Rock lobster fishery in good shape

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 11:18 02/10/2012
Southland Times photo
BARRY HARCOURT/FAIRFAX NZ

Paul Fountain, from Fiordland Lobster Company, with two of its rock lobsters.

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Southern rock lobster and crayfish catches almost halved in August but industry experts say the fishery is still in good shape.

Traditionally August and September represent the biggest months for rock lobster catches but unsettled weather saw the August catch rate drop by nearly half.

CRA8 Management Committee chief executive Malcolm Lawson said only 62,000kg of rock lobster or crayfish were harvested in August.

That represented a 45 per cent drop from previous seasons, he said.

Figures on the Ministry of Primary Industry website show August catches were 91,000kg in 2011, 110,000 in 2010 and 189,000 in 2009.

Fishermen got back out to sea in September and it was anticipated all boats would still harvest their seasonal quotas, Mr Lawson said.

The CRA8 fishery was also in extremely good shape with a high breeding biomass - a large quantity of mature females and males - and reports of significant 'new recruits'.

''The fishery is seeing a large number of rock lobster that have recently reached the legal size to be caught,'' Mr Lawson said.

Fiordland Lobster Company chief executive Alan Buckner said the good catch rate in September had come at the right time.

There was an increase in demand from China for its National Day on October 1, he said.

''The industry was able to meet the demand with the fishermen enjoying good weather conditions.''

However, the quantity and quality of rock lobster had not flowed into the pockets of fishermen, Mr Buckner said.

The exchange rate of the New Zealand dollar against the US dollar had impacted on the price paid to fishermen for lobster, he said.

''In the past twelve months the dollar has risen from US78c to US83c and it appears exporters have to face the reality this could be the new norm.''

All exporters were feeling the pain of the strong kiwi dollar and industries would need to adjust, Mr Buckner said.

''The key driver for the future of the southern fishermen will be the health of the CRA8 fishery and this is happening through industry practices,'' he said.

Did you know?
● The CRA8 southern rock lobster area brought in about $100 million annually in export receipts
● The 12-month fishing season started on April 1 and ran through to March 31 the following year
● About 65 boats would fish in the Fiordland area during a fishing year
● They all had different quotas, with the average being 15 tonnes a boat
● The CRA8 commercial allowance for 2012 is 962,000kg
● Prices fluctuated from $45 a kilogram to $90/kg, with fishermen targeting $65 to make a profit
● China accounted for 90 per cent of the export market
Source: CRA8 management committee

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