WA Fishers have called the state government's plans to take ownership of a significant chunk of WA's rock lobster industry everything from the "next WA Inc" to "a great plan" set to solidify the industry's future.
After Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly formally announced the government's "development package"on Monday, the Western Rock Lobster Council of WA was quick to sound off about their concerns with the proposal. Rock lobster retails at $90 a kilogram uncooked.
The commercial catch limit has been increased from 6300 tonnes to 8000 tonnes, and those with an existing western rock lobster license can also expect an increase in their catch allocation by 315 tonnes. The remaining 1385 tonnes will be available to the state government to sell off.
Council chairman Kim Colero called the package a major and never before seen intervention into fisheries by the state government, and said the ownership stake raised questions about how the industry would operate in the future..
The Seafood Industry Australia has also agreed with the council's concerns, and raised its own about whether the government should have intervened in the first place.
"The Labor governmen's intervention and claiming of a commercial stake in this fishery has far reaching repercussions for wild-catch fishers across Australia,” chief executive officer Jane Lovell said.
“The decision by the McGowan government to take control of more than 17 per cent of the western rock lobster fishery has the potential to dramatically devalue the entire industry.
“Governments are there to govern, not to become commercial entities competing with business.
“This move ... has significant negative repercussions on property rights nationally, and not just within the seafood industry.
“It is unclear how it is considered appropriate for a regulator to grant themselves quota and the associated financial benefit.
“We urge the government to reconsider and reopen negotiations with [the council] to find a more appropriate way forward."
Despite some backlash, the state government has stood by its plan and Premier Mark McGowan appeared on Radio 6PR on Tuesday morning in order to reiterate the goals of the package.
"What we're doing is expanding the catch ... that's scientifically proven to be sustainable," he said.
"Currently rock lobsters are virtually entirely exported. What we're going to do is make sure there's an allocation for local restaurants, local supermarkets and local fish shops so West Australians can go to the shops and buy rock lobsters at a more affordable price.
The part that we're making available for sale with conditions is currently un-allocated ... so the industry will actually get a greater allocation than they ... have.
"Then there will be a part the government sells or leases, and that will mean the taxpayers get millions of dollars to put into schools and hospitals.
"On top of that, part of that will be allocated to the West Australian markets."
The development package is currently open to consultation.