Craypot quota fears
Mid West Liberal and Labor MPs are at loggerheads over the effect the Government’s new quotas would have on crayfishermen’s incomes.
The proposal is to increase the annual WA crayfish catch by 315 tonnes for existing craypot owners and an additional 1385 tonnes for the WA Government.
Labor’s Agricultural Region MLC Laurie Graham said the Government-owned quotas could then be leased to small boat owners, making them viable industry players again.
Mr Graham said leasing out allocations was a regular occurrence and the Government would simply become another investor holding craypot licences.
When the Midwest Times interviewed Mr Graham on Monday, he said he had not received a single phone call about the initiative since Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly announced it on Sunday.
The Liberal Member for Geraldton Ian Blayney said fishermen were concerned about any increase in the annual harvest, which the quota system had drastically decreased to make it sustainable in 2013.
“Now the industry is in a sustainable and profitable position, I think the concern is that there’s a chance that this will undo that,” he said.
Mr Blayney said many fishermen were sceptical of scientific arguments for the catch increase.
“Fishermen point to what they were allowed to take in the past and science was clearly wrong then,” he said.
Mr Blayney said he was very concerned about the Government becoming an industry participant.
“When the industry had to be shrunk back to 5000 tonnes, the fishermen had to wear that themselves,” he said.
“There’s already concerns this will result in a fairly substantial fall in the price of craypots and it will reduce the lease fees being paid for pots.
“It makes it very hard to set a figure for those two things: the value of a pot and the value of a lease.”
Mr Graham said limiting the quota increase for existing craypot owners was calculated so as not to increase their value by more than 5 per cent. Member for Moore and WA National Shane Love declined to comment until he had met the fisheries minister.
The Midwest Times understands the Western Rock Lobster Council is due to meet in Dongara tomorrow night.
The WA Fishing Industry Council has requested urgent talks with the State Government after the announcement of changes to the management arrangements for the Western Rock Lobster fishery.