Call to end herring closure

Headshot of Shannon Smith
Shannon SmithAlbany Advertiser
Albany fisherman Bryn Westerberg.
Camera IconAlbany fisherman Bryn Westerberg. Credit: Picture: Laurie Benson, Laurie Benson Albany Advertiser

Fourth generation G-trap herring fisherman Bryn Westerberg has expressed the need for the G-trap herring fishery to be reopened in Albany, after it was shut down in 2015.

His business, Albany Seafoods, once had an annual catch of 100 tonnes, with 35 per cent sold for human consumption, 50 per cent sold for zoo and aquarium food and the remaining 15 per cent sold for commercial fishing bait.

The herring fishery was closed on March 1, 2015, after research found the State’s herring stocks were at risk of collapse and the species’ numbers were depleted

Mr Westerberg said that having missed out on four herring seasons since the decision was made to close the fishery, the state of herring stocks should be re-examined.

He wants the fishery to re-open for the 2019 season this March, having also been asked to supply local herring for the upcoming Albany International Folk n Shanty Festival.

The current landed commercial catch in WA is about 80 tonnes from a number of commercial fisheries on the south and west coasts still permitted to take herring.

“Currently 40 tonnes (of herring) are caught by beach seine (nets) with a beach price of $1 per kg, and should we be allowed to catch 70 tonnes this year, it will be at the beach price, therefore gross value production of the fishery will rise by approximately 150 per cent,” Mr Westerberg said. “In addition to increasing fishing revenue, opening the G-trap fishery would see approximately 15 casual jobs on the fishing beaches and 10 jobs in the fish processing factories, these jobs would run for the six to eight-week season.

“The herring fishery brought in 25 per cent of our gross profit; losing this was a huge blow as we are only a small family business.”

Mr Westerberg said when south coast fishers were told they were being shut down, his father spent $50,000 on research, done by independent scientist, Jeremy Prince.

“His findings were a lot different than the department’s, so the department got another independent scientist, Malcolm Haddon, to conduct more findings,” he said.

“Malcolm’s findings were that in 2009-2010 there may have been low recruitment, although from 2010 to 2014 things had improved and he suggested to leave the G-trap fishery open and continue to sample and monitor the stocks.”

The research conducted into herring stock numbers was highly questioned by fishermen.

Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development director of aquatic resource management Nathan Harrison said the decision to close the G Net fishery was one of several management measures introduced to reduce overall herring catch levels to support recovery of the resource.

“The department’s position is to maintain the current management arrangements,” he said.

“The specific management measure to close the G Net fishery was one of a number of management measures introduced to reduce overall herring catch levels to support recovery of the herring resource.

“Any proposal to re-open the G-Net fishery would therefore need to be considered against the effects this catch may have on the rate of recovery of the herring stock, the shared nature of the resource and how to best use this resource to benefit the community.”

A scientific workshop was held in October 2017 and presented that positive signs regarding recovery of the herring resource.

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