Geraldton, Western Australia

Geraldton, Western Australia, was selected as the Western Region case study because it is the hub of the western rock lobster fishery and has traditionally been known as a fishing town.

Geraldton, its marine sectors and general community, is subject to declining strength of the Leeuwin Current, changing seasonality and location of storms (westerly winds) and marine heatwaves.

See Climate, sealife and other impacts for a detailed description of changes in Geraldton.

Demographics

Approximately 32 000 residents (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011).

Geraldton is one of Australia’s 15 most rapidly growing coastal cities (Daley and Lancy, 2011) and has a large proportion (over 60%) of working age (20 to 70 years) residents in comparison to those over 70 (approximately 9%). The rate of house ownership is similar to the Australia-wide rate (approximately 30%).

Retail was the largest employer in Geraldton (approximately 13%) in the 2011 Census followed by construction (approximately 11.5%).

Commercial fishing

The majority of boats in the western rock lobster (Jasus edwardsii) fishery have traditionally been docked in Geraldton and (seasonally) the nearby Abrolhos Islands. This fishery is important for the economy of Geraldton and Western Australia with an export value of $225m in 2009-10. Other fisheries operating in Geraldton include the wetline fishery which targets coral trout (Plectropomus leopardus), dhufish (Glaucosoma herbraicum), pink snapper (Pagrus auratus) and baldchin groper (Choerodon rubescens), and the shark fishery, targeting mainly school shark (Galeorhinus galeus).

At the time of interview for the Geraldton case study the shark fishery was not operating due to inconsistent demand and competition with cheaper international imports.

In 2011, 114 people were employed in commercial fishing in Geraldton, 0.77% of total employment.

Recreational fishing

Recreational and Indigenous fishing is a popular pastime in Geraldton for both locals and tourists. In total, 28.5% of Western Australians participate in recreational fishing (Henry and Lyle 2003) and Geraldton is likely to have a similar participation rate. The main recreational target species captured here include coral trout, dhufish, pink snapper, baldchin groper and inshore species such as tailor (Pomatomix saltatrix).

Aquaculture

Pearl aquaculture occurs at the Abrolhos Islands and a small amount of finfish aquaculture occurs offshore from Geraldton. Finfish aquaculture is likely to expand in the future with proposed new aquaculture development zones recently identified and currently being assessed by the Western Australian Department of Fisheries and the Environmental Protection Authority.

Marine tourism

At the time of research (2012/13) there were no Geraldton-based recreational fishing charters. Local businesses were based in Geraldton in the past but are thought to have been replaced by Perth-based charters with a larger and less-seasonal clientele. These charters generally target iconic species such as coral trout and pink snapper.

Dive charters operate out of Geraldton and cater for both shore and boat dives. Tours to the Abrolhos Islands to view corals and reef fish are popular.