17/12/2008 - 22:00

Ministerial decision rocks lobster industry

17/12/2008 - 22:00

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AN already strained rock lobster industry took another hit late this year as new Fisheries Minister Norman Moore introduced strict limitations to an already tightly controlled field.

Ministerial decision rocks lobster industry

AN already strained rock lobster industry took another hit late this year as new Fisheries Minister Norman Moore introduced strict limitations to an already tightly controlled field.

The move caused outcry among rock lobster fishermen, with many saying the penalties would force them out of the industry.

The minister's decision came after the Department of Fisheries had recorded a below-average catch of 8,612 tonnes of rock lobster for 2008. The department said the small catch was due to a low settlement of juvenile rock lobsters three to four years ago.

With a 22 per cent reduction of effort already in place for each zone, advisers recommended a further reduction of 30 per cent over two years.

Western Rock Lobster Council chairman Dexter Davies said the council had recommended the restrictions after counts of juvenile rock lobsters revealed alarmingly low numbers.

"In fact, they were nearly non-existent," he said.

"We believed that with the good weather conditions this year, the numbers would recover, but in August we saw that they hadn't.

"We were faced with the question of whether we needed to take more action. We knew it would be difficult because of the timing, but we considered the situation to be very serious."

After the early election and the surprise win by the Liberal Party, the committee found itself with a new minister unfamiliar with the portfolio.

"We waited for as long as we could, which was September 15, and when numbers still hadn't recovered, we recommended the urgent action to the new minister," Mr Davies said.

"It caused a lot of anxiety in the industry, because the decision didn't allow time for planning. People had made business arrangements that then had to be broken."

Rock Lobster Industry Advisory Committee chairman Ron Edwards said the advice was provided on precise principles observed in the fishing industry.

"The experience in fishing is overwhelmingly that if you do nothing, if you leave it too late to act, fish species die out and this means fishermen can't fish them anyway," he said.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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