There has been a commercial Australian herring fishing industry in Western Australia for more than 50 years.
More than 80 per cent of the commercial take is caught by net on south coast beaches. The rest is taken in the southern part of the west coast region.
Historically, the catch was sold as bait for the rock lobster fishing industry or pet food. Now it is mainly sold to the fresh fish markets.
At its peak in the early 1990s, WA’s commercial herring catch was more than 1,500 tonnes. By 2000 it had dropped to 818 tonnes and by 2010 to 212 tonnes.
The decline has been strongly influenced by economic factors such as low marketability. Fish processors have effectively restricted the catch by purchasing only limited quantities of herring. As a result, fishing ‘effort’ (the amount of fishing for a species) has dropped.
Low recruitment (addition of young fish to the fish population) in Australian herring stocks on the south and lower west coasts of WA has been an additional factor. Research is being done to help reveal the causes.
In 2010, a catch lower than the target (see table) was due to low fish stocks combined with low effort due to weak market demand.
South coast herring catch and status 2010
|WA’s south coast
||$177,000 (combined with Australian salmon)