“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.
The department had also undertaken to allow the amendment of permit conditions so that fishers in both the West Coast Rock Lobster Association (WCRLA) and line fish sectors could land their catch over weekends. Fishery control officers will be on site to monitor and record landings if this situation arises.
Creecy stressed, however, that the department could not consider granting a roll-over of uncaught lobster to the next season, but would factor under-catches into the assessment procedures used to set the 2020/2021 total allowable catch (TAC).
A consultative meeting was held on February 14 after a request by the WCRLA to temporarily close down the season because trade with China had halted as a result of the coronavirus 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 encouraged 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.