South Australian government extends ban on fishing snapper in most state waters

South Australian government extends ban on fishing snapper in most state waters

The South Australian government has extended a ban on fishing for snapper in most waters for another three-and-a-half years as the species population continues to struggle.  

Key points:

  • A ban on fishing for snapper in most state waters has been extended until July 2026
  • A recent report found snapper stocks remain depleted 
  • The state government will spend $8.8 million on fishing sector support and snapper recovery programs

The decision follows the release of a report assessing snapper stock numbers in state waters by the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) last month. 

The report found the ban, which was introduced in November 2019, stopped the overall decline in snapper numbers but there was yet to be any evidence of stock recovery in the Spencer Gulf, West Coast and Gulf St Vincent. 

The state government on Saturday announced an $8.8 million support package, including $2.4 million to assist commercial, recreational and charter sectors impacted by the extended ban. 

Out of the rest of the funding, $5 million will go towards a science program to improve “understanding of the factors that underpin stock recovery” and $200,000 will be spent on reef restoration projects.

The final $1.2 million will be spent over two years on a snapper restocking program that will produce nearly a million fingerlings to replenish stocks in the Spencer Gulf and Gulf St Vincent. 

Clare Scriven looks directly at the camera during a press conference in an outdoor location

Clare Scriven says the decision to extend the snapper fishing ban was the only responsible option available given stocks remain depleted. (ABC News)

The state government said PIRSA (the Department of Primary Industries and Regions in South Australia) would work closely with Seafood Industry Australia in expanding the national Stay Afloat program to support the mental health and wellbeing of affected commercial fishers, charter operators and seafood processors. 

Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Clare Scriven said extending the snapper ban was “the only responsible decision available” given stocks remain depleted. 

“We acknowledge the significant contribution from the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation in funding $2.5 million toward supporting necessary research to further inform our knowledge of the snapper resource,” she said. 

“Decisions of this nature must be guided by science, and on this occasion the science is clear — to do anything other than continue the closure could have placed Snapper stocks in a position where they may not have been able to recover.” 

A fish underwater

There have been limitations on fishing for snapper in South Australia since 2019. (Supplied: DPIRD)

Seafood Industry Australia director Kyri Toumazos supported the decision. 

“Sustainability must be the first consideration when making these difficult decisions,” he said. 

“I welcome the support package, in particular the strong focus on improving the science program to give a clearer understanding of the fishery.”

Charter Boat Association of SA president Tom Di Vittorio said he was pleased the state government acted upon the association’s calls for a 50 per cent licence fee relief for charter operators. 

“We are disappointed but at the end of the day we have to do a continuation because otherwise, we are going to lose out in the long term,” he said. 

“As for longevity, I need my kids to catch some snapper too.” 

Tom Di Vittorio with a neutral expression

Tom Di Vittorio says the extension was necessary to ensure longevity of snapper fishing in SA. (ABC News)

RecFish SA executive officer Asher Deszery said recreational fishers were disappointed to learn that there has not been a meaningful bounce-back of snapper populations. 

“Recreational anglers really do care about the sustainability of every fish species in our gulf. 

“We did advocate for various changes or whether some things could open but unfortunately the science wasn’t there and we had to do what we could to ensure that this fish has long-term sustainability for all stakeholders involved.” 

Fishing is allowed in the South-East region, which is part of the Western Victoria snapper stock, under strict rules managing bag, boat and size limits as well as mandatory reporting of all snapper catches.

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