Snapper is an iconic fish in South Australia and a primary target species for the commercial, recreational and charter boat fishing sectors. However, South Australia faces a challenge in relation to the sustainability of Snapper in this state.
In June 2019, the South Australian Research and Development Institute provided updated information on Snapper spawning biomass estimates from the Daily Egg Production Method (DEPM), which identified that over the past five years, biomass in Spencer Gulf has reduced by an estimated 23% and biomass in Gulf St Vincent has reduced by an estimated 87%.
This information was integrated into a recently finalised 2019 Snapper stock assessment () which identified:
- an extended period of poor recruitment of juveniles entering the Snapper stock, especially in Spencer Gulf
- a reduction in commercial catch rates
- concerning declines in biomass.
The report also confirmed the classification of Snapper stock in:
- Spencer Gulf/West Coast as ‘depleted’
- Gulf St Vincent stocks were classified as ‘depleting’ – the first time the Gulf St Vincent stock has received this assessment.
These findings support the need for urgent action to protect the future of Snapper stocks in South Australia.
New management measures for Snapper
From 1 November 2019 new management measures were introduced to achieve long-term improvement and return the Snapper fishery to sustainable stock levels.
These measures were introduced following consideration of the latest available science and feedback from all stakeholders.
What has changed?
- Total Snapper closure apply to waters in the West Coast, Spencer Gulf and Gulf St Vincent regions () from 12:01 am on 1 November to 11:59 pm 31 January 2023.
- Annual seasonal Snapper closure applies to waters in the South East region () from 12:01 am on 1 November to 11:59 pm on 31 January each year.
- During the closures, the targeting, take and/or possession of Snapper is prohibited in these waters. $315 on-the-spot fines or, if prosecuted, a maximum penalty of $20,000 may apply.
- Accidentally hooked Snapper caught while fishing for other species must be carefully handled to immediately return it to the water. Catch and release fishing is strictly prohibited.
- For the remainder of the year, the South East region will be open to fishing. However, to ensure protection of the South East Snapper stock, a total allowable catch (TAC) will be set and shared between all fishing sectors - commercial, recreational and charter. If the TAC is reached, the fishery will be closed.
Commercial Snapper fishing restrictions
In addition to the closures, commercial fishers need to be aware of the following:
- A total allowable commercial catch (TACC) has been set for the South East region from 1 February to 31 October each year. The proportional catch share for the commercial fishing sector will be maintained at 81% of the total allowable Snapper catch for all sectors, as in the management plan.
- Consultation with the commercial sector and the Snapper Management Advisory Committee has been undertaken to determine how the TACC is managed.
- Once the Commercial Marine Scalefish Fishery Reform process is finalised, commercial restrictions on fishing for Snapper will again be reviewed.
- The tag system does not apply to commercial fishers.
Recreational Snapper fishing restrictions
In addition to the closures, recreational fishers need to be aware of the following:
- If you are a recreational fisher, you must apply for tags to be able to fish for Snapper in the 2020 season, which opens 1 February.
- A total allowable recreational catch (TARC) has been set for the South East region from 1 February to 31 October each year.
- The recreational catch of Snapper in the South East will be managed through a tag system, not by current bag and boat limits. A minimum size limit of 38 cm limits will still apply.
- Before a recreational fisher can target catching Snapper, recreational fishers will be required to have a recreational harvest tag. Any legal-sized Snapper caught will have to be tagged immediately upon capture.
- Recreational fishers must use release weights to maximise the survival of released Snapper.
Charter Snapper fishing restrictions
In addition to the closures, charter fishers need to be aware of the following:
- A total allowable recreational catch (TARC) has been set for the South East region from 1 February to 31 October each year. When this TARC is caught, the recreational fishery will be closed.
- The charter catch of Snapper in the South East will be managed through a tag system, not by current bag and boat limits. A minimum size limit of 38 cm limits will still apply.
- The TARC for charter boat fishers in the South East is 30,030.
- Charter fishers must use release weights to maximise the survival of releasing Snapper.
- 49 Snapper tags will be allocated to every ‘active’ Charter Boat Fishery licence holder.
- Tags will be transferable within the Charter Boat Fishery, but not to recreational fishers.
- Recreational fishers that receive an allocation of tags will be able to use their tags on a charter boat.
- There will be no limit on the number of tags a Charter Boat Fishery licence holder can have in their possession.
Find out more about Snapper management arrangements:
The State Government held workshops with the commercial, recreational and charter sectors in November and December 2018. This led to the development of additional management arrangements for the Snapper fishery which were introduced on 15 December 2018.
Following this, it was determined that further management measures would be necessary for all fishing sectors before the 2019-20 summer. Further workshops and consultation with Commercial and Charter Boat stakeholders, and the Ministers Recreational Fishing Advisory Council, were held throughout 2019. Feedback received through these processes were considered during the design of possible management scenarios.
Minutes from these stakeholder meetings are available below:
- Snapper management arrangements review meeting – 20 June 2019 ()
- Snapper management arrangements review meeting – 13 February 2019 ()
In August 2019, a consultation paper containing two scenarios for the management of Snapper was released for public consultation.
The feedback from this public consultation period, was considered as part of the finalisation of new management arrangements for the Snapper fishery.
Support for fishers
The State Government is aware the change in Snapper management arrangements will have economic and other impacts, particularly on commercial fishers and charter boat operators.
A new program has been established to promote and support the mental health and wellbeing of commercial fishers, charter operators and seafood processors. The Fisheries Family and Business (FaB) Support Program as part of a ‘Stay Afloat’ program is now available to assist those experiencing tough times.
Our Fisheries FaBs are experienced in discussing and addressing difficult issues that come about as a result of hardship and other adverse events. Mentors will:
- work closely with other service providers such as Centrelink, Rural Financial Counselling and local health networks and connect people to those services as required
- provide a free, informal, confidential, independent and understanding approach available for individuals, families or businesses in South Australia who may be affected by hardship.
The program is provided at no cost to the South Australian fisheries industry.
Counselling support contacts
You can contact our Fisheries FaB support mentors direct on their mobile:
Phone: 0409 885 606
Phone: 0409 388 649
Professional counselling support is available 24/7 through the Regional Access program:
- Phone: 1300 032 186
- Web: https://saregionalaccess.org.au
Technical advice contact
For technical advice regarding a fishery, a licence or a lease, you can contact PIRSA:
- Phone: (08) 8226 0900 during normal business hours
- Email: PIRSA.CustomerServices@sa.gov.au
How you can help
Fisheries Officers conduct regular patrols and inspections to monitor fishing activity both on land and at sea. However as South Australian waters are expansive, officers can’t be everywhere at all times.
The South Australian community can play an important role in protecting Snapper stocks by reporting suspicious or illegal fishing behaviour to PIRSA via:
- the free SA Recreational Fishing Guide smartphone app
- the 24-hour FISHWATCH number on 1800 065 522.
All reports are recorded and used to inform compliance planning and operations.
- Frequently Asked Questions - Snapper management arrangements ()
- Media Release:New measures to protect iconic Snapper in place, 1 November 2019
- Media Release: S.O.S. – Saving Our Snapper, 27 September 2019
- Research reports for Snapper Management
- Biomass data for Snapper in South Australia
- Updated research data for Snapper in South Australia - June 2019 ()
- Regional Impact Assessment Study: Implementing updated Snapper management arrangements in South Australia ()
- Commercial Marine Scalefish Fishery
- Charter boat fishery
- Additional support measures to replenish Snapper stocks