The recreational fishing community has rejected plans to reduce or remove size limits for 20 species found in WA waters.
Popular species from breaksea cod to red emperor have found an unlikely ally in the anglers who hunt them.
Recfishwest received more than 2400 public submissions in response to a Fisheries size limits review released in November.
The review aims to simplify minimum legal lengths or remove them if they do not contribute to “sustainable management”.
Some of the proposals were based on low-survival rates of species that can suffer barotrauma injuries as they rise to the surface. Recfishwest supported the removal of limits for baldchin groper — despite community opposition — because of strong evidence of barotrauma.
But they wanted limits retained for Spanish mackerel, questioning Fisheries’ claim that more than 90 per cent died after “stress on capture”. The submissions showed a majority of fishers wanted to protect fish rather than catch more.
Recfishwest has given Fisheries a summary of the submissions calling for some limits to be retained and others increased.
Chief executive Andrew Rowland said it showed the strong sense of stewardship in one Australia’s favourite pastimes.
“Although there might not be any biological management imperative to have a size limit on the fish, the community think it’s the right thing to do to put the little ones back,” he said.
“People who are out there catching fishing regularly, the level of respect and knowledge around sustainability is high.”
Ian Sewell is a keen angler who runs a fishing competition called the WA Bream Classics.
The first round of the boat series was held in the Swan River this month, where competitors fished for black bream.
Under the current rules, they can only keep two fish more than 40cm long in the Swan and Canning rivers.
Fisheries propose to remove that limit but Recfishwest wants it applied Statewide.
Mr Sewell said black bream took decades to reach 40cm and bigger fish laid more eggs.
He said demersal fish had a better chance of surviving in the water with a release weight than in a bucket of ice.
The weights are a requirement for demersal fishing in the west coast bioregion.
“We’ve been told by fisheries over the decades the limits are set so the fish can spawn. To build up all of that stewardship abut size limits and turn it on its head seems like a backwards step,” he said.
The chief executive of the WA Fishing Industry Council, John Harrison, said the commercial sector’s peak body had consulted extensively with professional fishers before giving its submission to Fisheries in January.
“WAFIC believes it is in the interests of effectively managing fish stocks that smaller fish, affected by barotrauma are not simply discarded,” he said.