Millions of kilograms of rock lobster set aside by the State under the McGowan Government’s revamp of the crayfishing industry could be exported to China — despite the stated aim of cutting domestic prices and creating local jobs.
Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly said that while an “element” of the Government’s quota would be for the domestic market, it was likely some of the catch could go overseas where prices reach up to $100 a lobster.
Tensions between the minister and commercial crayfishermen flared again yesterday when the minister said a scheme to supply more lobster to the domestic market had been a failure.
Mr Kelly cited a Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development report to say the “Local Lobster Program” was too small and inaccessible.
The program allows commercial operators to catch up to 50 extra lobsters provided they are made available to local consumers, but Mr Kelly claimed “significant amounts” were being kept by the fishermen.
But Fishing Families WA, which is campaigning against the Government’s changes, rejected the accusation and said the minister was hiding behind a “secret” report to justify his policy.
Under the Government’s plans, the total commercial catch for rock lobster would be increased from 6300 tonnes to 8000 tonnes a year, with 1385 tonnes to be quarantined by the State.
Premier Mark McGowan this week suggested the portion of the State’s share to be set aside for local consumers was only likely to be a fraction of its overall catch.
“Part of that would be allocated — 100, 200, 300 tonnes, whatever it may be — to the domestic market,” he said. “So the taxpayers actually get some return, some money, out of the extra allocation.”
Mr Kelly said the Government had not made any final decisions about how it would use its quota. He said while the State would not export all its share, licences to fish it would be issued under the same terms as existing ones, so the catch could be sold overseas.
“It’s possible that some of it could be available for the export market,” Mr Kelly said. “We’ve said an element of it will be a domestic quota. We haven’t decided how much that will be yet.”