Caution urged ahead of abalone season start in WA

Abalone fishers on the reef at Yanchep Lagoon. Picture: Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter
Abalone fishers on the reef at Yanchep Lagoon. Picture: Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter

SURF Life Saving WA is urging more than 17,000 recreational abalone fishers to use caution when the season starts this weekend.

The West Coast Zone open season will include four one-hour windows for licensed fishers to catch abalone between Moore River and Busselton Jetty.

The first will be on Saturday, December 14 from 7am to 8am, with other fishing sessions planned for January 11, February 1 and February 15 if weather conditions are suitable.

SLSWA lifesaving general manager Chris Peck said although there were no fatalities last season, abalone fishing was still the most dangerous recreational fishing activity in WA, with five fatalities since 2012.

“With only four one hour fishing sessions each year, this equates to someone dying every 5.5 hours,” he said.

“With a number of changes implemented in recent years, aimed at educating fishers to increase their safety, we have seen a reduction in the number of rescues performed with 13 taking place last season, down from 49 the previous year.”

Surf lifesavers and sea rescue volunteers help abalone fishers. File picture: Community News

SLSWA will provide safety services such as helicopter, jet ski, inflatable rescue boat and beach based patrols but warned against complacency.

“We remind fishers to assess both the conditions of the day and their chosen location, against their own abilities and to not rely solely on surf life saving services for their personal safety,” Mr Peck said.

“We also encourage fishers to seek out a location patrolled by these services and to speak with the surf lifesavers there on the day to ascertain how to maximise their catch while ensuring their personal safety and that of friends and family fishing with them.”

Surf lifesavers will patrol Point Peron, Mettams Pool, Hamersley Pool, Marmion Beach, Ocean Reef, Burns Beach, Quinns Mindarie and Yanchep Lagoon during the abalone fishing sessions.

Recfishwest chief executive Andrew Rowland also urged abalone fishers to exercise caution whilst fishing, stay in a group and keep an eye out for mates and other fishers.

“Be aware of the weather conditions,” Dr Rowland said.

“We also strongly recommend wearing appropriate clothing or wetsuits – avoid tracksuits and work boots that can get water-logged and heavy.

“This is a great fishery right on our doorstep with more than 17,000 participating fishers and it’s great way to spend the morning with the family as long as it is carried out safely.”

Visit www.mybeach.com.au/abalone and www.fish.wa.gov.au for more information.