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Government of Western Australia - Department of Fisheries

Statewide recreational fishing survey

The fourth Statewide Recreational Fishing Survey conducted in the past decade has wrapped up for 2017/18. This survey has been run every two years, with the first of the next three surveys for 2020-2030 beginning in mid-2020. This year-long survey combines off-site phone-diary surveys with on-site access point boat ramp interviews to accurately estimate WA’s boat-based recreational fishing effort and catch. The purpose of the survey is to provide up-to-date information on boat-based recreational fishing to inform management and allow WA’s recreational fisheries to remain sustainable.

Who Took Part in the Survey?

Throughout the last four statewide surveys, we have interviewed over 20,000 recreational fishers. Across all survey methods for the 2017/18 survey, we interviewed nearly 6,000 recreational fishers holding a Recreational Boat Fishing Licence throughout the state’s four marine bioregions. The phone-diary survey involved a random selection of 3,000 fishers who recorded key details about their fishing trips in a diary for 12 months, and relayed details periodically over the phone. Additionally more than 2,700 fishers were interviewed in-person at 18 boat ramps to collect catch data and weigh their catch.

Key Results

Overall, recreational fishers caught over 2.8 million individual fish and invertebrates, encompassing 216 unique species. The survey showed that Recreational Boat Fishing Licence holders caught about 695,000 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 249,112 (54.1 t) in the West Coast Bioregion, equating to 90% of the statewide Blue swimmer crab catch. For the second survey in a row, School whiting (Sillago vittata) was the most popular finfish caught statewide (18.975 t) with 259,000 landed. Australian herring (Arripis georgianus) followed with 120,000 caught (13.175 t), and Pink snapper (Chrysophrys auratus) with 116,000 caught (78.499 t).
Boat-based recreational fishers released 49% of finfish and 44% of invertebrates. The leading reasons for release included catch and release fishing, bag and size limits, and personal preference. The highest release rates were for Western king wrasse (Coris auricularis) and Brownspotted wrasse (Notolabrus parilus), with both species having an 85% release rate. On the other hand, the least frequently released species was Squid at just three percent.
The majority of Recreational Boat Fishing Licence holders in 2018/18 were WA residents (132,257 individuals), however 3,304 licence holders were interstate visitors. The boat-based fishing effort by bioregion was highest in the West Coast Bioregion (76% of effort), followed by the Gascoyne Coast (11%), the North Coast (8%), and the South Coast (5%).

How Do We Collect Data?

Our statewide recreational fishing survey uses three survey methods. When combined, the survey methods reduce the biases associated with the use of survey sampling, and improve the accuracy of data. The Statewide Recreational Fishing Survey uses a phone-diary survey to provide estimates of fishing effort and total catch for key species caught by boat-based recreational fishers, access point boat ramp interviews to provide information on average weight of key species caught by boat-based recreational fishers, and a remote camera survey  which provides an understanding of the distribution of boats launching and retrieving at key boat ramps in Western Australia. The remote camera survey involves monitoring 24-hour footage from nine static cameras located at boat ramps and choke points. The remote camera survey allows us to understand the day-night variability and the peak times of boating activity of recreational fishers.

More Information

This project was funded in part by the 135,000 Recreational Boat Fishing Licences issued in 2017/18. The survey is a collaboration with Edith Cowan University and Recfishwest. We thank all the recreational fishers who participated and volunteered their time.
You can access more information about the Statewide Recreational Fishing Survey from our website, including the current and past full publications and ‘Catch The Facts’ infographics.
Weight-length summaries for Western Australian fish species are also available.
Stay tuned for an update of the 2020/21 State-wide Survey of Recreational Fishing.


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.

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: 28/07/2020 2:59 PM

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