WA lobster industry set to rebound

The number of western rock lobsters that can be taken from the waters off WA could be increased after monitoring of the fishery found the most baby lobsters in a decade.

Fisheries Minister Ken Baston said yesterday that better times were ahead for the State's $200 million rock lobster industry, which has suffered from a lack of confidence since 2008-09 when a dramatic decline in baby lobsters, known as puerulus, indicated it could be wiped out.

The findings show the number of larval-stage lobsters in prime areas are well above the long-term average, with record numbers found at Dongara.

Mr Baston, who met rock lobster fishermen at the Abrolhos Islands on Thursday, said the latest results meant catch rates should be much-improved in about three years.

He said the department would continue to manage the fishery carefully and catch limits would be reviewed in coming years.

"The fishermen can look forward to 2017 with confidence," Mr Baston said. "I have to say there's a smile on their faces knowing that they have a good supply of rock lobsters and the world price is very good as well - they are getting some $65 a kilogram for their lobsters."

Department of Fisheries supervising scientist Nick Caputi said good management of the fishery and improved environmental conditions had lifted lobster larval settlement.

He said fishers should see substantially improved catches in 2016 and 2017.

"The management measures undertaken in 2008 meant the breeding stock was healthy and the good environmental conditions combined with healthy breeding stock gave the opportunity for the good settlement to occur this year," Dr Caputi said.

Western Rock Lobster Council chief executive John McMath said those involved in the industry had been buoyed by the results but they were by no means out of the woods.

He said the industry had not yet decided what catch limits it would push for in coming years.

"It's almost a year-by-year proposition in determining what the catch rates should be," Mr McMath said. "The demand is there but it's also a case of recognising that you've got to maintain the sustainability of the industry."

The West Australian

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