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Government of Western Australia - Department of Fisheries
Friday 9 September 2011

Marine heatwave prompts significant abalone fishing closure

An unprecedented marine heatwave has led to a total closure of abalone fishing, from Moore River to Western Australia’s border with the Northern Territory (NT).

South West Bioregions Manager for the Department of Fisheries, Kevin Donohue said the Fisheries Minister Norman Moore had taken the precautionary step, following consultation with the West Coast Abalone Divers Association and Recfishwest.

“Both groups and the Department of Fisheries recommended the closure after significant mortalities in abalone stocks, particularly north of Kalbarri, during the marine heatwave,” Mr Donohue said.

“In reviewing the heatwave, marine scientists tracked an extensive patch of very warm water that grew and moved southwards from November 2010 and did not dissipate until late March.

Sea temperatures in many areas were more than three degrees above average and the warmest ever recorded in some places. That not only devastated mid west and northern abalone stocks, but impacted on other fish species too.”

Mr Donohue said a full stock assessment of abalone, north of Moore River, would take place during the next 12 months, however, he warned that prohibitions or restrictions might be required over several seasons to allow the abalone stocks to recover.

“The time required to rebuild stocks can’t be determined at this stage, but the department will seek ways of enhancing the restoration of abalone stocks,” he said.

“Commercial abalone fishing operators have already voluntarily agreed not to fish stocks in the area affected by the marine heatwave.”

The Northern Zone recreational abalone fishing season (from Greenough River to the NT border) normally runs from 1 October to the 15 May, but will not be open this year, however, the Southern Zone (between the Busselton Jetty and the South Australian border), which shares the same season dates with the Northern Zone, will be open as normal next month.

Mr Donohue said part of the closure area also impacted on the West Coast Zone and no abalone fishing would be allowed between Moore River and the Greenough River.

“For the rest of the West Coast Zone, from Moore River and Busselton Jetty, fishing will begin on 6 November and be allowed for one hour only (7-8am) on that day and for one hour only (7-8am) on the first Sundays of December, January, February and March,” he said.

As this closure may mean fishers holding recreational abalone licences will not be able to fish as planned, the Department of Fisheries will refund the licence fee. Fishers requiring a refund should contact the department on 9482 7333 and make application before 31 October 2011.

Last modified: 2/05/2012 1:36 PM

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