Snapper ban extension proposed for SA

THE South Australian Government is set to announce a controversial extension to the state's November snapper fishing ban which would see it continue through to January. The move has sparked a wave of protest from rec fishers and tourism operators who are set to be directly affected by the proposal. 

The Adelaide Advertiser reports that SA Fisheries Minister Gail Gago is set to announce the snapper ban extension to protect stocks during the spawning season.

Ms Gago said her department is finalising talks with regional groups but no final decision had been made.

"We understand the need for business certainty and holiday planning - and economic and social issues will be considered in our decision-making processes," Ms Gago said.

"Once a decision has been finalised it will be widely communicated to the community."

The idea of extending the ban was raised in a snapper options paper released for public comment last year. Public comment on the paper closed in January.

Yorke Peninsula Council CEO Andrew Cameron said towns in the region rely heavily on summer tourism.

"We have towns with thousands of bookings from people interstate and from Adelaide who make plans centred on fishing so it would be extremely disappointing if a decision was made now which extended the ban into this Christmas period," he said.

"We understand you need a sustainable fishery and want to work with the department, but it seems families who book a holiday to go fishing will be penalised ahead of commercial fishers. Places like Ardrossan will feel a big impact."

Peak recreational fishing group RecFish SA this week supported a ban to December 15 only and has proposed a "share-the-pain" plan should the ban continue throughout the vital December-January spawning season.

Under its proposal, commercial fishermen would only fish Monday to Wednesday while recreational fishermen could fish Friday to Sunday, with Thursday set aside as "rest day" for snapper.

RecFish SA executive officer Gary Flack said: "An extension to December 15 would not have too great an impact on recreational fishing but the main issue is commercial fishing - if no action is taken there just won't be any fish. We would like to see the interim limit of 850kg per day on commerical fishing cut back to something like 350kg a day."

Editor of the SA Angler Shane Mensforth today echoed concerns over commercial fishing impact in the state and calls the government's proposal "ludicrous".

"My main beef (with the proposed extension) is that the pros take eighty per cent of the snapper catch and rec fishers only take eight per cent, yet we have to share the same 'pain' ", Mensforth told Fisho today. 

On the effect an extended snapper ban will have on South Australian tourism, Mensforth says "How would you feel if you have your annual holidays booked for January and you arrive in one of the (affected) towns and you're told you're not allowed to fish?"

"There are some very upset people down here at the moment ... my phone rang constantly yesterday afternoon after this (story) came out."

Mensforth says he expects there will be widespread protest among SA's rec fishing community if the ban extension goes ahead.

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