West coast rock lobster season extended
23 February 2020
The west coast rock lobster season has been extended to support fishers affected by the dramatic drop in exports to China since the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus.
Since the outbreak of Covid-19 (corona virus), the export price for rock lobster has dramatically declined. As a result, both small and larger fishers had asked the Department to take remedial measures to support the industry, workers and small scale fishers who have been adversely affected. Ninety percent of all rock lobster is exported to China.
“The department is concerned about fishers and communities who have been adversely affected by this unexpected international event. Following consultation with the sector last week, we have decided to extend the nearshore fishery in the Western Cape until June and the offshore and Northern Cape fisheries until September,” said the Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Ms Barbara Creecy.
“Because the department cannot compensate fishers for their financial losses, we have decided to extend the season in the hope that those most affected by the current drop in sales, will have time to make up for their losses,” she said. This decision takes into account that the season in all these areas would automatically end once the 10% berried female threshold is reached,” she added.
An additional undertaking by the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) has been to allow the amendment of permit conditions so that fishers in both the Western Cape Rock Lobster Association (WCRLA) and linefish sectors will be able to land their catch over weekends. In such instances, fishery control officers will be on site to monitor and record landings if this situation arises.
Minister Creecy has, however, pointed out that the department cannot consider granting a roll-over of uncaught lobster to the next season, but will factor in the under-catches into the assessment procedures used to set the 2020/2021 total allowable catch (TAC).
A consultative meeting was held with stakeholders on 14 February following a request by the WCRLA to temporarily close down the season because trade with China had halted as a result of the corona virus epidemic. There was no consensus at the meeting as small scale fishers believed that such a decision would interfere with their ability to fish for the domestic market.
The Port Nolloth Co-operative has voluntarily suspend fishing until the situation improves.
The department encourages rights holders to explore alternative markets, including the local market, and to continue exporting frozen tails, albeit for a lower price than would normally be obtained for live lobster.
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