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Government of Western Australia - Department of Fisheries
Two baldchin groper swimming along a reef

Bag and boat limits are put in place to ensure stocks of demersal scalefish like these baldchin groper remain sustainable. 

Monday 19 February 2018

High grading downgrades fish stocks

​By targeting other species once you’ve reached your daily bag limit  for a particular fish, you can help ensure there will be more fish for the future. 

Some fishers attempt to ‘high grade’ their catch by continuing to fish for the same species after they reach their bag limit in a bid to catch bigger fish. Any larger fish caught are then swapped with the smallest fish, which are either discarded or used as bait.

High grading is a particular issue for demersal scalefish in the West Coast Bioregion, especially for prized species such as dhufish and baldchin groper​, as it results in more fish being removed from the fishery – defeating the purpose of bag, boat and possession limits.

Even if fishers intend to ‘catch and release’ any further fish they catch, a significant number of demersal finfish will die after release as a result of barotrauma – the expansion of gases in a fish’s body due to a sudden decrease in pressure.

Therefore, fishers who continue to fish for demersal scalefish once they have reached their bag limit can place unnecessary pressure on fish stocks.

You can play your part in protecting the demersal scalefish stocks by either stopping fishing once you’ve reached your bag limit or by targeting other species of fish – such as trolling for pelagic fish like Spanish mackerel or coming inshore and targeting Australian herring  or squid.

If you do catch more fish after reaching your bag limit for a species or group of species, you must return them to the water immediately or they will count towards your bag and boat limit. 

You must also immediately release any protec​ted fish – which includes fish that are under minimum or over maximum size limits, and it is an offence to use them for bait.

Fishers caught taking fish in excess of bag, boat and/or possession limits can face significant penalties up to $5,000, in addition to mandatory penalties of ten times the value of each fish taken in excess of the limits.

For more information see our recreational fishing rules.

You can also download our Recreational fishing guide in booklet size or the A4 print-friendly version.

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Last modified: 21/02/2018 4:32 PM

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