24/09/2009 - 11:16

State slashes rock lobster catch limit

24/09/2009 - 11:16

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Fisheries minister Norman Moore has imposed new restrictions on the rock lobster industry in a bid to halve the annual harvest from its long-term average of 11,000 tonnes to 5,500 tonnes.

State slashes rock lobster catch limit

Fisheries minister Norman Moore has imposed new restrictions on the rock lobster industry in a bid to halve the annual harvest from its long-term average of 11,000 tonnes to 5,500 tonnes.

The restrictions include reductions in pot usage and limits on fishing days and follow an unprecedented low count of puerulus, or juvenile lobsters, which raised concerns over the future sustainability of the industry.

Mr Moore said that the catch target was set to protect the sustainability of the western rock lobster fishery, smooth the catch and reduce the economic impact of the record low puerulus count during the past three years.

The decision was flagged in July when an assortment of politicians, fishermen and other industry stakeholders gathered at a conference in Fremantle. With the price of boats and pots ravaged in recent years, and debts and repayments piling up, all agreed the restrictions would put many out of business - however there was disagreement over the science used to determine the predicted catch.

 

 

Announcement is below:

 

Minister announces rock lobster fishery management arrangements.

Fisheries Minister Norman Moore has announced new management arrangements for the commercial West Coast Rock Lobster Fishery for the 2009-10 fishing season.

The arrangements include reductions in pot usage, restrictions on days when fishing is allowed and minimum and maximum size changes, and are intended to achieve an overall catch of 5,500 tonnes.

"However, I recognise that under the fishery's current input-based management system it is extremely difficult to manage an exact catch figure," Mr Moore said.

"The catch range around this target is likely to range between 4,950 and 6,050 tonnes."

The Minister said that the catch target was set to protect the sustainability of the western rock lobster fishery, smooth the catch and reduce the economic impact of the record low puerulus count in the past three years.

"Poor puerulus settlement in recent years means the number of lobsters available to the fishery is expected to be significantly reduced in seasons 2010-11 and 2011-12," he said.

"By setting a target of 5,500 tonnes in 2009-10, it should be possible to maintain a similar catch in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons.

"As well as ensuring there is a more consistent catch over the next few years, it is also important to improve the economic return from the available catch.

"To assist this, separate catch targets and likely ranges will apply to the three fishing zones and for the first and second halves of the season."

The catch will be monitored on a weekly basis during the season with a formal review scheduled for January 2010.

"If the catch level in any of the zones differs significantly or looks like it will differ significantly from its target, adaptive management action could be taken," Mr Moore said.

"Any action will focus on varying the number of days available for fishing in a particular zone, to ensure the catch targets are achieved," he said.

"This approach of varying days fished, rather than unit values, reflects feedback from fishers."

The Minister said that a set of business rules was under development to help guide how such adjustments should be decided. The rules will be made available to industry before the start of the season.

"In developing these management arrangements, I have considered advice from the Western Rock Lobster Council, the Rock Lobster Industry Advisory Committee and the Department of Fisheries," he said.

"I have listened to industry's views and believe this new management package balances the sustainability and economic objectives at the same time as providing a practical operating environment for fishers and processors."

Mr Moore added that the 2009-10 season would also be the first time that the Integrated Fisheries Management shares of 95 per cent commercial and five per cent recreational for the rock lobster fishery would be implemented.

The Department of Fisheries will keep fishing groups informed of management issues, through its regular newsletter.

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