Fight looms  over herring  share
Prized catch: Herring. Picture: The West Australian

A major brawl is looming between recreational and commercial fishers over flagged cuts to herring catches, with the two sectors at loggerheads over who should shoulder the most "pain".

A landmark three-year study by the Department of Fisheries concluded in November that herring stocks off WA's south and west coasts were in sharp decline and action was needed.

In the wake of the study, the department examined ways to rein in catches and it is understood a report has been sent to Fisheries Minister Ken Baston.

Recreational fishing lobby Recfishwest, which claims to represent as many as 700,000 amateur WA fishers, has put Mr Baston on notice by saying it wants the sector to get preferential treatment.

Chief executive Andrew Rowland said herring was the most important fish for amateurs - a "bread and butter" species that could be caught from shore virtually anywhere in southern WA.

Licences are not required to catch herring and recreational anglers are allowed to take up to 30 a day.

Dr Rowland said the sector would be prepared to see this halved but he wanted the minister to give weight to the value attached to the species by amateur anglers.

He estimated it was worth as much as $200 million in overall economic activity - a sum he said dwarfed its value to commercial fishermen.

"There is somewhat of a desire in some quarters to spread the impacts of catch reductions equally across the sectors," Dr Rowland said.

"The benefits to the community are not equal so why would you spread the pain equally?"

But WA Fishing Industry Council boss John Harrison said if any cuts were imposed, they should be applied equally.

"The pain should be shared," Mr Harrison said yesterday.

However, he disputed the need for cuts, saying the industry disagreed that stocks were declining and had commissioned its own independent research.

The West Australian

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