CANNING River fish populations are being decimated due to indiscriminate fishing by large groups who hunt at night says Ferndale resident Ian Vaughan.
He has seen anglers in the Canning River Regional Park with buckets of black bream well in excess of the six fish bag limit per person with catches including undersized fish.
Mr Vaughan, who is lifetime member of the Swan River Trust, wants those charged with the protection of the river to take action to save the park from further pillaging and damage.
Mr Vaughan, who has lived in Ferndale for 17 years, said he has witnessed black bream populations in the river plummet in numbers over the years.
He wants the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development to put in place a moratorium on fishing in the river over the winter month to allow black bream populations to increase.
“The park needs rescuing because it is just getting flattened,” he said.
“There are a few mobile groups. They are not leaving until every bucket is full. They are doing it at night – from sunset to sunrise they are here.
Mr Vaughan is a River Guardian, a State government initiative involving the public volunteering to help keep Perth rivers healthy.
He has been monitoring fish population health in the Canning River for the past 10 years and visits the river foreshore most nights fishing, tagging bream and monitoring tides.
“In summer I am around most nights. I follow the high tide around in summer, that means if it is at 2am in the morning I am here.
Where it was once common to catch 30cm black bream, he said these days it was a rare occurrence with the bulk of fish caught at the minimum bag size of 25cm.
He said on more than one occasion he been threatened by groups of fishermen when he questioned them about their activities. Just two weeks ago one man in a group of five pointed a machete at him when he asked them to clean up their rubbish in the park.
As well as fishermen exceeding fish bag limits, Mr Vaughan has seen people capture black duck, take native turtles from the park and cook fingerlings on campfires.
He said night fishermen were also destroying river banks, flattening sedges, cutting back paperbarks for fire wood, lighting fires in the park and not properly extinguishing fires when they left the park.
“We are asleep at the wheel and it is terrible because this park is for everybody, this is the last little bit of the wildlife in the area.”
Department supervising fisheries officer Ryan Parker said so far this year in the Swan and Canning rivers there had been 76 warnings, 40 infringements and two prosecutions issued by Fisheries officers.
“Of these we have issued 29 warnings, nine infringements and two prosecutions for black bream, so they are a significant percentage of the total statistics,” he said.
In relation to claims anglers were overfishing black bream in the park and taking undersized fish at night, Mr Ryan said three similar allegations had been received since May and Fisheries officers had responded with no offences detected.
“Following these reports, the Canning River has been patrolled and levels of offending and fisher effort have been normal for this time of year. The winter months generally see an increase in black bream fishing pressure,” he siaid
The Department refuted claims black bream numbers were falling in the Canning River.
Director aquatic management Nathan Harrison said Fisheries monitored bream catch rates that were reported by recreational fishers and this data source suggested bream in the Swan and Canning rivers was relatively stable.
He said there were no plans to implement a closed season for black bream within the Canning River.
Black bream facts
Minimum size: 25cm
Bag limit: six fish. Only two black bream over 40cm in Swan and Canning rivers.
Infringements: Undersize – $50 to $1000 in infringements. Max penalty in court $5,000 plus additional mandatory penalty
Excess bag – $50 to $1000 in infringements. Max penalty in court $5,000 plus additional mandatory penalty
Source: Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development