New Zealand considers carrying forward rock lobster quotas amid coronavirus fears

The coronavirus is having an impact in an important local industry in New Zealand – rock lobster.

Rock lobster fishing and fisheries officials, including Fisheries New Zealand, are considering a carry-forward provision to allow uncaught quota in 2020 to be used in the new fishing season amid coronavirus fears. The changes, if approved, will take effect in April.

Fisheries New Zealand is soliciting feedback about the provision, with a deadline for responses scheduled for 24 February, 2020. The agency said it is aware that the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has resulted in a decline in demand for live rock lobster in the Chinese market. China is the leading export market for live New Zealand rock lobster, covering 98 to 99 percent of all exports, according to Fisheries New Zealand.

“It is uncertain how long low demand for Chinese exports will continue, or whether the industry will be able to find alternative markets before the end of the fishing year,” the agency said.

To give relief to the impacted fishers, the annual catch entitlement (ACE) can be carried forward by up to 10 percent of an individual’s total ACE holdings that may not have been acquired by the end of the fishing year.

“There is an opportunity to provide relief to rock lobster fishers highly exposed to the unexpected market impacts of the coronavirus outbreak, without creating sustainability risks, in conjunction with measures they can take themselves,” Fisheries New Zealand said. “Enabling ACE carry forward would allow for fishers to defer the catch of rock lobster to the next fishing year when export markets for live rock lobster is likely to have improved."

Last month, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) said they’re carefully monitoring the novel coronavirus and its effect on New Zealand's primary industries and businesses.

Fisheries officials also recently allowed a limited release of rock lobsters back into the wild. 

“The decision will affect the live crayfish in holding pots at sea, and some held in tanks on land. It means they can be harvested again when the trade disruptions are resolved," Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash said in a press statement. “The coronavirus is taking a big toll on ordinary Chinese people. Millions of people cannot go about their usual routines because of the need to minimize health risks and observe restrictions on movements and gatherings.”

Photo courtesy of Steve Todd/Shutterstock


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