Rock lob­ster build-up for East Coast

Sunday Tasmanian - - News - EMILY BAKER State Po­lit­i­cal Re­porter

MORE than 100,000 rock lob­sters will be moved from Tas­ma­nia’s South-West to the East Coast to re­store de­pleted stocks and com­bat a de­struc­tive sea urchin.

The State Gov­ern­ment will fund an­other four years of the East Coast Rock Lob­ster Translo­ca­tion Pro­gram at $75,000 a year.

An­nounc­ing the pro­gram ex­ten­sion yes­ter­day, Pri­mary In­dus­tries Min­is­ter Guy Bar­nett said: “The num­bers have been down [on the East Coast], so it’s im­por­tant to en­sure there’s ad­e­quate num­bers and you build that up over a pe­riod of time.”

Tas­ma­nian Rock Lob­ster Fish­er­men’s As­so­ci­a­tion chief ex­ec­u­tive John Sansom said stocks on the East Coast had suf­fered be­cause it was a pop­u­lar and ac­ces­si­ble fish­ing spot.

And de­pleted stocks were partly to blame for an in­crease in the pop­u­la­tion of the long spine sea urchin. Rock lob­sters eat the pest, which de­stroys kelp beds, se­ri­ously threat­ens marine life and has dou­bled in pop­u­la­tion on the East Coast in the past 15 years.

TARFish chief ex­ec­u­tive Mark Niko­lai said the past three years of the pro­gram had led to a no­tice­able in­crease in the num­ber of rock lob­sters on the state’s East Coast af­ter catches had al­most halved in the past 10 to 15 years.

His body, rep­re­sent­ing recre­ational marine fish­ers, also wants the State Gov­ern­ment to open more ar­eas of the state for marine fish­ing to pre­vent the same prob­lem hap­pen­ing again.

“We’ve long ad­vo­cated that much smaller, finer area scale man­age­ment needs to be put in place, which is ba­si­cally in­creas­ing the num­ber of zones around the state and man­ag­ing them at that zonal level rather than just an east­ern and a west­ern [zone],” Mr Niko­lai said.

Yes­ter­day marked the open­ing of the East Coast stock re­build­ing zone for recre­ational fish­ers.

Com­mer­cial fish­ers will be able to work in the area on Tues­day.

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