WA lobster fishers are angry at a State Government plan to take control of more than 17 per cent of the industry.
The Government has announced a phased increase to commercial quotas for the much sought after western rock lobster.
The changes will see the current total allowable commercial catch (TACC) increase from 6,300 tonnes to 8,000 tonnes.
But as part of the move the Government will directly control 1,385 tonnes of the catch.
Matt Taylor from the Western Rock Lobster Council says that is an unprecedented intervention in the market.
“We can’t imagine that the Minister would go up to BHP or Rio and say the state’s now going to own 17.3 per cent of your resource and we’re going to decide on an annual basis whether we lease or sell aspects of that,” he said.
“It’s just quite outrageous.”
The council had been in negotiations with the Government for several months, as it looks to lock in a $27.5 million dollar investment package.
Mr Taylor said discussions over state intervention had been a major issue.
“We came up with other models that would deliver a better financial return to the state, but they were not accepted,” he said.
“It was clear that state ownership of units was a not-negotiable on this policy.”
The Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly said the changes would be a boost for lobster lovers, who did not get the best return from WA’s $5 billion industry.
“We think some of the benefit of that should come back directly to West Australians,” Mr Kelly said.
Mr Kelly also said the move would result in a boost for state coffers, and open up opportunity for more tourism.
“With this unfished potential, and strong export demand for WA’s iconic lobsters, the time is right to ensure that present and future generations of Western Australians enjoy a share in the benefits from this iconic community-owned resource,” he said.
The plan also includes creating the Asia Pacific’s first-ever international lobster festival.
“We want to take what we’ve learnt from the successful Mandurah crab festival and create a unique festival that draws in tourists and gives Western Australians the opportunity to taste our delicious lobster.”