A three-year statewide snapper closure for all sectors in South Australia is one option being considered to save ever dwindling stocks on this iconic fish.
The SA Government is seeking public input on scenarios to rebuild South Australia's decimated snapper populations, including a proposal to close the entire state to snapper fishing until 2023.
The consultation paper includes two scenarios for discussion.
Scenario A: A three-year statewide snapper closure for all sectors from 1 October 2019 to 28 February 2023.
Scenario B: A total snapper closure for the waters of West Coast/Spencer Gulf and Gulf St Vincent regions from October 1, 2019 to February 18, 2023.
Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Tim Whetstone said due to the severity of the situation, in the short term there would be some tough decisions for South Australian fishers, seafood consumers and regional fishing communities.
"The snapper stocks need to be better managed to allow them to recover back to sustainable levels," Minister Whetstone said.
"The science shows drastic action is required to protect snapper stocks and for the future of this fishery... As this species is long lived and slow growing, if we do not make the right decision now there will be ramifications for years to come, and there is a real possibility that our grandchildren won't be able to catch a snapper in South Australian gulfs.
"For years the recreational, commercial and charter fishing sectors have wanted serious action to be taken to halt the decline of our stocks but the former Labor Government failed to act.
"After this public consultation, the Marshall Liberal Government will focus on protecting and rebuilding the stocks into the long term."
Shane Murton from Fishing SA magazine said the impacts of a closure would be drastic.
"Initially like a lot of fishos, I'm frustrated it has come to such drastic measures being proposed, and still firmly believe like many people that recreational anglers aren't the root cause of snapper stocks declining in our gulfs," Mr Murton said.
"My mind is boggling with the ramifications both the proposed options will pose, in terms of the financial loss to all sectors that have links to recreational snapper fishing in SA, and the basic fact that we may not be able to target one of our iconic fish species!
"On another level some hard management decisions had to be made to stop the rot and give the fishery some hope of returning to its former glory.
"Hopefully Option B, the best of a bad bunch, comes to fruition and we can still at least catch snapper in other areas of SA. A state-wide ban on snapper fishing would, in my opinion, see many fish released dead from deeper areas and targeting the specific gulfs/areas where the bigger fish are most prolific seems a logical way to go.
"The hinge factor to it all however, is the management steps put in place after the three years has run its duration."
Kangaroo Island mayor Michael Pengilly posted on social media that long-nosed fur seals were to blame for the decline of snapper and other fish species.
An annual seasonal snapper closure would apply to the waters in the South East. The South East would be open for snapper fishing from March 1 to September 30 under strict conditions formally limiting the catch for recreational, commercial and charter fishers.
"The latest fisheries science tells us snapper stocks in Gulf St Vincent are rapidly decreasing and they are already 'depleted' in Spencer Gulf, meaning the snapper population is below self-replenishment at current rates of fishing," Minister Whetstone said.
"Over the past five years snapper stocks in Gulf St Vincent decreased by 87 per cent and by 23 per cent in the Spencer Gulf.
"This science backs up anecdotal evidence from fishers who have reported snapper have been harder and harder to find for years in traditional fishing grounds.
"The proposed fishing closures only target snapper and I encourage fishers to look at other species such as Tommy Ruff, Snook, Yellowfin Whiting, Yelloweye Mullet, Silver Trevally, Western Australian Salmon, Mulloway, Flathead, Golden Perch and Leather Jackets, which all offer great eating and enjoyable catching experiences.
"I am encouraging recreational and commercial fishers to continue enjoying fishing in our beautiful waters, but for other species.
"Of course, if the snapper stocks improve to an extent where sustainable fishing can be undertaken again before February 2023, the government will work with industry and fishery managers about how to safely re-open the fishery.
"Separately, the Marshall Liberal Government is working with the commercial Marine Scale Fishery to reform the entire commercial fishery to ensure sustainable fisheries and businesses into the future. The reform will include the requirement to move to a total allowable commercial catch for key species. Further information will be released in the coming weeks regarding this separate reform.
"We want every interested person to have their say on proposed measures to rebuild our snapper stocks."