Concerns over 'fishy' decision

CONCERN: RecFish SA representative Alan Hall says the state government's decision to allow prawn trawlers to fish in closure zones poses a threat to the already depleted snapper stocks in the Spencer Gulf.
CONCERN: RecFish SA representative Alan Hall says the state government's decision to allow prawn trawlers to fish in closure zones poses a threat to the already depleted snapper stocks in the Spencer Gulf.

A local recreational fisherman says allowing prawn trawlers to fish in spartial closure areas in the Spencer Gulf poses a threat to the already depleted snapper stocks in the region.

Despite recently prohibiting all fishing activities in the Estelle Star, Jurassic Park, Santa Anna and Illusion Snapper closure areas, PIRSA announced yesterday it will make an exemption for prawn trawlers to fish there.

RecFish SA Upper Spencer Gulf representative Alan Hall says a number of associations had attended a meeting with PIRSA and Primary Industries Minister Tim Whetstone in December 2018 where they had been advised that the spatial zones 'would be left alone'.

"No fishing whatsoever in them, that was agreed by all sectors," he said.

"But now we're 12 weeks down the track and that decision is reversed. No one can understand why that has happened, there has been no consultation at all."

Mr Hall said the reason behind establishing the 'no go' zones was to ensure boats did not drive through snapper breeding on the surface.

In an email sent to RecFish SA, PIRSA claimed that prawn fishing in Spencer Gulf is not considered to be a contributing factor to the current depleted status of Snapper in the region.

"Prawn fishing is not undertaken on areas with a hard substrate where Snapper aggregate. Prawn fishing is undertaken on sandy soft substrate where prawns aggregate in the soft sediments.

"In addition, prawn nets are damaged by hard substrates and are therefore not used on hard substrates."

The exemption notice put in place to allow prawn fishing in the spatial zones also requires them to 'move on' should any snapper be caught.

But Mr Hall said RecFish SA doesn't want to see snapper in these areas disturbed due to the recent collapse of biomass in the Spencer Gulf.

"Most recreational fisherman here are lucky to catch one snapper a year, and we used to be the snapper capital of Australia," he said.

"We want the snapper to come back, but to do that they have to breed here."

If elected to the state government's Recreational Fishing Advisory Council, Mr Hall says he will be push for PIRSA to reverse this decision.