The state government announced dates for upcoming recreational and commercial rock lobster fishing seasons in Tasmania.
Rock lobster fishing outside of the East Coast Stock Rebuilding Zone will commence on November 1 for recreational, and November 15 for commercial fishers.
Recreational fishing for the ECSRZ will start on December 5, with commercial fishers to commence on December 8.
Primary Industries and Water Minister Guy Barnett said the recreational dates outside of the ECSRZ provide an additional weekend fishing day and a bonus long weekend for Northern recreational fishers before the commercial pots are set.
Recreational fishers, however feel they have been left high and dry by the announcement, according to Tasmania Association for Recreational Fishing chief executive Jane Gallichan.
“Enough is enough, it’s time that the Tasmanian government stopped asking recreational fishers to pick up the tab for commercial over-fishing on the East Coast of Tasmania,” she said.
“The ECSRZ is in poor shape, we accept that and we want to see it recover but it won’t while commercial over-fishing continues to be enabled by government decision-making.”
The ECSRZ is a stretch of water between Eddystone Point and the southern tip of Bruny Island, aimed at re-stabilising rock lobster populations in the region.
Mr Barnett said the zone was on-track to improve the stocks to greater than 20 per cent by 2023.
Ms Gallichan said recreational fishers have asked for fair access to the zone, requesting two weeks of fishing rather than three days before commercial fishing starts.
She said recreational fishers make up four per cent of total allowable catch rate in Tasmania.
“The time has come to change the way the rock lobster fishery is managed,” Ms Gallichan said.
“There are around 350 commercial rock lobster fishers taking 96 per cent of the total allowable catch – it’s not right, it’s not fair and right now, rock lobster fishers want things changed.”
Ms Gallichan said TARFish made a submission to the state government in June requesting the commercial season be pushed to December 15, or bring the recreational fishing season forward to November 28 in the ECSRZ.
A government spokesperson said all views were considered when setting this year’s season dates, balancing recreational fishers’ opportunity to fish before the commercial season opens, and ensuring commercial fishers are able to supply pre-Christmas domestic and export markets.
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Ms Gallichan said Institute of Marine Antarctic Studies statistics found the East Coast rock lobster fishery accounted for 75 per cent of the state’s recreational harvest.
IMAS stats also showed recreational rock lobster fishers caught only 32 per cent of their 170-tonne cap last season.
The statistics also showed the recreational catch percentage in the ECSRZ was 1.4 per cent below the target of 35 tonnes.
Both Mr Barnett and Ms Gallichan said they acknowledged the strain on the commercial rock lobster industry caused by COVID-19, which has hindered exporting to key customer China.
“For years the commercial sector has placed all its eggs in the Chinese basket because they pay top dollar for Tasmania’s rock lobster and they reaped huge profits as a result,” Ms Gallichan said.
“For the government to now use the commercial market failure to pinch access from everyday Tasmanians is not on.”
The government spokesperson said in future, when East Coast stocks have rebuilt, the government may be able to re-evaluate future season dates.
“If the government want to seriously improve the sustainability of the ECSRZ – seriously limit commercial fishing there,” Ms Gallichan said.
Ms Gallichan said recreational fishers invited Mr Barnett to revisit the decision.