Warning for fishers trying to ‘high-grade’

Zach RelphSouth Western Times

The Department of Fisheries says an illegal fishing practice used to exploit strict recreational bag limits is being undertaken in Geographe Bay and potentially harming demersal finfish stocks.

High-grading is an illegal practice implemented by anglers as a means of improving their catch.

The practice involves a fisher reaching a certain species daily bag limit, but continuing to fish for the same species in a bid to catch bigger fish and returning previously caught smaller fish to the water.

Prized demersal species including dhufish and pink snapper are often targeted.

Pink snapper are a demersal finfish at risk of high-grading.
Camera IconPink snapper are a demersal finfish at risk of high-grading.

“There is significant anecdotal information that this practice occurs and the risk from it is that it potentially breaches the principle of bag limits,” department acting strategic compliance manager Ryan Parker said.

“Generally speaking it would have an impact by increasing the number of fish taken and killed.

“For something like dhufish, where the bag limit is one, this effect would be amplified.”

Anglers can be fined up to $1000 or be prosecuted, which can result in fines of up to $5000.

Mr Parker conceded it was difficult to monitor the technique, but said officers would continue to make surveillance a priority.

Dhufish are one of WA’s premier fish species.
Camera IconDhufish are one of WA’s premier fish species.

“On water patrolling, response to complaints and information received, plus education and awareness raising are the key ways that we deal with this,” Mr Parker said.

“It is hard to monitor and the department relies upon fishers knowing the rules and undertaking their fishing with a mind for the future.

“We are keen for fishers, and there are many of them who act lawfully and take stewardship seriously who frown on high grading, to report their concerns if they witness or hear about this practice.”

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