Australian Anglers Association, (WA Division) Inc.
Follow up Submission on "Filleting at Sea" Rules.
The Australian Anglers Association sent a letter to Minister for Fisheries about the
Definition of Fillets in Possession Limits, and Filleting of Fish at Sea.
We finally received a reply from the Minister for Fisheries
which has shown that the Fisheries Department has ignored some of the important issues we raised.
We aren't happy with that reply and with some of the recently announced regulations, some of which are
different from what was covered by the public discussions and comments. We have obtained a copy of the new regulations,
etc, and have drafted 3 detailed replies pointing out many of the problems with the regulations and
the reply signed by the Minister.
These cover Limits On shore fishing on Rottnest Island Rules ,
Filleting and WholeFish Rules ,
and Filleting At Sea Rules.
This is the Filleting of Fish at Sea reply. Bear with it, it's long, but that's so (hopefully) it covers all
the points and doesn't get misunderstood like the first letter did. We are looking for YOUR support and
comments. If it's worth having, it's worth working for!!!!!!!
28 October 2003
The Honourable Kim Chance, MLC,
Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
11th Floor, Dumas House
2 Havelock Street
West Perth 6005
Dear Mr Chance
Filleting of Fish at Sea.
Thank you for the reply dated 30 September to our letter of 31 July. Your reply raises several issues which we will cover in
separate letters, and in this one we ask that the regulations be changed to allow filleting at sea.
Topics raised in our letter.
Our previous letter had two distinct and quite separate parts, which we believe is quite evident in both the layout and the
wording of our letter.
The second part of our letter sought a change to the rules about filleting at sea.
Despite your reply saying, "will answer your issues in the order raised", the reply you have signed has mixed up these two
parts. We disagree with many of the statements in your reply as detailed below.
Filleting at Sea.
There are several sub issues all covered under this general heading resulting from the "filleting at sea" regulations.
Possession limits at sea.
Your reply contains a statement which do not appear to agree with statements made by Fisheries officers at the briefing
given to Recfishwest Board members, and with Department of Fisheries publications. Your reply states:- "Once fish have
been filleted at sea they will fall within the weight possession limit of 20kg of fillets or 10kg of fillets, plus one
day's bag limit if people choose to keep some fish whole." This approach is logical and we agree.
However the West Coast Region Recreational Fishing Guide clearly states under "No filleting at sea...trip longer than
48 hours... Two pieces of fish (except 'trunks' which are deemed to be 'whole fish') will be considered to equal one
whole fish and all fillets will be considered category one fish for the purposes of bag limit checks."
These two statements are contradictory. If the people who prepare letters for you to sign are confused and make misleading
statements in Department of Fisheries publicity, how can they expect the recreational fishing public to understand and
comply with these rules?
The only time that two fillets/pieces of fish should be counted as one whole fish would be where it is clear that only
one (or two) day's fishing is involved and thus where only one (or two) day's bag limit is allowed, and where bag limits
override the fillet weight limit. For three or more days fishing, the angler must be allowed to use the fillet option.
The implications of statement in the Guide is that the Department of Fisheries has attempted to remove the option of 20kg of
fillets for offshore trips longer than 2 days, and they still wish to conduct a bag limit check by counting two fillets as
one whole fish.
If your reply is correct, then we accept this interpretation as a consistent use of the terms "fillets" and "whole fish",
however that requires the Department of Fisheries publications to be withdrawn and rewritten for clarification.
If the interpretation in the Guide is claimed to be correct, we challenge that interpretation and there are some further
issues we wish to raise here.
Identification of fillets.
1. Regulation 16B (1) says:- "Despite regulation 14, a person may be in possession of, or bring ashore, a fillet of fish
in a boat in WA waters if
(a) the person has been at sea, or on any island within WA waters, continuously for at least 48 hours without returning to
(b) the skin and scales are attached to each fillet;
(c) each fillet is at least 300 mm in length;
(d) each fillet is individually packaged flat;
(e) each fillet is packaged so that it is easily accessible for measurement and identification; and
(f) where the fish is frozen, it can be measured and identified without being thawed."
Why are the requirements (b), (d), (e) and (f) included and contain the words "and identified" if these will not allow the
Department of Fisheries inspectors to identify fillets to decide what species these are, and would therefore be able to
decide which category they are from?
2. Regulation 180 (2) says "A fillet of fish the species of which is not readily identifiable is to be taken to be from a
category 1 fish in the absence of proof to the contrary." We note the words "readily identifiable"
The statement in the Guide about category 1 fish does not represent the wording of the Regulation, and is misleading in a
way which discourages people from retaining the fish which they are entitled to under the bag and possession limits. We are
very concerned that Fisheries publications misrepresent the regulations when there is ample unused space in the same column
on the pamphlet which would allow the essential few extra words to be added and remove that misrepresentation.
For the guidance of our Association members and the fishing public generally, we ask for more information about what is meant
by "readily identifiable", and for the Department of Fisheries to provide a list of species from category one for which
fillets with skin and scales on, and with a minimum length of 300 mm could be confused with species from categories two and three.
We also ask the Department of Fisheries to describe in sufficient details how they will apply the "absence of proof to the
contrary" part of this regulation, and how this fits in with the identification from fillets.
We require this information so that our members can process their fish in ways which will not leave them in any perceived
breach of possession limits through any limitations in the resources, abilities or willingness of Fisheries Inspectors to
take reasonable steps to identify fish species. This is particularly important with the recent addition of extra inspectors
from other departments.
Requirements for logs if filleting at sea after 48 hours or more.
Regulations 16B(3) and (4) deal with a log that is required to be kept by a person on a boat at sea or on any island for a
period of more than 48 hours and who wishes to land filleted fish. We feel that these regulations are fine examples
of bureaucratic nonsense that serve no real purpose. We cannot understand the reason for these regulations.
Fish in possession on a boat (or on an Island) no matter where or when caught are all included in possession limits. Having to
keep the log in such detail and for such periods as required would certainly be open to omissions and almost impossible
to verify. The prime fact of time at sea could be easily verified by other sources if required.
This regulation also brings about some unintended problems, for example its application to people who travel by public
ferry and fish from the shore at Rottnest, as covered in a separate letter.
Heading and tailing of fish at sea.
The regulations allow filleting of long pelagics such as mackerel and tuna at sea even on short trips. We also note that
your reply contains the words "once a fish has been landed, its head and tail may be removed,"
We take this to mean that such fish may not be headed and tailed while at sea or on an island even for trips longer than
If this interpretation is correct, we are at a loss to understand why.
Filleting is allowed for long pelagics on short trips, and for all larger fish on trips in excess of 48 hours, yet the
simple removal of heads or tails is not allowed.
The distinction between filleting and heading and tailing is simply not logical nor defensible, and is another example
of the confused and unnecessarily complicated approach in these regulations.
For bag and size limit assessment purposes, filleting of long pelagics leaving on pectoral fins is exactly the same as
heading and tailing a fish leaving on pectoral fins. We would submit that heading and tailing is actually better for
bag and size limit assessment, and should be encouraged and not discouraged by the Department of Fisheries. Once again,
we ask for a choice of alternative methods.
We ask that heading and tailing be allowed at sea.
Filleting exemptions for long pelagics.
The regulation allowing filleting exemption for mackerel and tuna is based on the species, not on fillet length or fish
size. As such it does not give equivalent catch care for other large species or individual fish, despite as we understand
it the intention being catch care balanced against compliance issues. The Department of Fisheries Guide talks of "long
pelagics, such as mackerel and tuna".
We therefore ask for this exemption to apply to fish based on size rather than be limited to specific species, and ask
for this regulation to be changed, please.
Filleting restrictions on species without size limit.
We can understand that there could be some reasons given for some limitations of filleting at sea where these apply to
species with size limits. However we are at complete loss to understand the rationale for applying these to fish without
any size limits such as herring.
We ask once again for the regulations to be changed so that limits on filleting at sea do not apply to fish without size
Catch care and filleting on boats.
Your reply says "I am advised that in reality very few anglers process their catch prior to landing due to concerns about
product quality, and the safety and hygiene issues associated with filleting in boats." We wonder if this advice covers
larger fish which are the subject of the questions we have raised about catch care where storage is a problem.
One survey on the Western Angler Forum received 16 answers about filleting at sea. 9 did fillet, 6 did not, saying they
had large ice boxes or usually took short trips, 7 said they wanted the choice, including 2 of the "did not fillet"
responses. The majority said either they did fillet, or wanted the choice. One reply said many people in the north of
the State do indeed fillet on a boat and are unhappy with the new regulations. This will need to be considered in
the Pilbara/Kimberley reviews.
The replies showed a good understanding of the issues affecting quality of whole and processed fish, and most wanted
to have a choice of alternative methods which can all provide excellent quality, with the differences being due mainly
to personal preferences and the facilities available to them.
As with all safety issues, the decision must be made by the person themselves considering the conditions and their
skills. There will be many times when safety is not an issue and again, anglers want to have a choice.
Cleaning Stations and Disposal of offal.
Your reply says "Many Shire Councils now provide fish cleaning stations and rubbish removal services at key boat ramps".
We believe this statement is incorrect, and that some cleaning stations are a distinct health hazard, and would not be used.
Fish cleaning stations are not provided at Hillarys, Ocean Reef, Two Rocks (bin provided), Cockburn, Palm Beach,
Rockingham, Mandurah, Bunbury, Busselton, or Dunsborough boat ramps. The metropolitan area and South West areas,
where a large number of boat trips occur, are not actually provided with fish cleaning facilities.
A survey in the Western Angler Forum received a range of answers. Some said ramps in the South West mostly did not
have cleaning tables. Some public and private cleaning tables were good, however some were completely unsuitable because
of poor hygiene, which is partly a social problem, partly due to unsuitable facilites or maintenance, and partly
inherent in outdoor cleaning facilities.
CALM's policy on feeding wildlife has been in the news recently and prohibits feeding wildlife because this changes
their natural habits. Sea birds are naturally attracted to fish cleaning activities and bins even if these are kept
very clean and covered.
People raised the hygiene problems from bird droppings on the tables. The bacteria from droppings cannot all be removed
by cold water washes, and people had concerns about letting their fish touch these surfaces.
One email described the fish cleaning table at Onslow as:-
"a disgrace and has always been so with the two wheely bins nearly always covered in maggots and rotting fish carcases
and masses of blowflies which immediately descend on anyone attempting to clean their fish. In 2002 we went to the
Shire offices three times during our stay to ask that the "facility" be cleaned and on the third visit we threatened
that we would photograph the area and send the photos to the Health Department and it took this threat before it was cleaned up.
But having said that, the bins still "crawl" with blowflies and maggots and there is no short length of hose provided
so that people cleaning their catch can use the tap to both clean down the table, which is covered with bird droppings
as well as the debris from fish.... Anyone using this "facility" has to be a thrillseeker as far as his or her health
We ask that the regulations be changed to allow filleting at sea.
Secretary Australian Anglers Association (WA Division)
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