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Fisheries Move to Protect Garfish Stocks

AUSTRALIA - PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture has introduced seasonal closures to commercial Garfish fishing, in a move to protect the sustainability of Southern Garfish stocks.

The measure will see closures to all commercial Southern Garfish fishing in Spencer Gulf and Gulf St Vincent during separate 20-day periods, between 12 May and 24 June 2012.

The commercial take of Southern Garfish will not be permitted in Spencer Gulf between 12-31 May 2012, and in Gulf St Vincent between 1-24 June 2012 (the latter includes an existing June long weekend closure that applies to all haul net fishing in State waters).

In addition, fishers using haul net gear will be required to nominate a single gulf to fish in for the entire duration of the two closures.

Executive Director for PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture, Professor Mehdi Doroudi, said the closure was necessary to address serious concerns about Southern Garfish stocks.

Research has highlighted that Southern Garfish stocks display continued signs of being heavily exploited, with a very high proportion of the biomass being harvested and low levels of egg production, Professor Doroudi said.

PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture has been working closely with the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) and Marine Fishers Association (MFA) through a Garfish Working Group, and has developed new management arrangements that will address concerns for Southern Garfish stocks.

Closure periods in the gulfs is one of the key recommendations from the group, and is expected to achieve the first of a series of important goals aimed at decreasing commercial fishing effort for Southern Garfish in order to reduce the harvest fraction taken by the fishery

Another recommendation will involve the introduction of a modified mesh net size later this year, which has been developed in collaboration with SARDI and industry and will avoid by-catch and mortality of undersize Garfish.

Executive Officer for the MFA, Peter Welch, said the MFA had acted promptly and fully supported the new arrangements as a necessary measure to promote stock recovery.

The MFA congratulates net fishers for taking ownership of the problem in coming up with this solution, Mr Welch said.

Its essential that steps are taken now to protect the long term health of Southern Garfish stocks and safeguard the economic benefits of the fishery for the future.

While its unfortunate that the closures will have a significant economic impact on fishers, the closure of the gulfs at separate times will ensure continuity of supply of South Australian Garfish to local consumers.

Lucy Towers

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