No deal on lobster plan

Headshot of Geoff Vivian
Geoff VivianGeraldton Guardian
Abrolhos crayfisherman Kristin MacDonald with his sons Clay, 10, and Koby, 7.
Camera IconAbrolhos crayfisherman Kristin MacDonald with his sons Clay, 10, and Koby, 7. Credit: Geoff Vivian, The Geraldton Guardian

Industry players expressed surprise and disappointment after plans to increase the annual State crayfish catch by 315 tonnes collapsed after the Western Rock Lobster Council rejected an agreement with the WA Government.

The February agreement was for the increased catch to be used to boost the number of lobsters available for retail, hospitality and tourism, including supplies for an international lobster festival and charter tours.

Final details for delivering the extra quota were to be thrashed out by the Government and WRLC by the end of March.

Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly said industry had rejected two proposals endorsed by the WRLC, which ended the February agreement.

“Unfortunately, this means almost all of WA’s lobster catch will continue to be exported,” he said.

Geraldton Fishermens’ Co-operative chief executive Matt Rutter said the announcement did not reflect where the industry was in discussions with the Government.

“We were fully engaged in discussions and the council had gone back to the industry to seek feedback,” he said.

“That is what the council is there to do, to make sure they represent the interests of the industry

“Industry had feedback and the council went back to government with an indication of some way forward with a proposal for the next step in the development of the local lobster program.”

Mr Rutter said the council had been waiting for the government response.

“The next thing we hear was the deal was off and they were blaming industry for it,” he said.

“We are really surprised because we’re committed to the local lobster program and to developing something that is sustainable and works.

“From the direction the minister has decided to go, you question whether he really was committed to it in the first place.”

Abrolhos cray fisherman Kris McDonald said the minister’s decision showed he did not care about the domestic market.

“Everything is so secretive, no one knows what’s going on, it’s all between the council and the minister,” he said.

“We’re relying on them to make decisions in the better interest of everyone and it’s not going that way.”

Abrolhos charter boat operator Jay Cox said an increase of just 50 tonnes per year would be enough to service WA’s domestic market, and 315 tonnes would have had to be sold over the whole of Australia.

“The charter operators, who are the poor cousins of the cray fishermen, were trying to get it for our domestic tourists,” he said.

Geraldton Mayor Shane Van Styn said the City of Greater Geraldton would continue to work with the WA Government and local fishers to develop tourism in the Abrolhos.

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