New rules for fishers at the Abrolhos Islands, to help protect sea lion pups, will ensure Western Australia’s rock lobster industry maintains its international certification as a sustainable fishery.
Principal Management Officer Graeme Baudains said the State’s western rock lobster fishery was the world’s first fishery to gain global certification, by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), eleven years ago and it had maintained its world-class status through constant attention to sustainability issues.
'Mandatory sea lion exclusion devices, or SLEDs, for rock lobster pots were introduced in 2006, for a special zone around the sea lion breeding colonies between Lancelin and Dongara,' Mr Baudains said.
'The extension to cover specific areas at the Abrolhos Islands continues to enhance the environmental credentials of the fishery.
'The industry’s scientific reference group had identified risk areas, in waters less than 20 metres depth, around the islands in the Easter and Pelsaert Groups.'
Following industry consultation, at the end of last year, the legislation is expected to be in place when the Abrolhos Islands lobster fishing season begins on 15 March 2011.
Mr Baudains said the new regulations would require commercial and recreational lobster pots in the special zones to be fitted with SLEDs.
'The Department of Fisheries will work closely with fishers to transition to full SLED implementation by 2012,' he said.
A special 12 nautical mile closed area, for the commercial rock lobster fishery, located on the border of the B and C fishing zones, will also come into force on 15 March.
'The closed area, which is approximately 22 nautical miles West of Leeman, will be used for a five year research program, examining the ecological effects of rock lobster fishing in deep water,' Mr Baudains said.
'The closed area research program is also a condition of MSC certification.'
Awareness sessions about the new rules for 2011 have been planned for commercial fishers, prior to the Abrolhos Islands rock lobster fishing season. More details about the new SLEDs zones are available via the Recreational and Commercial Fishing pages of the Department of Fisheries website, at www.fish.wa.gov.au