There has been a commercial Australian herring fishing industry in Western Australia for more than 50 years.
However, following research showing the herring stock was depleted and the overall catch must be halved to provide the best opportunity for recovery, the commercial South Coast G-net Fishery was closed from 1 March 2015.
Historically, this fishery took the bulk of WA’s commercial catch using long trap nets on a limited number of south coast beaches. Traditionally, the catch was sold to the fresh fish markets or as bait for the rock lobster fishing industry and as animal feed.
Management strategies to help the herring stock recover have prioritised the need to use herring for recreational purposes and human consumption.
A small amount of herring will still be taken commercially by seine nets, gill nets and line fishing on both the west and south coasts.
At its peak in the early 1990s, the commercial herring catch was more than 1,500 tonnes. Since that time both catch and effort have declined significantly. In 2011, WA landings reached an historical low of 147 tonnes. They remained low in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
The decline in commercial catch and effort has been influenced by economic factors such as low marketability as well as reduced availability of fish in many regions. Fish processors have effectively restricted the commercial catch in recent years by purchasing only limited quantities of herring.