Industry remains committed to increasing accessibility and availability of western rock lobster for the local market

After a successful and insightful year of back of boat (BoB) lobster sales, industry requested the landing limit for BoB lobsters be permanently doubled year-round.

Historically western rock lobster fishers were able to sell some of their catch from the back of the boat to the public. However, the introduction of the successful fishery quota system in 2010 removed authorisation for direct boat sales which constrained direct lobster supply to the West Australian market.

In recent years, the WA Government, Minister for Fisheries and hospitality, tourism and retail sectors as well as local communities have indicated a desire for more availability and accessibility of western rock lobster on the local market. As a core element of its social licence to operate, the western rock lobster industry has made a commitment to meeting local demand at fair market prices.

In early 2020 and as part of the COVID-19 response package, WRL recommended a simple mechanism for active fishers to use catch entitlement for direct local sales, including from the back of boat. This recommendation was accepted by the WA Minister for Fisheries and the Back of Boat (BoB) lobster sales mechanism was collaboratively designed by WRL and DPIRD and implemented through a management plan amendment introduced in September 2020.

WRL CEO Matt Taylor said “The new Back of Boat system allowed the fishery’s fleet of 235 boats to land up to 100 lobsters each fishing trip to sell direct to the public, restaurants and retailers. This initiative has provided a significant increase in direct supply to the WA community who have overwhelmingly embraced the new live purchase option.”

At industry request, the Government temporarily increased the landing limit to 200 during the peak demand periods of Christmas and Easter. “The take up by the community and hospitality sector was incredible, especially during the Christmas period. The demand exceeded our expectations and in doing so provided a better than expected boost to our industry’s connection with its communities,” Mr Taylor commented.

More than 90,000 lobsters have been sold through back of boat sales since the program came into effect in September. The majority of rock lobsters have been sold at Fremantle followed by Lancelin.

Due to the success of the direct sales initiative over the last 12 months, in September 2021, WRL proposed to Government that the limit per landing be increased permanently from 100 to 200 lobsters and increased further to 400 BoB lobsters per landing during Decembers when community demand and traditional seafood consumption is at its highest. The request was approved by the Minister for Fisheries, Hon Don Punch MLA, who since his appointment in March this year, has been a strong champion of the successful BoBs initiative.

Mr Taylor said that BoB lobster sales boomed over Christmas, with 45,508 lobsters landed by 61 fishers. This occurred during the typical peak holiday and summer period which enables locals to purchase directly from fishermen.

“We anticipate this increased landing limit will encourage more fishermen to participate in BoB sales and increase the availability and accessibility of western rock lobster in our local market,” he said.
WRL Deputy Chair and active commercial fisherman, Fedele Camarda, said the public had fully embraced back of boat sales, relishing the opportunity to buy premium fresh, live lobsters straight from the people who caught it just hours before.

“The community has responded really well,” he said. “People come down to meet and chat with us and get to know us as people. We also get to talk about our fishing and the industry so these direct sales build a really valuable connection with our community”

Fremantle lobster fisherman James Paratore commented he was pleased with the return of the tradition.

“It was welcome news to learn we could engage with the domestic market in a way which occurred many years ago, and a way which brings us closer to our European cousins who are revered as local fishermen close to their communities.”

“We are returning to our roots and engaging once again with the local community – the way it should always be,” he said.

WRL will continue to work with local suppliers, retailers, hospitality and tourism to benefit their sectors through increased availability and accessibility of western rock lobster on the local market.
WRL has implemented a dedicated email address and Facebook page Back of Boat Lobsters to help connect our fishers with people wanting to purchase lobsters.

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