Recreational rock lobster fishers will face tighter fishing controls this summer, Acting Fisheries Minister Geoff Gallop said today.
He said this was in line with stock conservation measures about to be introduced under proposed new legislation.
"The rock lobster breeding stock is down to less than 20 per cent of its virgin level," Dr Gallop said.
"The challenge for both recreational and commercial fishers is to increase the breeding stock by about 200 tonnes.
"To achieve this, it is vital that we protect the biggest, most fertile female lobsters.
"A maximum legal size of 115mm carapace for female western rock lobsters will therefore apply this season."
Dr Gallop said that in previous years fishers had been required to return egg-bearing (berried) lobsters to the water.
This season they would also be required to return all females in breeding condition.
"Female lobsters preparing to spawn develop fine, hair-like filaments (called setae) under their tails," Dr Gallop said.
"They may also have a black putty-like sperm packet or 'tar spot' on their shells between their hindmost legs.
"Recreational and commercial fishers must return both setose and tar-spot females to the water between November 15 and the end of February."
Dr Gallop said it would also be illegal this season for recreational fishers to take rock lobster at night.
This would deter a few unscrupulous divers from illegal pot raiding.
The night fishing ban would apply from 6pm to 4.30am between November 15 and March 31.
From April until the end of the season in June, the ban would apply from 6 pm to 6 am.
These rules would also apply to commercial fishers.
Dr Gallop said there was undeniable evidence that the breeding stock must be rebuilt to ensure the future of this important industry.
He said bans on commercial fishing for waters near Geraldton from January 10 to February 9 and north of Cape Inscription from March 12 would not apply to recreational fishers.
Minimum legal sizes and other fishing rules for recreational fishers would remain the same as in previous years.
A new rock lobster fishing guide would be available with recreational fishing licences from the Fisheries Department before the season opened.