The Victorian Wrasse (Ocean) Fishery was established in the 1990s when a domestic market based on live trade to restaurants and seafood outlets was created.
The commercial fishery extends along the entire length of the Victorian coastline and out to 20 nautical miles offshore, except for marine reserves. Most wrasse is harvested by hook and line although commercial rock lobster fishers who also hold a commercial wrasse licences can keep those fish that they catch in their rock lobster pots.
Bluethroat Wrasse (Notolabrus tetricus) and Purple Wrasse (also called Saddled Wrasse; N. fucicola), comprise approximately 90 per cent of the commercial Victorian wrasse harvest. Small catches of Rosy Wrasse (Pseudolabrus psittaculus), Senator Wrasse (Pictilabrus laticlavius) and Southern Maori Wrasse (Ophthalmolepis lineolatus) are also caught.
After a rapid rise in catch levels in the 1990s to a peak of just under 90 tonnes in 1998/99, catches stabilised to between 40 and 50 tonnes during the period of 2000 to 2004. With the decrease in effort as a result of fewer licences, catches then fell again between 30 to 40 tonnes during 2005 to 2009. Since that time, catches have been between 20 – 30 tonnes (see Figure 1).
The commercial wrasse fishery is managed primarily by:
- Limited entry: There are currently 22 Wrasse (Ocean) Fishery Access Licences (OWFAL) issued under the Fisheries Act 1995;
- Legal minimum size: Bluethroat Wrasse must be at least 28 centimetres total length; all other species must be at least 27 centimetres; and
- Gear restrictions: fishers can use no more than six fishing lines and these must not have more than 3 hooks or one jig attached; longlines are not permitted.
The Wrasse (Ocean) Fishery Access Licence is a transferable licence class (i.e. licences can be sold, bequeathed or operated by a person other than the licence holder). Licence holders wishing to permanently transfer their licence to another party must fill out 'Form 19 Transfer Fishery Licence' and submit it with the applicable fee to The Victorian Fisheries Authority.
Wrasse workshop meeting
On 16 March 2017 a workshop meeting was held with industry and The Victorian Fisheries Authority to discuss transferability of the Wrasse (Ocean) entitlement and the development of a Harvest Strategy for the fishery. Click on the below link to view the presentation from the workshop.
Harvest strategies provide formal and structured frameworks that guide fishery management decision-making processes and assist in achieving fisheries management objectives. They bring together all of the key elements and management functions used to make decisions about the level of fishing activity that should be applied to a fish stock or a management unit to maximise the likelihood of achieving ecological, economic and social sustainability.
A Harvest Strategy has been developed for the Victorian Wrasse (Ocean) Fishery amidst concerns that through licences becoming transferable there will be mobilisation of a significant amount of latent effort in this fishery which could have a large and detrimental impact on the sustainability of the fishery.
Catch and effort reporting
Improvements to the logbooks that fishers submit each month to The Victorian Fisheries Authority, including better species identification, reporting of discard numbers (wrasse discards only, dead or alive) and improved effort reporting, will improve data to inform management for each species and the fishery in general. These changes to the logbooks came into effect on 1 April 2017.
The Victorian Fisheries Authority fisheries scientists will work with licence holders to implement a voluntary program whereby management of the fishery is improved by commercial fishers collecting additional data on their catch. This information could include, for example, lengths of retained and discarded catch to evaluate changes in length-frequency and potentially the sex of retained and discarded catch of Bluethroat Wrasse.