THE upcoming abalone season could be shortened due to a decline in abalone stocks, according to the Department of Fisheries.
The recreational West Coast Zone abalone season operates on the first Sunday of each month from November to March, between Moore River and Busselton Jetty, but the department said abalone stocks had been in decline for the past four years and needed careful management.
It attributed the decline to sustained warmer than average ocean temperatures on WA’s west coast and the 2010-11 marine heatwave that killed almost all of the Roe’s abalone along the north-west coast.
South-West bioregions manager Tim Nicholas said the department had been working closely with Recfishwest and commercial abalone fishers.
“The Abalone Industry Association of WA and the West Coast Abalone Divers Association have voluntarily reduced their total catch by 10 per cent on levels agreed last year and will consider the need to reduce catches further at November’s industry meeting,” he said.
Mr Nicholas said last year’s reduced daily bag limit of 15 Roe’s abalone per licensed recreational fisher was observed so the department did not need to cancel the final fishing day.
However, he said given the current stocks, this season could be shortened.
“This season we are hoping people will be able to fish on each of the planned five fishing days, but we will be closely monitoring the recreational catch to ensure no more than the 20 tonnes of Roe’s abalone is taken across the West Coast Zone,” he said.
“Fisheries and marine officers will be patrolling abalone fishing spots to ensure fishers are licensed and sticking to the rules and researchers and volunteers will be assessing the impact of the fishing effort that occurs between 7am and 8am on the allotted fishing days.
“We will be directing a lot of resources to ensure the West Coast Zone stocks are well managed and fishers can continue to enjoy abalone fishing, but the support of the recreational and commercial fishers remains critical to recovery of this unique fishery.”
For more information, visit www.fish.wa.gov.au.