Historically rock lobster fishers sold some of their catch from the back of the boat to the public, restaurants and retailers. The introduction of the successful fishery quota system in 2010 removed authorisation for boat sales which constrained lobster supply to the West Australian market.
Over the last three years, Local Lobster Programs have authorised the 235 active commercial fishers to sell up to 50 tagged lobsters to the local market during the peak demand periods of Christmas and Easter.
At the same time, the industry’s peak body Western Rock Lobster (WRL) has been working with government on a more permanent solution to increase the availability and accessibility of western rock lobster for the local market.
Since COVID-19 severely impacted the western rock lobster fishery around Australia Day 2020, industry proposed a response package that was approved by the Minister for Fisheries, Hon Peter Tinley MLA. One of the key elements of the response package was the re-introduction of Back Of Boat (BOB) lobster sales.
WRL CEO Matt Taylor said, “It is fantastic that fishers are once again able to sell directly from their boats to the public, restaurants and retailers. This community connection is important to our industry and now we have the lowest cost mechanism for year-round sales directly to members of the public and an ability to manage increased domestic availability and accessibility of lobster”.
Fishers will be able to land 100 lobsters per trip and sell them to members of the public, restaurants and seafood retailers. BOB lobsters will be landed and weighed in sealed and tagged containers, with fishers being able to sell the lobster 10 minutes after the weight is reported. BOB lobsters may be sold directly from a fisher’s boat or any other location including the fisher’s residence.
WRL Deputy Chair Fedele Camarda said, “BOB lobsters create a permanent platform for fishers to sell lobster directly to the public in both metropolitan and regional areas. This allows restaurants and tourists to purchase fresh lobster easily and consistently throughout the year”.
WRL expects that BOB lobsters will add value to the local community and coastal towns by boosting hospitality, tourism and regional development. It is also anticipated that this mechanism will reduce the illegal black market take and sale of western rock lobster.
WRL will continue to work with local suppliers, retailers, hospitality and tourism associations to benefit their sectors through increased availability and accessibility of western rock lobster on the local market.
WRL have created a new enquiry email BOB@westernrocklobster.org and Facebook page at www.facebook.com/BackofBoatLobsters to help connect our fishers with people wanting to purchase lobsters.
Other elements of the COVID-19 response package include changes to season dates including an extension of the current fishing season, revised total allowable commercial catch (TACC) for the extended season, and additional whale mitigation measures including agreed maximum pot usage for this season and extended gear modification period to now include the month of April for future seasons. These additional measures ensure industry maintains its position as world leaders in minimising interactions between fishing gear and whales.