Rock lobster rule switch

A NEW minimum size limit and the decision not to adopt an extended 60-pot zone are the significant talking points in the recently approved management plan for the Tasmanian Rock Lobster fishery. The new plan has been approved by Minister Jo Palmer with the rules set to come into place on November 1, 2022, replacing the current rules set in place a decade ago.

Introducing a number of changes to increase the sustainability of the rock lobster fishery, the rules aim to improve compliance and reporting to ensure the integrity of the fisheries management system. The two changes of note in the released plan are on the increased minimum size limit and the abandonment of the proposed 60-pot commercial fishing zone. A minimum size limit of 120mm for female lobsters will apply to an expanded Northern Zone, from Henty River (a westwards line at 42°00’ S) to Cape Pillar (an eastwards line at 43°13’18’’ S) while the male size limit remains at 110mm statewide for all fishers to better reflect regional lobster growth rates and size at maturity and boost egg production.

NRE Tas had initially proposed three size-limit zones. However after considerations on submissions and updated scientific advice, the two-size limit zones with an increase in only the female size minimum was chosen. In what was described in the government’s release as a ‘contentious’ proposal, the decision was made not to adapt the extension of the 60-pot zone for commercial fishers. Earlier this year an expansion of the 60-pot commercial fishing area from the southwest to encompass the entire west and north coastal waters of Tasmania was mooted. The rationale was to increase how quickly commercial fishers, who typically operate with 60-pot leases, catch their quota.

After a consultation process that lasted 60 days and received 191 submissions from peak bodies, commercial and recreational fishers and members of the community, the proposal was not applied.

Shadow Minister for Primary Industries and Water Janie Finley said the decision to not implement the increase was a big win for recreational fishers. “In many cases, fishers and businesses were re-evaluating what their future would hold and many have had a really tough time with their mental health,” Ms Finlay said. “I thank the minister on behalf of these fishers and their families that there will not be an expansion to the 60-pot area. “Their futures were on the line and now they’re massively relieved. They can do what they love and get back to what is unquestionably a classically Tasmanian way of life.”

CEO of the Tasmanian Rock Lobster Fishermen’s Association Rene Hidding said though the association had been in favour of the 60-pot expansion, they accept the recommendations. “We note the minister agreed with the NRE which will please some of our members and disappoint others.

The TRLFA remain neutral on the 60-pot decision and are getting on with the next thing now. “We are supportive of the decision to up the minimum size limits to provide support to a stressed biomass with 12,000 recreational fishers. “For the next few years it might be tough, but it will give those smaller female rock lobsters the chance to breed and build that biomass back up. “Our next focus is working on a plan to secure the future of that East Coast biomass.”

Vessel Monitoring Systems are also being implemented across the commercial rock lobster fleet. This will assist in implementation and enforcement of the new changes and in turn help in the management of the fishery. Once the new rules are implemented, NRE Tas will work with stakeholders to develop a new comprehensive Rock Lobster Harvest Strategy.

This new overarching strategy will provide the framework and guidance for the sustainable management of the rock lobster fishery around the state and will ensure all sectors and the wider Tasmanian community will continue to be able to benefit from this valued resource into the future.

For more details visit the NRE Tas website, https://fishing.tas.gov.au/rocklobster-review.