Aquaculture for all

New Closures to Protect Spawning Snapper

Sustainability +1 more

AUSTRALIA - The State Government has determined the upcoming closures of five key Snapper spawning areas during the annual breeding season, following extensive consultation with the community and fishing industry.

The closures, to aid the protection and recovery of local Snapper stocks, follow an extensive review of Snapper management arrangements and state wide public consultation on the implementation of Snapper closures – known as spawning spatial closures – earlier this year.

Executive Director of PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture, Professor Mehdi Doroudi said PIRSA had been mindful of the potential economic, social and tourism impacts of the closures, which were necessary to support a sustainable Snapper fishery, and had reduced the size of the closures after consulting widely.

"Snapper is a South Australian species prized by all fishing sectors that brings economic, social and tourism benefits to a number of coastal fishing communities," he said.

"Throughout the consultation process there was clear support for the government to take further action to secure the long-term sustainability of this important species, and with this in mind the decision has been made to introduce spatial closures to give Snapper the best possible chance for recruitment success and recovery.

"After consideration was given to the importance of Snapper to all fishing sectors and coastal communities, we have ensured there is a right balance between our main priority of protecting snapper spawning areas, and that of minimising potential economic and social impacts, by reducing the closure areas in size by more than half.

"In addition, the reduced size of closures will facilitate improved vessel movement around the areas."

The closures include four key areas within northern Spencer Gulf and a single area in Gulf St Vincent, where significant spawning aggregations of Snapper are known to occur.

All fishing sectors will be prohibited from possessing, targeting and taking Snapper within the four kilometre radius of each closure area from 15 December 2013 to 31 January 2014.

Professor Doroudi said the behaviour of Snapper during their annual breeding period makes them more vulnerable to capture and disturbance caused by fishing activity, and that ongoing work had already led to a number of measures put in place.

"PIRSA has been reviewing Snapper management arrangements since early 2011, with a number of changes already implemented to control the level of commercial impact on Snapper stocks and to provide greater protection to Snapper spawning aggregations from targeted fishing activity by all sectors," he said.

"These changes include a reduction in daily catch limits for the commercial sector and an extension to the annual state wide Snapper fishing closure for commercial, recreational and charter fishers, which now runs from 1 November until 15 December each year.

"The Snapper spawning spatial closures are the final outcome of the review and aim to maximise successful spawning and recruitment opportunities by minimising disturbance to spawning Snapper in key aggregation areas across their entire breeding season.

"Importantly, we are confident that local and visiting fishers will still be able to take advantage of abundant fishing opportunities that exist in our northern gulfs and that ultimately these changes will secure the sustainability of our prized Snapper stocks well into the future."
Mike Fooks, Chairman of the Marine Fishers Association which represents more than 330 commercial fishers, has welcomed the announcement.

"We are definitely supportive of the spatial closures and see them as an important part of Snapper management and vital for the long-term sustainability of the fishery," Mr Fooks said.

PIRSA consulted widely on the development of the spatial closures, with other major stakeholders including RecFish SA, the Surveyed Charter Boat Owners and Operators Association and local government involved throughout the process.

The spatial closures will be reviewed before the annual closure begins in November 2014.

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