Standard Talk (15 mins) Australian Society for Fish Biology Conference 2022

The impact of management changes on the recreational fishery for Sand Flathead in Tasmania (#152)

Kate Stark 1 , Alexia Graba-Landry 1 , Jeremy Lyle 1 , Sean Tracey 1
  1. IMAS, University of Tasmania, Hobart, TASMANIA, Australia

Sand Flathead represent the mainstay of Tasmania's recreational fishery, being the most commonly caught species (>1.6 million fish in 2017/18) and accounting for around 70% of the total marine finfish catch (by numbers) taken by recreational fishers. In the 2014/15 Tasmanian Scalefish Fishery Assessment they were classified as Transitional-Depleting and in response the minimum size limit was increased, and bag limit decreased in late 2015. Despite this management response, the stock status has declined further and has been considered depleted in the last 3 assessments. State-wide recreational fishing surveys conducted in 2013/14 and 2017/18 provide the opportunity to assess the impact of the 2015 management changes on the recreational fishery and potentially predict the response to further management changes currently under consideration.

The number of retained flathead declined slightly in 2017/18, however the numbers released increased by 52% from estimates in 2013/14, to comprise 56% of the total catch in 2017/18.  This was driven by size restrictions with the proportion of the catch released due to being under size increasing from 0.45 to 0.60. Bag limits were rarely met in either survey (less than 2% of successful fisher-days), and fish were rarely released due to bag limit restrictions (0 in 2013/14 and less than 0.4% of released catch in 2017/18). Effort did not change substantially between surveys, with a small and non-significant decrease in the total number of fisher-days (line fishing in inshore and estuarine waters). The proportion of successful fisher-days increased slightly (0.33 to 0.41) however the average catch rate of those successful days declined from 5.41 to 4.17 retained fish. The persistence of fishers to target flathead despite diminishing returns is consistent with motivational survey results showing that non-catch motives relating to relaxation, socialising and environment are more important than catching and consuming fish.