DFFE accepts consultative advisory forum’s recommendations on the west coast rock lobster fishery
13 December 2021
Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Minister Barbara Creecy has accepted a set of recommendations by the Consultative Advisory Forum (CAF) appointed to advise on the West Coast Rock Lobster fishery.
Necessary regulatory processes will be followed to give expression to this decision. The report recommends that the TAC be increased for the 2021/22 season to 700 tons from the present 600 tons given the dire socio-economic conditions of fishers reliant on WCRL for their livelihood.
The Forum which was appointed in November handed its report to the Minister on 10 December 2021. The Minister appointed the Forum following concerns raised by fishing communities about the reduction of the West Coast Rock Lobster Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for the present season based on challenges linked to declining stocks.
In addition to recommending an increase in the TAC for the current fishing season, the Consultative Advisory Forum also recommended that the Department pilot a more participatory “co-management” approach to the fishery to improve stakeholder buy-in; develop and urgently implement a poaching reduction strategy to maintain the stock and ensure fishing communities receive benefits along the entire value chain through capacity building and regulation of marketers.
The CAF recognised that the method used to determine the TAC was sound and subjected to peer review by international experts. However, the CAF recommended that the Department consider whether the relatively high variance of the Fishery Independent Monitoring Survey (FIMS) data could be affecting trend estimates and the implications of un-surveyed components of stock especially in deeper water.
The CAF recommended the DFFE consider introducing a coastal “reference fleet” to support closing data gaps and review commercial catch per unit effort (CPUE) data, specifically trap landing slips as some stakeholders expressed concern about trap landing slips which may incorrectly over report trap effort. The report emphasised the importance of improving understanding of stock sizes less than 75mm carapace length (especially females).
It is recommended that a more supported poaching estimate should be agreed upon by the WCRL Scientific Working Group, small-scale fishers and industry observers by the 2022/23 fishing season. The Forum agreed that addressing differing poaching estimates through a collaborative approach by industry, small scale fishers and non-governmental organisations could lead to improved estimates and greater stakeholder confidence in fishery model inputs and outputs.
The CAF recommended that the poaching reduction strategy should include steps to improve estimates of illegal fishing and thereby increase confidence in fishery model inputs and outputs. The strategy should develop a process for the Department to approve marketers for the sector to close poaching loopholes, appoint independent catch monitors, and improve inter-agency co-operation, with links to the Operation Phakisa Integrated Enforcement Task Team. Drivers of poaching warrant consideration, including formal exclusion from a lack of legal fishing rights.
In terms of proportional cuts, it is advised that the 700ton recommended TAC be implemented in such a manner that the recreational fishing sector remain at the allocation level of 21.57 tons (based on TAC of 600 tons), which means a negligible decrease in their proportion of the revised TAC. The “savings” should be split equally between the commercial fishing (nearshore) and the small-scale fishers (nearshore) and Interim Relief. The CAF further recognised a general lack of social and economic data and knowledge to effectively guide management in this fishery. It therefore recommended an integrated socio-economic study be done in parallel with poaching reduction strategy. This study can support future apportionment and allocation decisions.
The report states that while 700 tons is sustainable and was one of the recommended options from the Scientific Working Group, it noted that the level would not allow immediate resource recovery. Instead the CAF recommended resource recovery be phased in over a longer term period. The CAF recommended a three-year phased reduction (700/550/400), which it said must be re-assessed each year. The recommended TACs will depend heavily on the urgent implementation of a poaching reduction strategy which will support resource recovery.
The West Coast Rock Lobster (WCRL) fishery has been experiencing challenges of declining stocks in recent years. Besides the sector being faced with increasing demand from fishing communities and the broader public for access to the resource, illegal fishing and the effects of climate change have also contributed to the vulnerability of the species.
In terms of co-management, the Forum recommends a co-operative approach consistent with the Small-Scale Fisheries Policy. Addressing these may present opportunities to improve co-management and achieve improvements in research, monitoring, administration and compliance. In terms of compliance, the Forum recommends that the Department together with small-scale fishers and stakeholders co-develop and implement the Poaching Reduction Strategy
The report noted that capacity challenges within the Fisheries branch as a whole were impacting on the primary components of governance of this fishery, and urgent attention needs to be given to strengthening the capacity of the Department. Three focus areas to strengthen capacity were to implement effective Monitoring Compliance and Surveillance (MCS) to reduce the scale and impacts of illegal fishing on WCRL; strengthen the Small-Scale Fisheries Management unit so that the policy for small-scale fisheries can be implemented rapidly and effectively, including greater participation in co-management and ensure the department is able to develop strategic partnerships for more coordinated research and co-management to assess and mitigate cumulative risks to this valuable resource.
- Special project report on the review of the total allowable catch (TAC) for west coast rock lobster (WCRL) for the 2021/22 fishing season by the Consultative Advisory Forum for Marine Living Resources (CAF – MLR) [PDF - 829.88 mb]
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Note to editors
In November 2021, the Minister of Forestry and Fisheries and Environmental Affairs assigned a special project to the Consultative Advisory Forum to advise on the west coast rock lobster fishery. Specifically, the Minister tasked the Forum to advise her on the following:
(1) consider presentations and representations from stakeholders on the methodology used to determine the TAC;
(2) review the appropriateness of the proportional cuts within the various sectors of the fishery
(3) review data on the poaching and local sales estimates used in the TAC model;
(4) advise on whether the current cut is an appropriate approach to sustainable use of the resource and (5) advise on an appropriate way in which fishing communities can assist the department to co-manage the stock