Rebuilding sand flathead stocks
Sand flathead are Tasmania's favourite recreational fish, but stocks are in trouble. Action is urgently needed to improve the future of the fishery.
NRE Tas Fisheries is working with fishers, researchers and the community to address this decline in stock levels, identified in a new report from the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS).
Around 1.6 million sand flathead are caught by recreational fishers per year in Tasmania. In fact, 70 per cent of all recreational fish taken are sand flathead, placing a huge amount of pressure on one species.
Size limit changes and a reduction in the bag limit in 2015 led to a short-term improvement in flathead stocks, but in more recent years stock levels and fishing success have continued to decline.
IMAS research indicates:
· The number of legal-size flathead is decreasing.
· The average size of a flathead is getting smaller.
· 70% of flathead are caught within a year of reaching legal size.
· Large breeding females are depleted in most areas.
· Undersize flathead appear plentiful, but fishing is removing the faster-growing fish, leaving the more genetically stunted ones to breed.
Current fishing levels are not sustainable – we need to reduce flathead catch.
How fishers can help
· Take fewer sand flathead.
· Switch to targeting more sustainable species such as tiger flathead, Australian salmon, mackerel and mullet.
· Use a dehooker to release your flathead.
· Use circle hooks to reduce fish injury.
· Never use undersize flathead for bait.
Flathead for the Future
We've begun rolling out the Flathead for the Future program which includes community engagement, research and management actions to rebuild stocks to sustainable levels.
Our team will be running organised flathead events and talking to recreational fishers around the regions.
Keep an eye out for the Flathead team and let them know your views.
There are a range of activities where you can find out more about the unique sand flathead, the challenges for stocks, and how fishers can be part of rebuilding efforts.
If you'd like to find out more about flathead this summer, register for one of our special events:
· Flathead Discovery Days - talk flathead science with Dr Flathead, test your flathead species ID skills on real fish, see dissections, upskill your fish handling and filleting techniques, learn how to fish for and cook other tasty species, and see flathead in their underwater environment. Suitable for all ages and fishing abilities.
· Fishing Clinics - learn how to fish for, identify and handle flathead responsibly.
· Community Patrols - talk to our team at your local boat ramp or jetty and share your experience of flathead fishing in Tasmania.
BOOK NOW for an event near you
Sand flathead stocks have been depleting since 2014/15 and in recent years, IMAS increased its research and monitoring. Their research and the fishery assessment report found stocks have declined to a critical level because of high levels of recreational fishing around the state.
Recreational fishers take the majority of sand flathead - 98% or 184 tonnes - in Tasmania.
Any proposed rule changes to address depleted stocks will be part of a wider scalefish rules review getting underway in March. Fishers and the community will be invited to have their say.
Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania