The Department of Industries and Regional Development has produced a draft lobster rescue plan to provide more certainty for commercial fishers, with the fishing season extended to 18 months as part of the assistance on offer to the COVID-19-hit industry.
Minister for Fisheries, Peter Tinley said the draft plan, developed after extensive talks between the sector and the Department over the past weeks, had been formally agreed to by Western Australian lobster fishers.
“Importantly, the new measures include a mechanism to boost local supply making western rock lobster more accessible to the WA community,” Mr Tinley said.
“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.”
He said the agreement included 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.
There would also be wider promotion of existing ‘registered receiver’ mechanisms for local businesses to access larger numbers of rock lobster direct from fishers.
The Minister said the COVID-19 outbreak had had an almost immediate impact on the lobster industry, coming shortly before the sector’s peak fishing period of Chinese New Year.
“Prices plummeted from previous average highs of about $75 per kilo to zero due to lack of demand as people in China, where 95 per cent of the catch is sold, stayed home from restaurants and hotels and limited their attendances at big gatherings such as weddings,” Mr Tinley said.
“The new arrangements provide greater certainty for commercial lobster fishers, although the majority of the fleet is not currently fishing,” he said.