Marine Parks not to blame for lobster prices: Conservation Council

The South Australian Conservation Council has lashed out at the state's rock lobster industry for blaming the recent rise in the product's retail price on marine park sanctuary zones.
The South Australian Conservation Council has lashed out at the state's rock lobster industry for blaming the recent rise in the product's retail price on marine park sanctuary zones.

THE South Australian Conservation Council has lashed out at the state's rock lobster industry for blaming the recent rise in the product's retail price on marine park sanctuary zones.

In a statement from the conservation council, it said prices for seafood across the state were increasing well before marine parks were brought in on October 1.

"It is disingenuous of the rock lobster industry to spread misinformation about the reasons behind the price increases of South Australian seafood," Conservation Council chief executive Craig Wilkins said.

South Australian Rock Lobster Advisory Council chief executive Justin Phillips said the Conservation Council did not understand the true financial impact of marine parks on the seafood industry.

"The conservation council's comments in relation to SA seafood prices and marine parks demonstrate, very publicly, how misinformed they are on this particular issue," he said.

"With some of the most productive fishing grounds in the Northern Zone Rock Lobster Fishery now 'locked up' as a result of marine parks, costs of catching rock lobster have certainly increased this season with operators having to travel further and fish more marginal areas for longer at lower catch rates.

"It would be naive of the conservation council to think this has not had some impact on prices for our product."

Mr Phillips said there were a number of factors that contributed to the rise in rock lobster prices however marine parks were definitely a significant one.

"Certainly the strong prices we have seen for southern rock lobster this season are also a confluence of the dropping Australian dollar, the high quality of our premium export product and subsequently strong demand in China," he said.

"But the loss of highly productive fishing grounds to marine parks has definitely played a part."

Mr Wilkins said the rock lobster industry was not sustainable and said claims that it was well managed were false.

"It is appalling that PIRSA (Primary Industries and Regions SA) keeps telling us that we have the best managed fisheries in the world when our iconic fish species are clearly not being managed sustainably," he said.

Mr Phillips said although the "sweeping and carefully selected references" by the conservation council labelled the fishery as unsustainable, it was well documented this was not the case.

He said commercial catch rates had steadily increased in recent seasons and the fishery increased its total allowable commercial catch at the beginning of the 2012/13 season.

The Fisheries Research and Development Corporation's Status of Key Australian Fish Stocks report classified southern rock lobster as a sustainable stock in all states it is fished.

Mr Phillips said as a fishery, no one cared more about its sustainability than the fishermen themselves.

"We view the real experts as commercial fishers with a lifetime of experience on the water and a true sense of custodianship for the natural resource from which they've supported their families for generations."

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