Fishwise Community Grants - 2011 Funding Round

Junior Angler Log Book

Lead Agency: Tasmanian Association for Recreational Fishing Inc (TARFish)
Funding: $5,000
Start Date: 01 January 2012 End Date: 12 October 2012
Status: COMPLETED
Aims and Objectives:

1) Engage and encourage junior anglers to increase their participation in recreational fishing.
2) Establish a pathway into future Angler Diary programs.
3) Build up a network of junior anglers.

Final Report
What did the project achieve?
  • Logbook has been printed and ready for distribution.
  • Project objectives and aims will be achieved following distribution at public events commencing wit the Tas Trout expo in October and Royal Hobart Show in October 2012 where we expect to distribute around 400-500 copies.

Click on image to download logbook

Benefits
Supports management key messages around responsible fishing by including My Fishing Rules page and supporting cartoon messages which are based on the TARFish Recreational Fishing Code of Practice Booklet aimed at adults.

We believe this project will set up a regime within the junior angler community that encourages them to voluntarily record their catches. We believe in time this project will lead junior anglers into the IMAS Angler Diary Program which will make their efforts in recruiting volunteers easier.

It is expected the Junior Angler Logbook will encourage increased participation in recreational fishing by junior anglers.


Developing a low-cost monitoring regime to assess relative abundance and population characteristics of sand flathead

Lead Agency: Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS)
Funding: $32,741
Start Date: 01 January 2012 End Date: 1 July 2015
Status: COMPLETED
Aims and Objectives:

Develop and implement a cost-effective monitoring program to assess the status of sand flathead stocks in the main fishing areas through the:
1. application of standardised catch rate indices as a proxy for trends in abundance/availability;
2. determination of population age structure as an indicator of stock condition; and
3. estimation of instantaneous total mortality rates.

Secondary objectives include the:
1. collation and synthesis of available information on sand flathead; and
2. examination of movement patterns based on conventional tagging to inform on factors such as seasonal variability in availability and mixing between areas.

Final Report

What did the Project achieve?

1.   application of standardised catch rate indices as a proxy for trends in abundance/availability - achieved

Both raw catch rates and standardised catch rates (corrected for fisher effects) were compared by region and sample year using non-parametric pairwise tests and a general linear model. Catch rate comparisons indicate lower abundance of legal sized flathead in the D'Entrecasteaux Channel and are consistent with indications from size and age structure.  Catch rate is likely to provide a useful index of abundance for sand flathead stocks and this study has accrued a useful baseline against which future changes in population can be measured. 

2.   determination of population age structure as an indicator of stock condition – achieved

An otolith ageing protocol was established that yielded cost-effective, precise age estimates for retained fish.  Size and age structure, and particularly sex ratios (by size and age), were very informative and indicated that females grow faster and to a larger maximum size, and were more vulnerable to the fishery.  Age-based population modelling estimated much higher fishing mortality in females, and higher fishing mortality in the D'Entrecasteaux Channel.

Secondary objectives:

1.    collation and synthesis of available information on sand flathead – achieved


A literature review on the biology, and fisheries management of flathead species was conducted and included in the project final report.

2.   examination of movement patterns based on conventional tagging to inform on factors such as seasonal variability in availability and mixing between areas – achieved in part

Despite the release of 630 tagged flathead, no tag recaptures were recorded in research fishing, and only four were reported from recreational fisher catches.  The maximum time at liberty was 308 days and the longest distance travelled was 8 km.  This low recapture rate (< 1%), is unlikely to be due to high mortality of tagged fish (or significant tag loss) as only large fish were tagged and previous IMAS research has shown high survival of tagged flathead.  It is more likely to indicate a low report rate of tag recaptures from the recreational fishery.  Greater promotion of the tagging program amongst recreational fishers would appear to be a priority in future tagging programs. 

The primary objective of developing and implementing a cost-effective monitoring program to assess the status of sand flathead stocks in the main fishing areas is achieved as the sampling and analyses conducted in this project have established that: fishing mortality is high in the main areas of the Tasmanian flathead fishery; females are more vulnerable to the fishery; and that consequently, management action to reduce effort is recommended.  The snapshot generated by this project will also provide a baseline against which to measure the response of the population to changes in management.

Benefits

This study has identified that exploitation rates for Sand Flathead are high, especially in the D’Entrecasteaux Channel and on females. 

A management initiated proposal to increase the minimum size limit to 320 mm would result in a trade-off in terms of reduced theoretical yield per recruit but would be balanced by the combined effects of reducing the effective rate of fishing mortality and provide additional protection to the adult spawning stock.  In particular, because of growth rate differences between the sexes female Sand Flathead are more vulnerable to the fishery than males, such an increase in the minimum size would allow most females to spawn for an additional year or so before entering the fishery.

The fishery independent catch sampling regime implemented in this study has contributed important information about the stock status in the main regions of the fishery and represents a baseline against which future changes in abundance and management initiatives could be assessed. 

Follow-up/ Maintenance

The present study has demonstrated that research surveys based on about 10 days of field sampling per year have the potential to provide a low-cost (less than $10,000 per annum in operating costs) index of population and fishery status for Sand Flathead in key areas of the fishery.  It is recommended, therefore, that the monitoring regime developed in this study be implemented to support the on-going monitoring and assessment of Sand Flathead in Tasmania, with data to contribute to the annual assessment of the scalefish fishery.

  Assess Abundance and Population of Sand Flathead 2014   (806Kb)

Baseline studies for key recreational and commercial marine species in Tasmania

Lead Agency: Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS)
Funding: $48,067
Start Date: 01 January 2012 End Date: 18 June 2014
Status: COMPLETED
Aims and Objectives:
  1. To develop a long view understanding of changes that have occurred in the distribution and abundance of key recreational fishing species in Tasmania, particularly species with a history of exploitation and/or species that spend all or the majority of their life cycle within Tasmanian waters.
  2. To better understand the long term relationship between levels of exploitation and viability of key species in order to inform fisheries management targets.
Final Report

What did the Project achieve?

The study analysed historical documents dating back to  early settlers, historical catch data and influences of exploitation levels, technological adaptations, management changes and recent climate change mediated temperature increases.   An important component is the collation of  anecdotal  observations of  change through semi-structured interviews with "old time fishers".  Understanding the historical abundance and average size (length) may provide benchmarks or baselines from which subsequent changes can be evaluated and an understanding of how fish stocks have responded to varying degrees of fishing or environmental change.

This study contributes to a better understanding of changes in fish populations through time. Understanding the past state of fish stocks, particularly their abundance, provides a benchmark or baseline‟ from which subsequent changes can be evaluated. This long-view approach to understanding the past state of a fishery can not only help to contextualise current stock levels but may have implications for the sustainable management of the fishery.

Five species were investigated in this study - Southern Sand Flathead (Platycephalus bassensis), Blue Warehou (Seriolella brama), Greenback Flounder (Rhombosolea tapirina), Bastard Trumpeter (Latridopsis forsteri) and Southern Rock Lobster (Jasus edwardsii).

The study analysed  historical documents dating back to  early settlers, historical catch data and influences of exploitation levels, technological adaptations,  and management changes.   Collated  anecdotal  observations of  change through semi-structured interviews with "old time fishers".

The findings for each species; as stated in the Executive Summary of the published  report  is as follows:

Southern Sand Flathead

In Tasmania, Southern Sand Flathead are primarily targeted by recreational fishers: the species currently comprises around two thirds of all fish (by number) caught recreationally. While comparatively small quantities of Southern Sand Flathead are landed by the commercial fishery relative to the Tiger Flathead, commercial catch returns have generally not differentiated flathead catches by species and thus a reliable time series of Southern Sand Flathead catches is not available. Flathead (assumed to be primarily Southern Sand Flathead) were described from catches made from early explorers and catches and attitudes towards this species provided insights into the former states of flathead stocks. Prior to the second half of the 20th century the species was generally unpopular among Tasmanian consumers and had little commercial importance. This unpopularity was due to its "ugly" appearance, its ubiquity ("commonness") and its reputation as a scavenger. Largely due to these perceptions, Southern Sand Flathead stocks were likely to have been in a unfished state up until the last 60 or so years. Based on interviews with fishers, it appears that stocks of legal-sized Southern Sand Flathead have declined considerably in both abundance and average size through time. Most fishers also reported that whereas the species tended to be widely distributed in large numbers, the distribution has become increasingly patchy in recent years.

Bastard Trumpeter

Unlike flathead, Bastard Trumpeter were very popular among Tasmanians soon after colonisation. These fish were abundant around inshore reefs and were generally caught using gillnets. Harvesting reduced densities of fish closest to populated areas, particularly Hobart. By 1916, most nearby areas had been fished and the average size of fish declined. Effort then expanded into unfished areas, particularly to the south west and west coasts and record volumes of the species were caught. By around 1940 however, few unfished areas remained and commercial catch rates and catches declined until the mid-1980s, when successive successful recruitment pulses appeared to increase their abundance. Catch rates declined again in the mid-1990s and catches over the past decade or so have remained low, in part linked to low market demand. Recently, recreational catch has exceeded the commercial catch. Fisher interviews suggest that, since the 1940s, catch rates may have declined as much as ninefold. They also report the increasing relative scarcity of the larger "whitefish" and the lack of variation in size classes.

Blue Warehou

Blue Warehou, often called  "snotty trevally" or "snotties", are known to be highly mobile with high inter-annual variation in their availability within Tasmanian waters. This variation in abundance was noted as early as the first half of the 19th century. When available, they were caught commercially by the gillnet fishery, which commenced in the south east and gradually spread to other areas. They have also been historically popular among recreational fishers, caught on line and with gillnets. Until around the 1980s, catch rates were good, suggesting that fishing activities to this date had little impact on this relatively fast growing species. However, overfishing in the Commonwealth managed commercial fishery during the 1980s and 1990s had a large impact on fish numbers, including the size of schools migrating into Tasmanian waters. Some fishers interviewed recalled catching upwards of 100 fish per net-set and would often restrict set times to avoid catching too many. Currently, catches are low and sporadic. The Commonwealth have implemented a stock rebuilding strategy.

Greenback Flounder

Flounder (assumed to be primarily Greenback Flounder) were often mentioned in the journals of early explorers who frequently caught them using seine nets off sandy beaches in Tasmania's south east. However, decades later, this method was responsible for the reduction of flounder numbers in the Derwent and Tamar estuaries, which were important sources of seafood for the fledgling colonies of Hobart and Launceston. This decline in local stocks eventually prompted remedial measures including the implementation of area closures and gear restrictions. The spread of the fishery to neighbouring waters and the rising prominence of other fisheries also shifted effort away from local flounder stocks at the time. Interview information suggests that although flounder stocks have in general not experienced the same degree of decline as some other species, localised depletions have occurred more recently. However, each of fishers interviewed held the view that the average size of legal-sized fish had not changed through time.

Southern Rock Lobster

Some early explorers and new colonists made explicit references to the abundance of Southern Rock Lobster on Tasmanian inshore reefs. In unfished or lightly fished waters, dozens of fish could be captured in a short time using hoop nets (cray rings) or by wading in knee-deep water. Their abundance promoted a commercial fishery in the south east using hoop nets. Originally destined for local markets, Southern Rock Lobster began to be exported interstate from the 1870s, where they obtained higher prices. In Tasmania, they were not highly regarded by consumers. Nonetheless, sufficient local and interstate demand existed such that localised changes in density became apparent by the late 19th century. However, it was not until the legalisation of lobster pots in 1925 that catches escalated, primarily in response to growth in demand from interstate markets. The fishery expanded to unfished areas and many scalefishers transitioned into the more lucrative Rock Lobster fishery. By the mid-1940s, catch rates fell while catches continued to rise. The average size of fish caught also declined over time and plateaued in the 1960s. By this time, management measures were implemented to address the decline in Southern Rock Lobster stocks.

While robust commercial data for the fishery has been available for many years, information collected through interviews with fishers has provided a supplementary view from which to assess changes in Rock Lobster stocks, particularly in shallow inshore areas. Over time, interviewees reported travelling further and fishing deeper whilst catching fewer and smaller Rock Lobster. While data vary between regions, and are limited in terms of respondent numbers, overall recalled catch rates (legal sized Rock Lobster per pot-lift) declined from 5.9 in the 1950s to a current average of 0.7 Rock Lobster. This decline in recalled information is greater than was recorded in catch and effort data over the same period although consistent in general trend. Over the same period, fishers reported a 25% reduction in the average weight of legal-size Rock Lobster.

Concluding remarks

Despite important differences between species in terms of fishing methods, ecological characteristics, sectoral utilisation and patterns of exploitation, this research suggests that abundances of each of the study species has declined considerably since European settlement. While this is expected, and is a natural consequence of fishing, the indications of the scale and speed of the declines for some species is of interest. Research needs have been indicated throughout this report to address knowledge gaps – particularly for species and/or regions for which additional information would facilitate a more accurate and complete picture of past and present fishery trends. Comparisons between Local Ecological Knowledge and commercial catch rate data for the Southern Rock Lobster fishery suggests that while interviewees accurately perceived the direction of abundance trends they have tended to overestimate their scale, particularly changes that occurred prior to 1995. It is possible that factors apart from recall bias may help explain these discrepancies, such as fishery scale effects and differences in fishing behaviour between recreational and commercial fishers. In recognising these uncertainties, catch rate trends reported by interviewees and their inferences about patterns of abundance and stock status need to be considered as being indicative of the direction rather than magnitude of change. In spite of these uncertainties, many of the observations in this report will serve as a useful reference for fishers, managers and researchers as they seek to understand the past states of fish stocks and set management targets.

Click on image to download full report

Benefits

This study has provided the most comprehensive synthesis of information regarding changes that have occurred stocks since European settlement for several of Tasmania’s key fish.  While there are obvious limitations and potential biases in some of the data sourced for this study (including issues associated with recall), it does nonetheless provide a unique long-term perspective of trends which we anticipate prove useful for stakeholders, managers and researchers when considering future management targets and goals.

Follow-up/ Maintenance

The most obvious follow-up would be to expand the scope of the study to include more species and, for several of the species already reported, to increase sample sizes to strengthen the data.  Notwithstanding this, we have sufficient information for several of the key species to seek to publish these accounts in the primary scientific literature.

Assessing post-release survival of southern bluefin tuna from recreational fishing

Lead Agency: Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS)
Funding: $60,400
Start Date: 01 February 2012 End Date: 14 April 2016
Status: COMPLETED
Objectives:

The specific objectives of the project are:
  • Quantify post-release survival rates for SBT caught by recreational fishing
  • Determine key factors affecting post release survival of SBT from recreational fishing
  • Develop a 'Code of practice' identifying strategies that have potential to minimise sub-lethal impacts and increase post release survival of SBT
Final Report

What did the Project achieve?

A post-release survival rate estimate of recreationally caught and released SBT.

An analysis of physiological stress of SBT after capture related to a range of factors occurring during the capture process.

A fishery independent estimate of seal predation rates on SBT in Tasmania (concurring with fishery dependent estimates from previous studies).

The development of a fact based code of practice relating specifically to the recreational capture, handling, release and tagging of SBT.

Broad engagement with the recreational fishing sector throughout the project.

Broad dissemination of results and the code of practice.

Benefits

The results of this study contribute to furthering knowledge on un-accounted sources of mortality for SBT, and in concert with a robust estimate of recreational fishing harvest, will lead to a greater transparency of Australia's recreational fishery for SBT.  The results also provide information that can be used by the recreational fishing sector to improve fish capture and handling techniques.  Maintaining or improving fish handling practices is fundamental to minimising the unintended impacts of recreational fishing on SBT and improved stewardship of the recreational fishing sector.

In addition, the results provide confidence that current recreational fishing management strategies utilising catch limits are not compromised by a substantially high post-release mortality rate for SBT.  Similarly, voluntary catch and release fishing, given release rates of SBT reported elsewhere, is not expected to greatly increase unintended mortality arising from recreational capture of the species.

The Code of Practice (COP) presented in this report is intended to provide fact based information on strategies to reduce the rate of unintended mortality, improve animal welfare, maximise the quality of fish flesh retained for consumtpion and reduce fish wastage.  Each strategy presented in the full version of the COP has a brief explanation of the rationale that underpins it so recreational fishers, whether beginners or experienced, understand the basis for the recommendations.  A summary version of the COP was also prepared.  The effectiveness of the COP is contingent on broad adoption by key recreaional stakeholder groups and the recreational fishing community that target SBT.

An on-site survey of recreational SBT fishing to cross-validate catch rates and size composition with results from an off-site phone-diary survey

Lead Agency: Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS)
Funding: $52,000
Start Date: 01 February 2012 End Date: 19 March 2014
Status: COMPLETED
Objectives:

The specific objectives of the project are:

1. Quantify the recreational SBT catch for the 2012 fishing season using an on-site survey method at key access points.
2. Compare and validate catch rates and size composition data from the on-site survey with those from an off-site phone/diary survey.
3. Quantify the size composition of the recreational SBT catch to convert harvested numbers to harvested biomass.

Final Report

What did the project achieve?

The project has provided an estimate of catch and effort for Southern Bluefin Tuna caught from Pirates Bay and Southport boat ramps. These two access points have traditionally been major access points for the recreational SBT fishery, and the sites of previous onsite surveys to estimate recreational harvest of SBT.

When comparing results between the onsite and offsite survey methods it was evident that while these two boat ramps were indeed major access points, many other boat ramps were used to access the recreational SBT fishery. Therefore the onsite survey, as it was implemented in this study, only provides a partial coverage of access points and subsequently only a partial (or minimum estimate) of SBT harvested by the recreational sector.


The onsite nature of the survey allowed survey staff to measure a proportion of the SBT landed. This provided useful data to convert catch numbers to catch weights for both the onsite and offsite surveys.

Benefits

The comparison of the onsite and offsite survey methods to assess the recreational catch of SBT has provided evidence that an onsite survey is not an appropriate method for assessing recreational catch of SBT in Tasmania due to the large number of access points to the fishery that are available in Tasmania. This result will inform the design of future studies to assess the recreational catch of SBT (and other key offshore recreational fish species) in Tasmania. The results will also be integral to the development of a methodology to assess the national catch of SBT, a project currently being conducted by ABARES (funded by FRDC) of which the PI of this project is a co-investigator.

Follow-up/Maintenance

The results presented provide a one year, snapshot of catch and effort from key boat ramps used to access SBT by the recreational fishing sector. The combined results of this and the offsite survey indicated that an onsite survey is not an effective method of providing a comprehensive assessment of the recreational catch of SBT. The main reason being that the survey coverage was not sufficient to accommodate a significant number of vessels targeting SBT. In future it would be recommended that an offsite phone diary survey would be the appropriate method to provide a robust estimate of the catch of SBT, with the added benefit of providing catch estimates for a range of other key species. It would be beneficial to include a small onsite survey to measure fish landed to allow for a robust conversion of the number of fish caught to weight of fish caught.

The full IMAS Final Report is available at Fishwise Community Grants 2010 Funding Round.


Investigating licensing arrangements for Tasmanian recreational fisheries

Lead Agency: Sven Frijlink
Funding: $18,800
Start Date: 01 January 2012 End Date: 9 October 2012
Status: COMPLETED
Objectives:

The specific objectives of the project are:

1. To critically evaluate the current licensing framework for Tasmania's marine recreational fisheries
2. To investigate alternative licensing frameworks for Tasmania's marine recreational fisheries based on criteria developed in collaboration with stakeholders.
3. To establish an understanding of what fishers expect from the licensing framework and how potential changes to the current licensing system may be perceived.

Final Report
Project background and outcomes
The report has been completed by an independent consultant under a Fishwise Community Grant project. Although the Recreational Fisheries Advisory Committee had supported this project proposal and the Department commissioned the project, at this stage there are no changes proposed for recreational sea licenses in Tasmania. The report does not make any recommendations. The report may be further contemplated when considering the challenges faced with declining recreational license and Fishwise revenues.

The published report provides an overview of the:
  • current licensing framework and its the strengths and challenges;
  • current Fishwise budgetary position;
  • an overview of different license frameworks; and,
  • an assessment of alternative licensing models.
The report raises the key issues with the current framework including:
  • revenue generating capacity;
  • revenue security and fluctuating revenue resulting from a reliance on single-species fisheries (that may undergo natural fluctuations in stock and therefore participation);
  • difficulties and costs involved in contacting fishers in non- licensed fisheries for research (surveys) and in the communication of management related information; and,
  • equity issues - e.g. fishers involved with certain fisheries pay and others do not.
The report states that
    "Some models 'performed' considerably better than others; both in terms of individual criteria and as an overall assessment. Of the latter, variations of the Marine Waters Fishing Licence (MWFL) with endorsements received the highest aggregate scores. The combination of broadening the licence revenue base through a 'general licence' coupled with the use of licence endorsements to access high value and high impact fisheries was deemed to address the criteria most successfully. The ability to maintain a system of endorsements for high value and high impact fisheries, and its associated advantages, was deemed especially appropriate for the licensing of Tasmania's marine recreational fisheries."

Click on image to download full report

Bridport Primary Discovery Centre

Lead Agency: Bridport Primary School
Funding: $5,000
Start Date: 19 September 2011 End Date: 14 November 2014
Status: COMPLETED
Aims and Objectives:
  • Increase students' knowledge of Tasmania's fish resources and habitats and the need to manage them sustainably.
  • Develop students' understanding on the preservation of the marine habitats.
  • Educate students about adopting responsible recreational fishing behaviours including a strong understanding of bag limits and size of catch.
  • Develop students' understanding about the effects of recreational and commercial fishing on the marine environment if not managed properly.
  • Develop students' understanding of the importance of recreational and commercial fishing to Tasmanian coastal communities.

Final Report

What did the project achieve?

The project has involved the creation of a Discovery Centre whereby students will learn about: marine life in Tasmania, recreational and commercial fishing and its effects on our marine ecosystem and the need to develop responsible and sustainable fishing practices.

Bridport Primary School worked in conjunction with Fishcare in order to create resources that will help to educate the students, with the aim of increasing responsible fishing behaviours within the students, along with any other visitors to the centre.

Benefits

A range of curriculum resources have been developed that link to the national curriculum.  These resources will help with the teaching of concepts linked with recreational fishing and commercial fishing practices.

A range of fish moulds have been made to help students identify Tasmanian species as well as understand size limits.  Students become familiar with Tasmanian sea-marine life.  Through the resources the students are developing a greater appreciation of Tasmanian sea-marine life.  The students are measuring the fish moulds to understand the legal size of "keepers".

Students themselves are consciously developing and practising sustainable recreational fishing practices that can be communicated back through the community to the adult fishers.

Follow-up/ Maintenance

Developing learning experiences at each grade level that link to the curriculum so that it becomes an ongoing resource for years to come.

Click on image to download pamplet


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