In Agriculture

Western Australia Minister for Fisheries Norman Moore

Rock lobster Industry Gains Minister’s Approval For New Management Plan

Victor P Taffa

Western Australia Minister for Fisheries Norman Moore has revised his management strategy for the C Zone of the rock lobster fishery following high-level talks with peak fishing bodies and the State’s six major crayfish processors.

Mr. Moore today said that in an encouraging display of unity, representatives from the six major processors, the Western Australian Fishing Industry Council (WAFIC) and the Western Rock Lobster Council (WRLC) had met earlier this week to offer an alternative management plan for the rest of this season.

“Industry now wants to lower the current pot usage ratio from 44 % for the 2009-10 season and adjust fishing days to slow the catch and smooth peak fishing periods.” Mr. Moore said.

“My primary responsibility all along has been the long-term survival of this fishery and if industry could come up with an alternative to achieve the required catch reductions, I would listen to its plan.”

The Minister said that under the previous plan developed through the Rock Lobster Industry Advisory Committee (RLIAC), the fishery’s C Zone was to have two fishing closures this season (from January 18-31 and from March 12 to April 11).

An earlier closure was successfully implemented during the Christmas period.

“But industry now wants alternative arrangements involving a mix of non-fishing days and additional pot reductions. I have agreed to this.” Mr. Moore said.

During the talks this week, the Minister stressed it was not the State Government’s responsibility to micro-manage the economics of the commercial rock lobster industry.

“Although I have taken action mindful of such micro-management issues, my primary responsibility is to ensure the long-term sustainability of the fishery.” Mr. Moore said.

Mr. Moore was pleased processors, the WRLC and WAFIC had displayed leadership on the issue and worked with fishers to give him their consolidated advice.

The new proposal, offered with the support and agreement of the five C Zone Professional Fishing Associations, WA’s six major lobster processors and the WRLC, was for a return to fishing as soon as possible and a single 10-day closure from March 12-21.

Other conditions included pots out of the water during the closure and a reduced pot usage of 30 % of licensed pots (instead of 44 %) for the rest of the season.

“Industry would now prefer to keep fishing with fewer pots than have extended closures.” the Minister said.

“As long as the new arrangements do not adversely affect the total catch target of 5,500 tonnes for this season, I will agree.”

Mr. Moore said the new plan could also result in saving jobs that otherwise may have been lost.

“Fishers and processors indicated that the extended closures proposed under the previous plan were likely to cause the loss of casual staff in the industry.” Mr. Moore said.

Under the Act, RLIAC is required to review the most recent proposal. RLIAC met on Wednesday, January 20 and supported the industry proposal.

“I will now allow fishers to fish from Monday to Thursday of next week in C Zone and for the rest of the season except for the 10-day closure in March.” the Minister said.

“There will be ongoing monitoring of the fishery for the balance of the season and further action can be taken if it appears that fishers will not achieve the total allowable catch for C Zone of 2,475 tonnes.”

“Options include increasing pot numbers and returning extra fishing days to fishers as occurred towards the end of last season.”

“This new plan applies to the commercial rock lobster fishery only. The recreational sector has had different measures imposed and these appear to be achieving the desired catch for that sector.”Mr. Moore said.

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