Legislative Council: Tuesday, November 15, 2022


Snapper Fishery

The Hon. C. BONAROS (15:28): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development about snapper fishing.

Leave granted.

The Hon. C. BONAROS: The Marine Fishers Association, the state's professional fishers group, has asked the state government to delay the much-anticipated reopening of the snapper fishery on 1 February next year after a three-year ban. It says the marine scale fishery industry would prefer to suffer the financial costs of the delay rather than risk the future sustainability of stock.

The MFA's calls have been supported by SARDI's Snapper Stock Assessment Report of this year, which shows that while the three-year ban on catching snapper has stabilised the decline of the biomass, there has been no measurable improvement in fish numbers, which are still at historically low levels. MFA's pleas follow the release of a position paper by RecFish SA, the body representing recreational anglers—recently proposing widespread changes, including radical catch reallocations between the sectors—that has outraged professional fishers.

Releasing the SARDI report last week, you said, minister, the report would be considered by the Marine Scalefish Fishery Management Advisory Committee and its scientific subcommittee with meetings scheduled across the state over the following two weeks, after which that committee will provide recommendations to government, with a decision by government expected next month. My questions to the minister are:

1. Given commercial and charter fishers have extremely robust management frameworks with regard to accountability of catch, are you intending to introduce similar strategies for other stakeholders prior to considering the reopening of the fishery, especially given the paramountcy of sustainability of stock and accurate reporting in all fishing management practices?

2. Do you agree that sustainability of stock and accurate reporting are paramount in all fisheries management practices?

3. Has the minister or her department had representations made to her from the recreational fishing sector, both before and since the release of the SARDI report?

4. What are those representations with respect to snapper closures and catchment reallocations between the sectors?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (15:31): I thank the honourable member for her question and her ongoing interest in fisheries and fisheries management in South Australia. I am glad to say that the one thing there does seem to be widespread agreement on from the commercial sector, the charter boat sector and the recreational fishing sector is that sustainability has to be the number one priority and the number one consideration when looking at whether the three-year ban on snapper fishing should be lifted or whether it should continue and, if so, in what form.

I have been very pleased that, despite the differences within the different sectors, that is something they are united on. I think we all want to see a sustainable fishery going forward. When it comes to recreational fishing, certainly the sorts of views that have been put to me include that we want to be able to take our children and our grandchildren fishing in the future, so sustainability has to be the primary focus.

Last week, the snapper stock assessment was released, as the honourable member indicated. Prior to the election, the Malinauskas opposition as we were, now government, committed to providing more information about the way that decisions are made, in particular in the fisheries sector, so releasing that report was one very important step in terms of being transparent about the way that decisions are made and the reasons that decisions are made.

The next part of the process is that report is now being considered by the science committee of the Marine Scalefish Fishery Management Advisory Committee (MFSMAC), and then there will be a meeting of the MFSMAC in the coming weeks and they will develop some recommendations to come to me. Individually, and as a government, I have committed to making a decision by the end of the year.

In terms of potential changes to allocations, it would be premature to be looking at that. I will be keen to receive the recommendations from the MFSMAC, which does have representatives from a wide variety of the affected sectors as well as independent science expertise and also traditional fishing. It is an important process. What's really important is that we get it right. We need to make sure we have a sustainable fishery going forward, and I am very pleased that that is something we do agree on. I look forward to receiving those recommendations.

The honourable member also asked about representations, I think, from RecFish. RecFish SA did release a position paper that was prior to the release of the snapper stock assessment, and I have received a copy of that position paper.