegal fishing behaviour to PIRSA via:

All reports are recorded and used to inform compliance planning and operations.

Alternative species

South Australian waters are home to an abundance of fish species. Next time you cast a line or create a seafood dish at home, try something different (PDF 540.8 KB). There are a diversity of other species that will truly surprise you in terms of taste, versatility and the enjoyable fishing experiences they can offer.

Consultation process

The State Government held workshops with the commercial, recreational and charter sectors in November and December 2018. This led to the development of additional management arrangements for the Snapper fishery which were introduced on 15 December 2018.

Following this, it was determined that further management measures would be necessary for all fishing sectors before the 2019-20 summer. Further workshops were held in February and June 2019 and feedback considered during the design of possible management scenarios.

Minutes from these stakeholder meetings are available below:

In August 2019, a consultation paper containing two scenarios for the management of Snapper was released for public consultation.

The feedback from this public consultation period, was considered as part of the finalisation of new management arrangements for the Snapper fishery.

More information

Page Last Reviewed: 31 Oct 2019
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