Rock lobster season 'prosperous' in south

01:43, Jan 31 2009
IN TRANSIT: South West Helicopters Ltd picking up lobster from boats to bring in to shore.

Southern fishermen were enjoying one of the best rock lobster seasons in 20 years, Fiordland Lobster company chief executive Mike Schuck said.

Mr Schuck said his company expected to export about 700 tonnes of rock lobster, known to most as crayfish, nationally, the best since the implementation of the quota system in 1987.

While the season officially ends in March, Mr Schuck said his fishermen would finish ahead of schedule, by the end of September, because quotas would be filled by then.

Although not willing to specify how much of the 700 tonnes came from the southern region, he did say it was a large proportion.

"We're a Southland-based company and that is where most of our catch comes from." About 95 percent of exports were sent to mainland China, Mr Schuck said.

The fast catch rate was largely because of a decision made by the fishermen in the CRA8 fishing area, which was beginning to make good, he said.

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"We took it upon ourselves to cut quotas in order to rebuild stocks, which is paying off," he said.

Mr Schuck said another contributing factor to the prosperous season was higher prices paid for lobster this year, helped by a softening exchange rate.

"But with that, the price of leasing quotas has gone up, too, which can make it more difficult. For those who own a quota it's a lot more comfortable." According to the Fisheries Ministry, Southland nets a third of New Zealand's rock lobster exports, earning about $38 million in export receipts.

 

The Southland Times