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Government of Western Australia - Department of Fisheries

Statewide recreational fishing survey

The fifth Statewide Recreational Fishing Survey conducted in the past decade has wrapped up for 2020/21! This survey is run every two to three years, with the next survey to commence in mid-2023. Each survey combines off-site phone-diary surveys with on-site access point boat ramp interviews to accurately estimate WA’s boat-based recreational fishing participation, effort and catch. The purpose of the year-long survey is to provide up-to-date information on boat-based recreational fishing to inform management and ensure WA’s recreational fisheries remain sustainable.

Who Took Part in the Survey?

This survey wouldn’t be possible without the participation of more than 75,000 recreational fishers over the last five statewide surveys! 

For the 2020/21 survey, we began by interviewing more than 5,000 randomly selected fishers over the phone to identify participants for the phone-diary survey. These volunteers recorded key details about their fishing trips in a diary for 12 months, and relayed data periodically over the phone to ECU Survey Research Centre staff. Additionally, we interviewed more than 5,000 fishers for the on-site boat ramp survey at 29 boat ramps in WA to measure the length and weight of retained catches. Both surveys allowed us to interview Recreational Boat Fishing Licence holders throughout the state’s four marine bioregions.

Key Results

Overall, Recreational Boat Fishing Licence holders caught (retained and released) more than 3.3 million individual fish and invertebrates, encompassing 242 unique species. For the third survey in a row, School whiting (Sillago bassensis, S. vittata and S. schomburgkii) were the most popular finfish caught statewide with 320,000 landed (29 t harvested). Australian herring (Arripis georgianus) followed with 190,000 caught (20. t harvested), and Pink snapper (Chrysophrys auratus) with 136,000 caught (80 t harvested).

The survey showed that Recreational Boat Fishing Licence holders caught 660,000 Western rock lobsters (Panulirus cygnus), making them the most commonly caught species overall for the 12-month period. The Blue swimmer crab (Portanus armatus) recreational catch was 570,000 (47 t harvested) statewide, 96% of which was caught in the West Coast Bioregion.

Boat-based recreational fishers released similar proportions of finfish (58%) and invertebrates (42%). The leading reasons for release included personal preference (‘too many’ or ‘too small’), bag and size limits, and catch and release fishing. The highest release rates were for Black bream (Acanthopagrus butcheri) with 83% released and Western king wrasse (Coris auricularis) with 80% released.  On the other hand, the most frequently retained species was Squid (Order Teuthoidea) with just 5% released statewide.

The number of Recreational Boat Fishing Licence holders that fished at least once in 2020/21 were included 101,000 WA residents, and 1,000 interstate visitors. The boat-based fishing effort by bioregion was highest in the West Coast Bioregion (73% of effort), followed by the Gascoyne Coast (13%), the North Coast (8%), and the South Coast (6%).

How Do We Collect Data?

Our Statewide Recreational Fishing Survey uses three survey methods. When combined, the survey methods improve data accuracy and reduce any biases caused by survey sampling. The methods for this survey involve a phone-diary survey to provide estimates of fishing effort and total catch for key species, access point boat ramp interviews to provide average weight of key species, and a remote camera survey to provide an understanding of where and when boats launch and retrieve at key boat ramps in WA. To learn more about our survey methods, visit the Science of Surveys​ webpage. 

More Information

This project was funded in part by the 125,000 Recreational Boat Fishing Licences issued in 2019/20. The survey is a collaboration with Edith Cowan University and Recfishwest. We thank all the recreational fishers who participated and volunteered their time – this survey wouldn’t be possible without you.

You can read more about Boat-based Recreational Fishing in Western Australia in the Fisheries Research Report​ and Science update.

Weight-length summaries​ for WA fish species are also available. Stay tuned for an update of the 2023-2024 Statewide Recreational Fishing Survey.


We value questions that the public may have about this survey. If you have queries or need more information about the Statewide Recreational Fishing Survey, please email or call Hillarys Reception on (08) 9203 0111.

2020/21 survey

Full report

Key findings - Catch the facts about what's being caught in WA 2020/21​

2017/18 survey

Full report

Key findings - Catch the facts about what's being caught in WA 2017/18

2015/16 survey

Full report

Key findings - Catch the facts about what's being caught in WA 2015/16

2013/14 survey

Full report

Key findings - Catch the facts about what's being caught in WA 2013/14

T: (08) 9203 0111


Last modified: 20/12/2022 8:59 AM

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