The Department of Health has issued an all clear just in time for the long weekend, lifting the health warning on the consumption of shellfish, fish and crustaceans from designated areas of the Swan and Canning Rivers.
The warning has been in place due to the presence of toxic Alexandrium algae which produce toxins that can be bioaccumulated in shellfish, fish and crustaceans. If these animals are then ingested, a condition known as paralytic shellfish poisoning can result.
While the news is welcomed, Recfishwest believes that there needs to be a more proactive approach to to the management of the Swan-Canning system with a framework that doesn't lock people out of the fishery for months at a time.
Starting in mid-December the DoH issued a series of alerts warning people not to eat fish, crabs and shellfish from large sections of first the Swan and then later the Canning.
"For the last six months, many Perth fishers have effectively been hit with a fishing closure in large parts of the middle and lower Swan and Canning rivers due to high levels of the algae," a Recfishwest media release stated.
"Simply locking recfishers out of the fishery for months at a time isn't a good enough management strategy.
"While there are still a few crabs around, the prime months for targeting the Swan's famously big blue swimmer crabs are unfortunately well and truly behind us."
This is the second successive year elevated levels of Alexandrium have substantially disrupted summer crabbing activities in what is the metro's favourite fishing playground - the "jewel in the city's fishing crown" as WA angling journalist Scott Coghlan recently described it.
While Recfishwest said they welcomed all the sampling that had occurred over the last six months, they still believed more could be done to manage the situation.
"Any resource management plan worth its salt must address the needs of its stakeholders - the river is something we should all be able to enjoy and it is simply not good enough that the recfishing community is not able to access a large section of the river during the peak fishing season.
"If large parts of the Swan and the Canning River become off limits for crabbing for significant periods of the year, fishers are going to need somewhere they can go and re-opening Cockburn Sound is an obvious option that should be progressed as a matter of priority.
"We have been told the process to buy-back commercial crab fishing licences in Cockburn Sound following management changes announced in November, is progressing, however, the impact Alexandrium is having on Swan River crabbers provides a compelling reason to fast-track this process."
Blue swimmer crabs are the number one species targeted by recfishers and the Swan-Canning system is one of the State's most important rec fisheries. Giving recfishers access to crabbing in the Sound again would go some way to offset the loss of access to the Swan and Canning as a result of Alexandrium and would demonstrate a much better management approach than simply praying for rain.
For more information see: recfishwest.org.au.