Published by The Border Watch
By Raquel Mustillo
SEASON CLOSED: Recreational angler Terry Scicluna has slammed the State Government’s restrictions on snapper in South East waters, saying it will push anglers targeting the species interstate.
AMATEUR anglers who miss out on a State Government-mandated snapper tag will be able to launch out off South Australian ports and catch snapper in Victoria provided they transport their catch back via land.
The State Government’s strict new snapper management arrangements will prohibit recreational fishers from catching snapper in the South East waters unless they have a tag.
The 606 individuals selected out of a randomly-selected ballot will be able to catch five fish during the season, which will open from February 1 to October 30.
However, individuals targeting snapper will be able to circumnavigate the ban by crossing the border - where anglers are able to catch 10 snapper with a minimum 28cm size limit each day - and returning by car.
Mount Gambier recreational fisher Terry Scicluna has joined a growing chorus of Limestone Coast residents who are shocked by the government’s ballot tag system and five fish limit.
Mr Scicluna, who targets snapper in Port MacDonnell, said anglers seeking snapper would drive interstate and fish in Victorian ports.
“People will go over the border and fish at Portland,” he said.
“In Victoria, they have a daily bag limit of 10 snapper each day and if there are seven people on a boat, they can take 70 fish.
“Victoria has a snapper size limit which is 10cm less than South Australia’s, but they do not have an issue so something is working.”
The active fisherman said the current closure of the fishery was having a detrimental effect on other fish stocks.
“I saw 12 boats all fishing for gummy sharks in one area where people would usually be targeting snapper,” he said.
“You can tell the closure is putting pressure on sharks and whiting.
“There are plenty of snapper here in the last five years, the size and quality of snapper in the lower South East has increased.
“We used to catch 38cm to 40cm snapper, but now you will catch snapper up to 60cm.
“The way they have gone with the system is a real knee jerk reaction.”
Mr Scicluna hit out at what he described as a “discriminatory” application eligibility, with all ballot entrants required to be over 10 years old.
“By having an age limit, the government has discriminated against young people,” he said.
“I thought the purpose of fishing with families was to encourage juniors to get into outdoor activities.
“In Victoria, they are actually trying to increase the participation rate of recreational fishing to one million people.
“Here, we have size limits, restrictions and a closed snapper season and the government is just going backwards.”
Beachport fishing tackle shop owner Peter Dunnicliff warned of the effect the restrictions would have on tourists to the region’s coastal towns, who are unable to apply for a snapper tag under the new scheme.
“Beachport gets a lot of visitors from places like Horsham and they are not eligible to apply for the snapper tags,” he said.
“If you have a look around the town in summer, every second car has a Victorian number plate.
“The experienced fishers can still target other species, but it is the amateur fishers who will be impacted.”
In a statement, Primary Industries and Regional Development Minister Tim Whetstone’s office said interstate visitors wishing to target snapper can only do so through licenced charter boat operators who have been allocated snapper tags.
“Recreational snapper tags are only available to South Australian residents,” the statement said.
But Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell believes the stringent new rules will deter recreational fishers from applying for the ballot.
“I can see people not applying because of the red tape,” he said.
“The other concern I have is whether this is the start of a tagging system for all recreational fish.
“Unlike other sectors, the government cannot monitor how many recreational fish are caught but a tagging system would enable them to.”