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Government of Western Australia - Department of Fisheries

West Coast Demersal Scalefish Resource


New management changes are now in place for recreational, commercial and charter fishers in the West Coast bioregion.

Followin​g extensive community and industry consultation new rules have been introduced to boost the recovery of demersal scalefish stocks - common species include Dhufish, Baldchin Groper, Breaksea Cod, and Pink Snapper.

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) will monitor the impact of the new management changes on stock recovery. The changes to demersal fishing rules are expected to be in place until 2030.

It’s important to understand these changes and what they mean for you. View the FAQs.

  • 1 January 2023: changes in effect for commercial sector
  • 1 February 2023: changes in effect for recreational fishers
  • 1 July 2023: changes in effect for charter fishers.

Recovery plan and support package

A 20-year recovery plan for the West Coast Demersal Scalefish Resource (WCDSR) from Kalbarri to Augusta has been in place since 2010. Following the release of the 2021 scientific stock assessment of pink snapper and dhufish, two key demersal indicator species, new management measures were introduced to meet recovery milestones set in the West Coast Demersal Scalefish Resource Harvest Strategy 2021-2025 (see Harvest Strategy FAQs) to enable stocks to recover to sustainable levels by 2030.

To support demersal scalefish stocks in the West Coast bioregion, the WA Government has invested $10 million to fund key initiatives, including: 
  • Voluntary buyback of commercial fishing entitlement in the wetline fishery
  • Enhanced monitoring and research
  • Digital catch reporting for recreational fishers
  • Expanded juvenile Pink Snapper releases program
  • Expanded State-wide Fish Aggregating Device (FAD) program
  • Support package for charter operators to diversify and adjust their businesses
  • Expanded education and awareness program.​

Information for recreational fishers

New rules came into effect for recreational fishers from 1 February 2023.

Primary measures:
  • The two-month demersal closure period has been extended to a total of 6 months for recreational fishers in the West Coast bioregion from Kalbarri to Augusta.  
  • Catching demersal scalefish from a boat is now prohibited from:
​Year Date​s prohibited catching demersal scalefish from a boat​: ​ ​
​2023 1 February to 31 March 2023 (inclusive)​ ​1 August to 22 September 2023 (inclusive) ​9 October to 15 December 2023 (inclusive)
​2024 1 February to 28 March 2024 (inclusive)​ ​1 August to 20 September 2024 (inclusive) ​​7 Octo​ber to 15 December 2024 (inclusive)
*Note this does not apply to land based recreational line fishers who can fish all year round.

Supporting measures:
  • A boat limit of four demersal scalefish per vessel. Video: boat and bag limits
  • A mixed-species daily bag limit of 2 demersal scalefish (except Coral Trout, Coronation Trout and Western Blue Groper). 
  • The WA Dhufish boat limit has been removed, so an individual angler can catch up to two WA Dhufish.
  • Removal of size limits for WA Dhufish, Baldchin Groper and Breaksea Cod to limit barotrauma. Video: size limits
  • A maximum of one bait or lure per line can be used when fishing for demersal scalefish in the West Coast Region.​ Video: one bait, one lure
  • Implementation of Abrolhos Islands fishing rules Video: Abrolhos Islands
    • reduced bag limit of 1 demersal scalefish;
    • reduced finfish possession limit of 5 kgs of fillets from any species, plus 5 kg of fillets from large pelagic finfish (must have skin attached for identification purposes); OR 1 day’s bag limit of whole fish.
  • Shifting the timing of the Abrolhos Islands Baldchin Groper spawning closure to be 1 October to 31 December (inclusive).
  • Extending the timing of the Cockburn and Warnbro Sounds Pink Snapper spawning closure to be 1 August to 31 January (inclusive).  Video: spawning protection

It is important to understand the current recreational fishing rules​​ when recreational fishing for demersal scalefish in the West Coast bioregion.

Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs)

As part of the support package for the recovery of the West Coast Demersal Scalefish Resource, the State Government is investing $1.5 million over the next 3 years to expand the FADs program, which will be managed by DPIRD. 
For more information on the program and locations, please visit the FADs webpage​.

FishCatchWA™​ - digital catch reporting

Recfishers are able to directly contribute to the science and support the sustainability of our iconic demersal scalefish stocks in the West Coast bioregion, using the FishCatchWA™ tool on the ServiceWA app. Find out more on the FishCatchWA™ page

Information for commercial fishers

From 1 January 2023, fishing hours in the West Coast Demersal Scalefish Interim Managed Fishery were reduced to achieve a 50% cut in total allowable catch. The following changes began on 1 February 2023:
  • Removal of size limits for WA dhufish, baldchin groper and breaksea cod to reduce barotrauma.
  • Extending the timing of the Cockburn and Warnbro Sounds pink snapper spawning closure to be 1 August to 31 January (inclusive).
  • Shifting the timing of the Abrolhos Islands baldchin groper spawning closure to be 1 October to 31 December (inclusive).
  • Commercial fishing for demersal scalefish remains closed along the Perth metro coast, from Lancelin to south of Mandurah.

Voluntary Fisheries Adjustment Scheme

A $2.5 million Voluntary Fisheries Adjustment Scheme has been established for commercial fishers who hold a current West Coast Demersal Scalefish Interim Managed Fishery permit. Commercial fishers will be able to voluntarily surrender units of entitlement (available fishing hours) and their associated Fishing Boat Licence in return for payment of agreed compensation. Units voluntarily surrendered to the scheme will initially be used to reallocate up to 18.5 tonnes of their 218.5 tonne total catch limit to other commercial fisheries that access the WCDSR but primarily target other resources (i.e. shark).
This will ensure the continued supply of WA seafood to local markets, particularly regional communities.

The scheme opened for offers on Friday 26 May 2023 and closes to offers on Saturday 30 September 2023. All applications will be finalised by 30 April 2024.

Information for charter fishers

The charter fishery is subject to the same supporting measures as the recreational sector from 1 February 2023, except the demersal scalefish closure and boat limit. The following primary measures are in place for charter fishers from 1 July 2023:
  • A demersal scalefish tag system for the charter fishery (one tag = one fish)
  • Charter fishery open 12 months of the year (not including spawning closures).

Charter catch quota system

Under the new catch quota system, 6000 tags have been allocated to 21 operators in the West Coast region based on their catch history over the past 5 years. The allocation decision recognises those Fishing Tour Operator Licence (FTOL) holders with an ongoing and recent reliance on demersal-based fishing activities and aims to ensure that a viable charter fishing industry can be maintained for the West Coast Zone. 

An extension of a ‘catch to cook’ option to all charter operators in the West Coast region means charter operators who did not receive tags will still be able to catch demersal fish including pink snapper and WA dhufish, as long as all fish are consumed on board the boat prior to returning to shore.

The catch quota system commences 1 July 2023. For more information about access criteria and how the catch quota was allocated, please view the operational guidelines and FAQs​.​

Charter Diversification Grants Scheme

To support the implementation of the catch quota system, eligible charter operators are able to apply for funding to diversify their business into other tourism experiences e.g. non-demersal scalefish aquatic tours. The West Coast Charter Diversification Grants Scheme opened 1 June 2023. 

Other resources​


Last modified: 8/12/2023 10:27 AM

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