THE East Coast commercial rock lobster fleet has been stripped of 10 per cent of its already heavily constrained annual catch cap threatening the livelihood of local vessels and crews, according to a fishing peak body.
Commercial catch of rock lobster in the East Coast Stock Rebuilding Zone has been dropped by 10 tonnes to a maximum of 94 tonnes for the 2022- 23 quota year starting March 1.
The statewide Total Allowable Catch for the commercial rock lobster fishery remains unchanged at 1050.70 tonnes.
This comprises a total allowable commercial catch of 1050.70 tonnes and a total allowable recreational catch of 170 tonnes.
Tasmanian Rock Lobster Fisherman’s Association president Karl Krause said 10.4 tonnes is to be effectively transferred to the recreational sector.
“That’s an extra 10,400 fish of 1kg each for the recreational sector, year on year,” Mr Krause said.
“This reduction of our commercial quota follows scientific analysis of the available data which revealed that the recreational sector has literally smashed the central East Coast zone, in the Freycinet area.
It has fallen to the commercial sector to suffer the cut.
“This latest slashing of our sustainable commercial catch on the East Coast threatens the livelihood of a number of local vessels and their skippers and crew.”
The Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania continues to monitor stock levels on the East Coast through the 10-year stock rebuilding strategy.
The East Coast Rock Lobster Stock Rebuilding Plan started in 2014 with the target of rebuilding severely depleted stocks to greater than 20 per cent of an unfished biomass by 2023 in the zone from Eddystone Point to Bruny Island.
Primary Industries and Water Minister Guy Barnett said the Government received advice from the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) that the stock levels on the East Coast remain poor, with unfished biomass estimates in stock assessment area 2 (mid-East Coast) sitting at only 10 per cent.
“We will continue to seek the right balance between providing appropriate levels access for fishers while ensuring healthy fish stocks for future generations,” Mr Barnett said.
“There will be consultation on all options for sharing the resource between fishers and what additional management controls and tools are needed to rebuild stocks. “Rebuilding the rock lobster population on the East Coast is a complex issue and the Government is committed to listening to all stakeholders.”
The total allowable catch is set each year following scientific assessment of the stocks by IMAS to assess the performance of the fishery, together with consultation with peak fishing industry bodies and relevant fisheries advisory committees.
Mr Krause said the commercial sector is ready to discuss, with the recreational sector, the new one-year plan for responsible resource sharing of the East Coast rock lobster biomass, which the commercial sector has built up strongly over recent years.
“That engagement will be an historical breakthrough, but it comes with an entry-level proviso from our side. That is that recreational sector must account for every rock lobster they take out of the fishery.
“In terms of responsible fisheries management, the current recreational rock lobster take from East Coast waters treats the fishery as a bottomless pit.” Mr Krause said the commercial sector measures, weighs and reports every single rock lobster caught in Tasmanian waters.
“The recreational sector has no formal process of counting or reporting the numbers of rock lobster caught.’’
For recreational rock lobster fishers, there will be no change to the daily bag limit of two lobsters, which will continue to be enforced this season.
And recreational rock lobster fishers are encouraged to log their catches and fishing trips.