A prominent Perth restauranteur has come out in support of the WA Government’s planned shake-up of the rock lobster industry, saying WA crayfish is too expensive to have on his menu.
- The Government wants to increase catch limits, but control many of the new licences
- Restaurateurs say this would make lobster more affordable for many patrons
- But fishermen argue the plan would be damaging for existing licence holders
Currently 95 per cent of the commercially-caught lobster in WA is exported to China.
To boost supply to the domestic market, the Government has proposed increasing WA’s annual rock lobster catch by 1,700 tonnes.
Rock lobster fishers are up in arms — fearing the move would devalue their pots and bring down prices.
But Fabio Hupfer,co-owner of City Beach restaurant Odyssea, believes it would be good for local consumers.
“We try to get everything we produce and prepare for our customers in-house and try to get everything possible from West Australian sources — we approximately have 87–89 per cent of produce from Western Australia,” he said.
“Right now we don’t have crayfish, it is price-wise prohibitive.”
He said customers had become more price conscious in the past 18 months, and he believed only a select group would be able to afford what he would have to charge for lobster at current prices.
“I would have to charge in excess of $45, $40–$45 for half a crayfish,” he said.
Fishermen claim fishing rights being diluted
The Government’s proposal is a hot topic of conversation among WA’s commercial rock lobster fishing industry.
77-year old-rock lobster fisherman John Servaas and his son John Servaas junior, 52, said they supported increasing supply to the domestic market, but were opposed to other aspects of the Government’s plan — which would see it take a direct stake in the industry.
Currently 6,300 tonnes of lobster is fished each year in WA, although scientists believe the sustainable limit is 8,000 tonnes.
The Government plans to create additional licences, most of which it would control, to increase the catch to the 8,000 tonne limit.
It is understood the new licences would be offered to existing as well as new players — with the intention that some new entrants would be indigenous.
The ABC has also been told a yet to be determined percentage of the new catch would be reserved for the domestic market.
Mindarie rock lobster fisher John Servaas junior said he would be happy to talk to the Government about increasing local supply.
“In saying that it is a luxury product, abalone is a crazy price as well and it has been for a long time,” he said.
“[But] the ownership of the pots, the dilution of our fishing rights, is something we oppose strongly.”
One Nation indicated on Friday it would help block the Government’s plan in State Parliament.
But the Government is refusing to give up, saying an industry consultation phase remains underway.
“We’re not going to pre-empt the result of that consultation. We’ll consider all the feedback before we proceed further,” acting Fisheries Minister Roger Cook said.
Mr Servaas junior has taken some comfort from One Nation’s statement, but does not believe the fight is over yet.
“Not by a long shot … I don’t think the Labor Government will give up that easy, especially [Fisheries Minister] Dave Kelly, they’re not going to give up, they’re union people, they don’t give up when they get their nose into something they want to get hold of,” he said.
“And we’re going to do the same. We’re not going to give up on our rights, our businesses.”
Mr Servaas senior said the industry had gone through hard times a decade ago when quotas were cut to protect the environment, and argues the current buffer between what is caught and what can be taken out of the ocean sustainably must remain.
“We’ve had a plan, we’ve finished up making it the best lobster fishery in the world, it’s working well, we’ve got a buffer, leave the buffer alone,” he said.
Topics: fishing-aquaculture, hospitality, government-and-politics, perth-6000, wa
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