Fisheries Minister Jon Ford has responded to the concern of professional fishers and announced a 12-month delay in the introduction of sea lion exclusion devices in the West Coast Rock Lobster Fishery.
Mr Ford said the moratorium would allow more time to investigate the design of the devices, following objections from commercial operators.
“I have personally heard the fears of many fishers on this issue during industry meetings in Fremantle and Geraldton and I believe we need to look closely at the effect of these devices on rock lobster catches and sea lion pups,” the Minister said.
“It is important to strike the right balance between eliminating the small number of accidental pup deaths and minimising the impact on commercial fishing operations.“
Initial trials of the devices had shown a reduction in rock lobster catches while later designs had shown little effect on catch rates.
Mr Ford said the fishing industry had rejected the devices because it wasn’t convinced by the research.
“I will be directing the Fisheries Department to conduct further trials and to report back on the findings,” he said.
The Minister said he hoped effective protection devices would be fitted to rock lobster pots in time for the 2006-07 season.
The introduction of the devices is part of an ecological risk assessment process that the fishery cannot avoid if it is to meet Commonwealth Government export certification requirements and Marine Stewardship Council accreditation.
In 2000, a risk assessment found that a small number of Australian Sea Lion pups were being accidentally killed in rock lobster pots each season.
“The Gallop Government recognises the contribution the rock lobster industry makes to Western Australia and is keen to support fishers and help ensure ecological sustainability,” Mr Ford said.
“I am reassured by the way the industry views and works to protect the environment that sustains this very important fishery.”
The Minister welcomed public input and encouraged fishers, industry members and others to carefully consider future recommendations on the sea lion exclusion devices.
Minister's office: 9425 4200