Outrage over salmon used as cray bait

Shannon SmithAlbany Advertiser
A screenshot of the salmon at Cheyne Beach.
Camera IconA screenshot of the salmon at Cheyne Beach.

Recfishwest has slammed the sale of salmon as cray bait and called for an end to commercial salmon netting at beaches on weekends, school holidays and public holidays.

WA’s peak body for recreational fishing met with Fisheries Minister David Kelly last week, asking him to make changes to the way salmon are commercially fished.

They posted a video to their Facebook page after the meeting which showed netted salmon at Cheyne Beach.

The video, recorded during the annual Great Southern Salmon Campout on March 30, claims the fish were left on the beach for 30 minutes before they were sold as cray bait.

“This is not the best use of this precious fish,” the video captions said.

“The sale of salmon as cray bait is unacceptable and must stop.

“Share this video if you feel as outraged as we do.”

Albany Seafoods holds the licence for salmon fishing at Cheyne Beach.

Owner Bryn Westerberg said the fish were sold for human consumption.

Recfishwest is requesting a reform of salmon management in WA to ensure the value and benefit for all users is recognised and clearly articulated in the objectives of government policy.

Chief executive Andrew Rowland wants the fish to be managed in a way that provides maximum community benefit.

“Salmon have a massive value and benefit for tourism as these iconic fish provide some of the world’s best fishing on the world’s best beaches,” he said.

“It is time for salmon to be managed for the highest and best use, this means tourism, recreation and quality control for human consumption. We have clearly got an issue with heavy machinery driving through groups of anglers on public beaches.”

The machinery is used to drag in fishing nets and carry the harvested fish off the beach — and Recfishwest claims it disrupts recreational fisherman.

Albany Seafoods’ Bryn Westerberg said the load of fish captured in the video would produce about 80,000 cans of salmon.

“We talked to Recfishwest that day and we told them that beach price for salmon is currently $1 per kg,” he said.

“Those fish were iced down and gutted and leaving for Thailand in two weeks to be brought back in small 105g cans.

“That one patch of fish from Cheynes is going to produce about 80,000 cans at a retail price of around $2 each, so it is worth about $150,000 to Australia.

“If they are used for cray bait, the cray industry is worth a couple of billion dollars so whether it is going to bait or not I don’t think is really an issue.

“The season has been poor the last couple of years and without that school of fish we didn’t have enough to fill our container to go to Thailand, so we were desperate.

“If we only had the cray bait market we probably would have left them for the amateurs.”

Mr Westerberg said he sent 300kg of salmon to Perth this week and 100kg over east to prestigious seafood restaurants. They were also giving samples to seafood restaurants in Perth.

He said three Great Southern beaches were commercially salmon fished and he was happy for recreational fisherman to be there because there was enough for everyone.

“Recreational fishers just need to realise that we are only there for a month while the fish are moving through that beach,” he said.

“We can’t go to other beaches and catch them like them.

“Whether you pull a fish up on the beach on a fishing rod after playing with it for 15 minutes or in a net, it is still getting pulled up on the beach.”

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development said it would continue to work with peak industry bodies for the commercial and recreational fishing sectors.

“DPIRD understands the minister will be discussing those concerns with the WA Fishing Industry Council,” a spokesperson said.

Mr Kelly announced last month that the State Government would conduct an investigation into the economic benefit of recreational salmon fishing.

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