The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries has extended the West Coast rock lobster season to support fishers affected by the coronavirus.
Since the outbreak of the virus in China, where 90% of the species is exported to, the export price declined dramatically.
This impelled small and larger fishers to ask the department to take remedial action to support them.
A consultative meeting was held on February 14, following a request from the West Coast Rock Lobster Association (WCRLA) to temporarily end the season, as trade relations with China stopped because of the virus.
"The department is concerned about fishers and communities who have been adversely affected by this unexpected international event. Following consultation with the sector last week, we have decided to extend the nearshore fishery in the Western Cape until June and the offshore and Northern Cape fisheries until September," Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Barbara Creecy said.
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The department took additional steps to allow the amendment of permit conditions to allow fishers, both in the WCRLA and line fish sectors, to be able to land their catches over weekends. Such amendments will allow fishery control officers to be on site to monitor and record landings.
"Because the department cannot compensate fishers for their financial losses, we have decided to extend the season in the hope that those most affected by the current drop in sales will have time to make up for their losses. This decision takes into account that the season in all these areas would automatically end once the 10% berried female threshold is reached," Creecy added.
Creecy also indicated that the department was unable to consider granting a rollover of uncaught lobster to the next season, but it would include under-catches into the assessment procedures used to set the 2020/2021 total allowable catch.
Consensus was not reached at a meeting with small-scale fishers because they believed a decision would hinder their ability to fish for the domestic market.
The Port Nolloth Co-operative has voluntarily suspended fishing until the situation improves.