Government to buyback Peel-Harvey commercial fishing licences, big boost for recreation sector

The State Government’s decision to activate a buyback scheme for commercial fishing licences in the Peel-Harvey Estuary has been welcomed by the industry. 

Over recent years there has been a dispute between the recreational and commercial fishing sectors over access to, and the fishing of, blue swimmer crabs and yellowfin whiting.

Harvey and Mandurah’s waterways host the most-popular recreational crab fishery in Western Australia, which a number of commercial fishers also operate in.

Moving forward, the government has allocated $1.5 million to the buyback of commercial licences, with the aim of facilitating a resource reallocation from the commercial to the recreational sector.

The West Coast Estuarine Managed Fishery Voluntary Fisheries Adjustment Scheme will open on Friday, with commercial fishers having until April 30, 2019, to express an interest.

Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly said the government had consulted with Recfishwest and the WA Fishing Industry Council before making the decision.

“I am proud to be delivering another election commitment from the McGowan government to improve recreational fishing experiences in WA,” he said.

“The Peel-Harvey Estuary has been a source of conflict between the recreational and commercial sectors over access to blue swimmer crabs and yellowfin whiting catches. This scheme is aimed at removing conflict.

“We have allocated $1.5 million to the commercial fishing licence buyback scheme, with a component of the funding coming from the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund.

“The scheme is designed to make more crabs available to recreational fishers, while still providing a supply of commercially caught crabs to the local market.”

WA’s peak recreational fishing body Recfishwest commended Minister Kelly for the Government’s decision.

“Crabbing and fishing in the estuary is the lifeblood of the region and today’s announcement means more blue swimmer crabs and yellowfin whiting will be left in the water for fishing families,” operations manager Leyland Campbell said.

“Recfishwest have been calling for change to management arrangements in this fishery for over a decade and by honouring their election commitment the McGowan Government are supporting safe, accessible and enjoyable fishing experiences for all West Aussies."

WA Fishing Industry Council chief executive officer John Harrison said the announcement acted as a reminder of the achievement of WA’s commercial and recreational fishing sectors, who in a world-first, collaborated to ensure the protection the Peel-Harvey Estuarine fishery’s seafood stocks.

“It is important to remember that while blue swimmer crabs and yellow fin whiting are highly prized recreational species, they are a shared resource, and much loved by Western Australian seafood consumers who rely on the commercial fishing industry to supply these popular seafood species,” he said. 

“From a commercial perspective, catches are precisely reported and strictly managed through a harvest strategy ensuring ongoing sustainability can be achieved.”

“We look forward to a more accurate estimate of recreational catch to fully inform the harvest-strategy process in to the future – which will further ensure the long-term sustainability of stock.”​