Around 95 per cent of total western rock lobster production is sold to China. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

Reprieve for lobster industry

Fisheries Minister Peter Tinley has unveiled a range of measures to support Western Australia’s rock lobster industry as a result of the worsening COVID-19 outbreak, including an extended fishing season and measures to increase local sales opportunities.

The plan, which yesterday received the formal approval of peak industry body Western Rock Lobster Council, will extend the current fishing season to June of next year, while bringing forward a proportion of the following season’s quota to set a new total allowable commercial catch of 9,000 tonnes in the western rock lobster fishery.

That’s in addition to measures to increase local sales opportunities, including new provisions for ‘back of boat’ sales, as well as wider promotion of the ‘registered receiver’ mechanism so that local businesses can access a larger amount of rock lobster direct from fishers.

Mr Tinley argued the measures would provide certainty for commercial fishers left reeling as a result of a sharp decrease in demand from buyers in China.

“The new arrangements provide greater certainty for commercial lobster fishers, although the majority of the fleet is not currently fishing,” he said.

“There are no stock sustainability concerns associated with extending the season and setting a new quota of 9,000 tonnes.

“These adjustments are all designed to deal with market-based issues for the commercial sector.”

Matt Taylor, chief executive of WRLC, welcomed the announcement this morning, lamenting how the virus had halted exports into China where around 95 per cent of total western rock lobster production is sold.

He said the plan announced today would deliver the best outcomes for industry and the WA community, with an extended season providing time for the market to recover.

“It will allow industry to work through the challenges of this season over an extended period of time and allow for informed commercial decisions to be made once fishing resumes,” he said.

“Extending the season also reduces the pressure to fish when demand resumes … which will provide fishers and marketers with flexibility during the market recovery phase.

“This will support prices, asset values and the return to the state.”

Mr Taylor also welcomed provisions that will make it easier for fishers to sell lobster directly to locals, tourists, restaurants and retail outlets in WA.

“This provides fishers with an option for generating cash flow in the short term, business flexibility when the export market recovers and increases accessibility and availability of western rock lobsters on the local market,” he said.

“WRL[C] members’ highest priority is to preserve the value of the industry so it continues to support their regional coastal communities and provide the maximum return to the state for accessing the community owned resource."

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