Legislative Council: Thursday, March 09, 2023


Snapper Fishery

The Hon. R.B. MARTIN (15:03): My question is to the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development. Will the minister please inform the chamber about the snapper science stakeholder group as part of efforts to help the species recover?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (15:04): I thank the honourable member for his very important question. As members would be aware, late last year the difficult decision was taken to have the snapper fishery remain closed in most South Australian waters, with the exception of the South-East, where strict bag and boat limits apply. This was in response to the SARDI Snapper Stock Assessment report 2022, which showed that snapper stocks, while not depleting further since previous assessments, had not recovered to a sustainable level and were still considered depleted.

As part of that necessary decision to keep the fishery closed, the government announced a significant $8.8 million package to support the commercial, charter and recreational fishing sectors. This included $2.4 million in fee relief in the form of a 50 per cent reduction in licence fees for the charter and commercial sectors, $1.2 million for a restocking program that has already commenced at SARDI that will see close to a million fingerlings released across both gulfs, and $200,000 towards reef restoration projects, working with RecFish SA to involve the recreational fishing community.

Improvements to science were called for across fishing sectors, and this informed the largest part of the package: $5 million, with $2½ million coming from the state government and $2½ million from the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC). That money goes towards research projects to broaden knowledge of the species and the best methods to measure their progress.

An important part of ensuring proposed science programs can have maximum benefit for industry, researchers and, of course, the species itself, is the snapper science stakeholder group. This group is made up of representatives from commercial sectors, the recreational sector, FRDC, PIRSA and SARDI. The group came together earlier this month and is already providing feedback to researchers and, importantly, bringing feedback back to stakeholder group members following the meetings.

The range of projects proposed over the next few years during the closure is extensive. They include enhanced biological sampling (including sampling for genetic testing), model forecasting, refining the stock assessment model, hydroacoustic surveys to measure stock levels, determining whether West Coast snapper should be considered separately from Spencer Gulf, and more. Many of these measures were directly called for by the fishing sectors. Combined with the already strong scientific work done by SARDI in this area, this will provide for the best possible decisions being made for the long-term future of this iconic species.