Commercial lobster fishers reach catch target; trigger early closure of zone

May 4, 2010 11:30

Fisheries Minister Norman Moore has announced the closure of C zone of the State's commercial rock lobster fishery following the industry's early achievement of catch targets for the 2009-10 fishing season, reports with reference to Ministry of Fisheries Australia.

Mr Moore said today his decision to close the season was consistent with warnings he made at the start of the season last September.

"I made it very clear to the industry that the overall catch targets of 5,500 tonne for the three fishing zones would be closely monitored and I would close a zone if it was to exceed its share of the target," he said.

"All the scientific evidence provided to me shows that Western Australia's rock lobster fishery is under extreme pressure and in danger of collapse unless it is properly managed.

"Department of Fisheries' figures detailing the total catch for each zone shows that lobster fishers in C zone have reached their catch allocation.

"It would be irresponsible to allow fishers to continue beyond the sustainable limit of the fishery."

The Minister said C Zone would officially close on Monday, May 10 - effectively meaning that the last day fishers would be allowed to land their catches would be Thursday, May 6.

"Part of the reason behind this closure is that modern technology has enabled fishers to become more and more efficient at catching rock lobster," he said.

To optimise economic benefits and address equity issues, catch targets and limits were set for each zone for the first and second halves of the season.

"These targets and limits were provided to all rock lobster licensees and processors at the start of the season," Mr Moore said.

"The department has published weekly updates of the cumulative catch for each zone of the fishery since the start of the season.

"The lower catch limit for C zone was exceeded last week, and the zonal target catch (2,475 tonnes) will be reached this week.

"I will take similar action when rock lobster fishers in the other zones reach their catch targets.

"I am closely monitoring A zone as it looks like reaching its target during May while B zone appears likely to reach its target during June."

The Minister noted that late last year the Marine Stewardship Council completed a full review of WA's valuable rock lobster fishery which vindicated the strong action he had taken.

"It would be completely irresponsible to ignore the management standards set by the State Government and endorsed by an independent and internationally recognised umpire," he said.

"We need to ensure the long-term sustainability and economic viability of the fishery."

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