Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment to review the West Coast Rock Lobster Total Allowable Catch (Tac) for the 2021/2022 Fishing Season

25 October 2021

Following widespread concern and representations to Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Minister, Ms. Barbara Creecy from both the small-scale and commercial sectors regarding the recent cut in the Rock Lobster Total Allowable Catch (TAC), the Minister will request the newly appointed Consultative Advisory Forum (the CAF) to review the 2021/2022 TAC process and allocation.

This decision follows the announcement on 15 October, by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment regarding cuts to the West Coast Rock Lobster (WCRL) Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for the 2021/2022 fishing season. 

The 600-ton TAC determined for the 2021/2022 fishing season, represents a 28.3% reduction from the previous season. At the time of the announcement, officials indicated the decision was based on an updated stock assessment for the WCRL resource which indicated a further deterioration in the stock levels.

The CAF is a newly constituted panel of both local and international fisheries and conservation scientists, industry representation through FishSA, and community representatives.  Minister Creecy has requested the CAF to:

  • consider presentations and representations from stakeholders on the methodology used to determine the TAC;
  • review the appropriateness of the proportional cuts within the various sectors of the fishery; 
  • review data on the poaching estimates used in the TAC model;
  • advise on whether the current cut is an appropriate approach to sustainable use of the resource;
  • advise on an appropriate way in which fishing communities can assist the department to co-manage the stock.

“I am acutely aware that a large number of people rely on the WCRL resource for their livelihoods, and that the current proposed cut in quotas will have a devastating effect on already stretched incomes following the devastating effect of the covid pandemic and the impact it had on export markets for Rock Lobster” said Minister Creecy. 

Creecy also noted that because the WCRL resource is severely depleted, steps must be taken to rebuild the stock so that the fishery is managed sustainably. 

“Key to this will be to increase compliance-related efforts to combat poaching and over-fishing. Consideration must be given to how we ensure we strengthen the ability of communities to work with the department to co-manage this important resource”, said the Minister.

During consultations with the small-scale fishers, the Minister noted that many Interim Relief fishers expressed the need for a more sustainable basket of species to be allocated to fishing communities. The Minister indicated that the apportionment split which will allocate a more sustainable basket of species to small-scale fishers was gazette for public comment on the 23 October 2020. The final gazette which has taken into account the public comment process will be published in the coming two weeks. This will ensure small scale fishers have a more sustainable basket of species going forward.

While the CAF is reviewing the 2021 TAC, commercial right holders and small-scale and Interim Relief fishers will be allowed to continue fishing on the 2021/22 TAC figures announced on the 15 October 2021.  This is to ensure that fishers are not completely deprived of access to the resource and incomes. The CAF will be requested to treat the review with urgency and to make recommendations to the Minister within an agreed timeframe.

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Zolile Nqayi
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