Fishers plead for FADs to be the reel deal

Tamra CarrMidwest Times
Jake de Lange, 21, wants the fish-attracting devices to be close to Geraldton’s coast.
Camera IconJake de Lange, 21, wants the fish-attracting devices to be close to Geraldton’s coast. Credit: Tamra Carr, The Geraldton Guardian

Recreational fishers want a fish-attracting device between Geraldton and the Abrolhos Islands to make sure the State Government’s planned “fishing bonanza” is accessible to people with smaller boats.

Last week, the WA Government announced purpose-built floats, known as fish aggregating devices, would be anchored to the seabed off Geraldton early next year.

According to the State, the device would attract baitfish, which would then attract species such as mahi-mahi, marlin, tuna and wahoo.

Geraldton and Districts Fishing Club commodore Anthony Barnett said the idea had been well received, but the State needed to ensure the devices were put in locations accessible to people with 6 or 7m boats.

“Any further than about 12 to 15 nautical miles offshore, you get to a place where only charter boats and commercial fishers can go because smaller boats can’t withstand the conditions,” the 52-year-old said.

“From our point of view, having the devices is a very good thing, but only if it’s accessible to recreational fishers.”

Recfishwest said locations for FADS off Geraldton had not been confirmed, but a device was planned to be put about 15km or about 8 nautical miles from shore.

The peak body was also waiting on approval for three more devices at the back of the Abrolhos Islands. However, Charter boat operator Pete McIvor said there were already plenty of places to fish near the Abrolhos.

“Geraldton’s a bit funny, really,” Mr McIvor said. “We’ve been coming here about 17 seasons and there’s no island set up for fishing. You have to take all your stuff up there and then leave with it. The Abrolhos also isn’t really accessible by the day either, most people fly in or go out there for a few days.”

Recreational fisher Jake de Lange, 21, said he would like the devices close to shore, as it would “save me from having to travel too far out to catch fish”.

Meanwhile, crayfisherman Peter Armstrong said the devices should be placed behind the Abrolhos because there was a lot of “traffic” in the water before the continental shelf.

He also said the idea would bring in the “big bucks”.

“They have FADs in Fremantle, where Singaporean businessmen fly in, catch fish and then leave,” he said. “They pay a fortune to get on those boats.”

Geraldton’s FAD devices are among 20 being installed off the coast of Perth, Albany, Bunbury, Cape Naturaliste, Exmouth and Broome before early next year.

The State said recreational fishers spend $1.8 billion a year on fishing trips and the FAD devices should help regional centres get a slice of the pie.

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