Time is Now to Future Proof Our Snapper

While we in Victoria enjoy record recruitment of our western Victoria snapper stock, South Australian recreational fishers are being forced to endure a 3 year snapper fishery closure after nearly 20 years of poor snapper recruitment.

Before we discuss working together with our fishers in South Australia, VRFish believes this dire situation serves as the ideal motivation to future-proof our snapper stocks here in Victoria. We heard loud and clear from our Victorian anglers they never, ever want to get into the same situation as South Australia. It can be a very hard and long road to recover a fishery.

Graeme Keegan, Chair of the Ministerial Recreational Fishing Advisory Council presenting to the FRDC National Snapper Workshop

At a national level snapper are proving very difficult to manage. Out of Australia’s 12 stocks, 3 are depleted, 1 is depleting, 1 is recovering, 1 is undefined and 6 is sustainable. A consistent theme is management levers have been too slow to be pulled and there has not been monitoring programs to monitor recruitment and inform management responses.

Victoria is the envy of Australia by bucking this trend. This can largely be attributed to the Victorian Fisheries Authority’s Port Phillip Bay juvenile snapper trawl surveys that can forecast catches in 4-6 years time. We have a few other factors in our favour including only modest commercial catches and that spawning snapper only spend a few months in Port Phillip Bay before dispersing throughout its range from Kangaroo Island in South Australia and Wilson’s Promontory in Victoria.

Victorian snapper fishery review for 2019

While researchers at the Victorian Fisheries Authority have a comprehensive understanding of the environmental factors favourable to good snapper recruitment, we too have to rely on Mother Nature rather than fisheries management for recruitment pulses. At any one time our fishery is based on one or two years of above average recruitment..

Pre-recruit snapper trawl survey data 1993 – 2019 showing episodic recruitment pulses (Source:Victorian Fisheries Authority)

VRFish is proposing that while times are good we must plan now for how we will manage periods of low recruitment so that we can lessen the impact to the quality of our fishing. All the data is available to run through various scenarios so that we agree can all upon most effective management responses to weather the storm of low recruitment periods. We all hope we never get into the situation but its a possibility so let’s have a plan in place. It was not that long ago where we experienced 15 years of below average snapper recruitment from 1984-1999.

We are also planning now for large numbers of snapper over the coming years to enter our fishery from the record recruitment in 2018. Our successful snapper survival campaign is going through a significant refresh and we are proposing a ‘Snapper Stewards’ program that can could even be run across Australia.

VRFish has outlined the above to a National Snapper Workshop held in Adelaide. We have spoken directly South Australian fishery managers to raise our concerns about the potential shifting of fishing effort to Victorian waters by recreational fishers and charter operators and a shift towards other species we share with South Australia, such as King George whiting.

The great news is we can report is that South Australian fairy managers and fishers are keen to work with us on their recovery plans and catch limits on the snapper (South-East Zone) which we share with South Australia as part of the western Victoria stock.

A full report from the FRDC National Snapper Workshop is being prepared by PIRSA.

For more information about snapper survival click here.

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