Set cray quota for WA market
One of WA’s top fisheries experts has called for a portion of the State’s rock lobster catch to be set aside for the local market amid fears consumers cannot afford skyrocketing prices.
Jim Penn, an emeritus director with the Department of Fisheries, said the rock lobster industry could become a victim of its own success as the local community was priced out of the market.
Dr Penn yesterday gave a presentation to a trans-Tasman industry conference where he said retailers were resorting to imported product from the US in the face of prices of up $80 for locally caught crayfish.
He suggested that part of the annual catch be quarantined to offset the trend, saying it was important consumers as well as the fishers enjoyed the benefits of the fishery.
“The community owns the resource, ” Dr Penn said. “The commercial sector has rights to fish it — and appropriately so.
“But at the same time, the Government needs to look at the bigger picture and say, ‘We’re satisfying the recreational sector, we’re satisfying the commercial sector — how do we satisfy the local market?’ ”
WA’s commercial rock lobster fishers are allowed to take about 6000 tonnes a year after their catch was roughly halved in 2009 because of plummeting stocks.
High international demand for WA rock lobsters, has left locals having to pay high prices. Picture: Simon Santi
Dr Penn said the smaller catches, together with booming demand for WA rock lobster from China, had seen prices reach unprecedented heights and made the fishery one of the most lucrative in the world.
He claimed the allowed catch had been set too conservatively and there was room to increase it.
He said the extra quota should be dedicated to the local market, arguing that while it might not fetch the same prices as those offered in China it could still be fished profitably.
Dr Penn warned the success of the industry could inadvertently fuel a black market as criminal elements capitalised on high prices.
Western Rock Lobster Council boss John McMath backed calls for the catch to be lifted but said no discussions had been held about domestic reservations.
“Certainly I think it’s something industry would be prepared to at least discuss and I’m sure that would be a very robust discussion, ” he said.
© The West Australian
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