In early 2018 Western Rock Lobster (WRL) requested to work collaboratively with the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) to undertake a prudent independent peer review of the science and modelling associated with the West Coast Rock Lobster Managed Fishery.
In order to review the modelling of the western rock lobster resource, a two-phase process was adopted. The first was a science review that would collect observations and concerns of the fishers, which would then be followed by a review of the stock assessment modelling that could focus in on the fisher concerns.
While the fishery has annual reviews of the stock assessment and associated annual indices as part of their Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification and harvest strategy, the last review of the stock assessment modelling was conducted in 2011, just after the change in management from input to output controls.
Since this time, the fishery has settled into its new quota management system and has seen an increase in the legal biomass of lobsters. This increase has resulted in pressure to raise the Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC). While the TACC setting is not a part of this independent peer review, the stock assessment modelling will eventually form the basis of these calculations and confidence in the science and modelling resulting from the peer review will assist in TACC decision making.
Therefore, it is important to ensure that the modelling is accurate and that the quality of advice from the modelling is appropriate. This is particularly relevant given concern has been expressed by some commercial fishers that they are observing different catchability and lobster behaviour compared to their historical experiences. Their view is that the modelling may be optimistic and are concerned by the consequences of overestimating the legal biomass.
A report summarising the proceedings and outcomes of the science review which culminated with the West Coast Rock Lobster Science Review Workshop 1, held on the 6th April 2018 at the Western Australian Fisheries and Marine Research Laboratories can be found here: Science Review – Workshop 1 Report, 6th April 2018
Following the first workshop, the West Coast Rock Lobster Science Review Workshop 2 is to be held 31st May – 1st June 2018. Report to follow.