Media Release Fisheries

Some WA south coast fisheries in serious trouble: GoodFish guide

December 8, 2023
  • Greenlip abalone and southern rock lobster fisheries are in deep trouble
  • Snapper, hapuku, nannygai and blue groper fisheries managed using old data
  • South coast marine park will help support healthier, more resilient marine environment

Many fisheries on Western Australia’s south coast are in serious trouble or lacking proper scientific management, according to the nation’s most comprehensive and trusted consumer guide to sustainable seafood.

The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) GoodFish Sustainable Seafood Guide has just released its latest update on the sustainability of more than 200 seafood options found at Australian fishmongers, supermarkets, fish and chip shops and restaurants, including the major wild-caught seafood options produced in WA. 

AMCS Sustainable Seafood Program Manager Adrian Meder said there has been some commendable progress in the recovery of overfished species in some regions of WA, including Australian herring and snapper stocks off the Gascoyne coast, but there are serious concerns for south coast seafood options including greenlip abalone and southern lobster fisheries. In addition, the region’s reef fish stock assessments are based on out-of-date data. 

“Western Australia’s greenlip abalone fishery is showing only marginal improvement after 2011’s marine heatwave and continued declines in some populations on the south coast,” Mr Meder said. 

“The hapuku fishery on the south coast is still being managed according to fish stock data that is nearly 20 years old, and all of the area’s inshore reef fish, including nannygai, snapper and blue groper, are being managed using information no more recent than 2014.

“That is well short of best-practice fishery management in Australia, where scientific assessments of fish stock abundance are conducted at least every five years – as they are for snapper on WA’s west coast and at Shark Bay. It’s poor practice in a region subject to rapid climate change and marine heatwaves.

“Southern rock lobsters are a key ecological species in maintaining the health of rocky reefs, but their biomass is near all-time lows in waters around Esperance.

“Despite this, the latest stock status report by WA’s Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) lists the south coast rock lobster fishery as ‘low risk’ to the ecosystem, based on studies of the western rock lobster fishery – a different species in a different part of the state with entirely different fishery management arrangements. 

“The south coast’s precious fishery resources are not being adequately protected or invested in by the WA Government. We can’t recommend that to seafood lovers as a sustainable approach.

“We need to see regularly updated scientific assessments based on up-to-date data for the south coast’s reef fish resource. You can’t manage the future of a fishery safely on counts of fish populations from more than a decade ago.

“The ocean itself is experiencing rapid climate change. We need to carefully monitor and build resilience in our fishery resources and the wider marine environment so they can survive. Key abalone populations are still not showing sufficient recovery since the marine heatwave in 2011 against a backdrop of heavy fishing pressure.

“In addition to good fisheries management, marine parks with strong sanctuary protections play a key role in supporting and increasing fish populations, and supporting a healthy and resilient marine environment. A south coast marine park, with strong science-based sanctuary protection, can help rebuild depleted populations, providing both biodiversity and economic benefits.”