A new stock assessment model is required to improve the estimated time series of recruitment, exploitation, and catchability of lobsters in the South Australian lobster fisheries. This information is needed to (a) on its own quantify the current state of the fishery; (b) develop a reliable simulation model to answer important questions like, “what is the “right” TAC in the southern zone fishery, or the “right” amount of effort in the northern zone fishery to achieve the long term goals of these fisheries?”. These questions cannot be answered at the present time with the current SA assessment methods.
Of immediate concern is the lack of a capacity to respond to external threats to the industry. The lobster industry is presently exposed and vulnerable to claims of over-fishing because it cannot respond with a defence of its management strategies and practices based on a formal risk assessment.
Because the risk of over-fishing is not quantified, the management committees must adopt the precautionary principle which may be costing the industry and the broader community millions of dollars in revenue from foregone commercial catch as well as substantially reduced recreational opportunities.
The industry may not be able to capitalise on opportunities for attracting premium prices for their product through certification of the fishery’s sustainability, and may even face problems meeting Australia’s own (future) export requirements unless it can quantify risk.
There is no doubt that the industry will require the proposed assessment tools. Securing the proposed capability can either be pro-active, or it will have to be re-active.