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Government of Western Australia - Department of Fisheries

Herring commercial fishing

There has been a commercial Australian herring fishing industry in Western Australia for more than 50 years.

The Department's 2013 assessment of the Australian herring stock showed that the herring stock was depleted. To provide the best opportunity for recovery, the overall herring catch was halved and the commercial South Coast G-net Fishery was closed on 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. The catch was sold to the fresh fish markets, as bait for the rock lobster fishing industry or as animal feed.

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. Following the closure of the herring trap net fishery in 2015, the average commercial catch has been about 75 tonnes.

Management strategies introduced by the Department in 2015 to help the herring stock recover prioritised the need to use herring for human consumption and recreational purposes. A small amount of herring was still taken commercially by seine nets, gill nets and line fishing on both the west and south coasts.

In 2021 the Department’s Australian herring resource stock assessment indicated that the management actions taken had been successful and that the stock had recovered. 

The recovery provides an opportunity to take a contemporary approach to management, which will allow for optimal use and maximise community benefit from the resource. The commercial and recreational fishing sectors are working together to determine future management measures. 

In the meantime, the Minister for Fisheries issued an Exemption in March 2022 for a limited amount of G-net fishing for Australian herring to re-open on the south coast, to gauge market response to an increased supply of herring for human consumption. The exemption will test markets for both fresh and value-added herring, using local seafood processors, and if this will lead to more jobs for the south coast region.  

Last modified: 1/04/2022 10:55 AM

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