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Government of Western Australia - Department of Fisheries
Thursday 12 March 2020

Lobster rescue plan aims to support industry through COVID-19

    • Setting an 18-month season to June 30, 2021 and an allowable catch of 9,000 tonnes
    • New measures for back of boat sales, to give fishers extra local sales opportunities
    • Allowing local businesses to access larger volumes of lobster direct from fishers

Fisheries Minister Peter Tinley today announced a support plan for Western Australia's $400 million a year rock lobster industry - one of the first sectors to face significant financial impact as a result of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak.
 
A draft plan, developed after extensive talks between the sector and Government over the past weeks, was formally agreed to by WA lobster fishers yesterday.
 
Importantly, the new measures include a mechanism to boost local supply making western rock lobster more accessible to the WA community.
 
The new arrangements will provide certainty for commercial fishers, with the majority of the fleet currently not fishing due to significantly reduced rock lobster demand out of China.
 
The agreement includes:
    • an 18-month fishing season - extending the current season to June 30, 2021;
    • a 9,000 tonnes Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) for the Western Rock Lobster fishery, bringing forward a proportion of the quota from what would have been the normal future season;
    • a new mechanism for back-of-boat sales of lobsters, to help make it easier for licensed fishers to sell lobsters to the local community, restaurants and seafood wholesale and retail outlets;
    • wider promotion of existing 'registered receiver' mechanisms (for local businesses to access larger numbers of rock lobster direct from fishers).

The current commercial catch is set well within sustainability limits, and the adjustment for the extended season will result in a lower total catch than would normally occur during the period of January 15, 2020 to June 30, 2021.
 
Comments attributed to Fisheries Minister Peter Tinley:
 
"The COVID-19 outbreak had an almost immediate impact on WA's lobster industry - coming as it did shortly before the sector's peak fishing period of Chinese New Year.

"Prices plummeted from previous average highs of about $75 per kilo to $0 due to lack of demand as people in China (where 95 per cent of the catch is sold to market) stayed home from restaurants and hotels and limited their attendances at big gatherings such as weddings.
 
"Once alerted to the problem, the McGowan Government moved quickly to engage WA's lobster sector.
 
"The new arrangements provide greater certainty for commercial lobster fishers, although the majority of the fleet is not currently fishing.
 
"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. There is no need for changes to the recreational lobster fishing arrangements.
 
"In announcing the management measures the McGowan Government and industry are working together to maintain cash flow for fishers, while managing the commercial catch to ensure stock sustainability and the best economic return from WA's rock lobster resource.
 
"The peak industry body, Western Rock Lobster, demonstrated excellent leadership in working with Government to develop recommendations that address the impacts of coronavirus, including undertaking a comprehensive industry engagement process."
 
 Minister's office - 6552 5300

Last modified: 16/03/2020 8:34 AM

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