Fisheries Minister Ken Baston said western rock lobsters were a major export industry for the State and were important to thousands of recreational fishers on the State’s west coast.
Below-average recruitment for the rock lobster larvae (known as puerulus) that settle on the coast was first detected in 2006, spurring action by the Department of Fisheries to adjust both commercial and recreational catches.
“The latest results are well above the long-term average and should result in much improved catch rates by 2017,” Mr Baston said.
The commercial West Coast Rock Lobster managed fishery was the first in the world to be accredited by the London-based Marine Stewardship Council as an ecologically sustainable fishery in 2000. In 2012, the fishery was the first to be certified for a third time.
The Minister said careful management of the fishery and retaining above-average levels of breeding stock helped maintain accreditation through seven consecutive years of below-average rock lobster settlement.
“The department’s research scientists have been working with the CSIRO and have identified two key factors that may have played a part in the low settlement rates,” he said.
“A new report suggests higher water temperatures in recent years may have caused the larval hatching to occur earlier and the intensity of winter storms may also have played a part.
“Scientists say these two variables provide a plausible cause for the decline in larval settlement, including the record low recruitment of 2008.
“The environmental variables resulted in better settlement in 2013 and this year.”