Last Swan commercial fisherman set to go

Since European settlement the silhouette of fishermen trawling the Swan and Canning rivers in the misty dawn light with their nets cast wide has been a common sight.

But declining fish stocks and a persistent lobby from recreational fishermen have seen WA’s oldest commercial fishery gradually diminished to just one licence holder.

Now, under a plan announced by Fisheries Minister Norman Moore yesterday, the Swan and Canning rivers will be closed to commercial fishing and the remaining operator bought out by the State Government.

Mr Moore said there was a longheld view that the Swan and Canning rivers were a focal area for recreational fishing and should be managed accordingly.

Fisheries Department research shows commercial fishing on the rivers dates back to colonisation in 1829. After the first fishing licence was issued in 1899, the fishery peaked in 1920 and again about 1940, with more than 100 operators, in response to food shortages.

Many returned soldiers entered the industry.

Until the 1950s, most fish such as Perth herring, sea mullet, garfish, pilchards and cobbler were canned or smoked with some fish then used as rock lobster bait.

More recently, the fishery comprised mostly crabbing operations. The number of commercial fishermen on the rivers fell to 25 in the mid-1970s after a freeze on licences in 1969.

Adjustment schemes have seen commercial fishermen surrender their licences on a “voluntary” basis and in 2004 only four remained.

Mr Moore said further “voluntary adjustment schemes” resulted in three of those licences being surrendered and operators compensated.

The remaining Swan River fisherman, Neil Oliver, declined to comment when contacted by The West Australian this week.

He said he had not been told when he was required to wind up his operation.

Other fishermen contacted believed they were forced out based on political expediency. One who was bought out last year said there was no reason to close the fishery other than to appease the recreational sector.

The WA Fishing Industry Council criticised the closure yesterday, saying it would hand all Swan River crabs, which were renowned for their size, meatiness and flavour, to recreational fishermen.

Fisheries researcher Kim Smith said the fishery was sustainable but a decision had to be made on how best to manage it.




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Shorty's picture

Posts: 1549

Date Joined: 10/05/08

Thats fantastic news . Colin

Fri, 2009-02-27 08:48

Thats fantastic news .

Colin 3 > long standing and highly respect member of the prestigous Colin's club.

roberta's picture

Posts: 2773

Date Joined: 08/07/08

Hope Fisheries does the same for the

Fri, 2009-02-27 16:56

 crabs in Cockburn Sound, just leave for rec fisho's, to many pros in the sound that were catching crabs 24/7


SPEWIE LEWIE (not for much longer)

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Posts: 1068

Date Joined: 30/03/08

After the first fishing

Sat, 2009-02-28 07:28

After the first fishing licence was issued in 1899, the fishery peaked in 1920 and again about 1940, with more than 100 operators, in response to food shortages.


Its amazing really isnt it. The Swan once supported 100 operators at its peak.

Thats a lot of fish.


Angling tourism is worth $10 billion to the Australian economy - 90000 jobs; more than any sport; spread the word

Mulloway360's picture

Posts: 209

Date Joined: 23/12/08

thankz 4 the update

Sat, 2009-02-28 08:27

thankz 4 the update

joe amato's picture

Posts: 731

Date Joined: 21/12/08

yeah,maybe the the fishing will be better

Tue, 2009-03-03 16:38

finally no1 to molest the mulloway no more,because they net them in between the other fish,like mullet ,cobbler,bream and all the other fish species,how i know this,you ask? its because the fisherman,used 2 bring between 10 to thirty mulloway ,each day just about each day,because i used to work 4 kailis in west pert at the fish markets in west perth.this anoyed me inside, and these fishermen ,would get about 1.00 akilo,and release bull sharks back alive,because they were worth  only 50c a kilo