Commercial Fishery Effort
Prior to the introduction of the ITQ system the Tasmanian rock lobster fishery had nearly 300 active vessels. The combined effects of the introduction of the ITQ system, stock rebuilding and changes to vessel pot limits led a sharp decline in the number of active vessels and employment. This cut in employment was an expected outcome of the ITQ system. A limit reference point of 220 vessels was in place reflecting initial concerns about fleet size. The limit reference point was breached in the 2006/7 season at which point industry and management decided to continue on the path to increased profitability and discontinued the limit reference point rather than changing rules to maintain the fleet size above 220 vessels.
Low recruitment and falling CPUE in 2009 and 2010 resulted in low quota lease prices as more vessel days were required to take the TACC, so that costs rose. Vessels opportunistically and rapidly re-joined the commercial rock lobster fleet leading to a short spike in employment in the fishery. This period in the history of the fishery demonstrated that new entrants exist and will readily join the industry when opportunities emerge. The long-term decline in the number of commercial operators over the last 20 years is not for lack of willing and able new entrants, rather, this trend is an outcome of the policies designed to increase economic efficiency and thereby reduce the fleet size.
From 2011/12 onwards, the fleet has declined due the combined effects of stock rebuilding (higher CPUE), a lower TACC, and greater effort per vessel. The average effort of the remaining vessels has increased with mean pot usage at 47 pots / shot in 2017/18. The current stock rebuilding trajectory and target reference points are expected to drive an ongoing decline in vessel number and employment. A mechanism slowing this decline is a limitation that prevents any operator benefiting from more than 200 units of quota (20t in 2017/18). Other measures to accelerate the contraction of the fleet such as relaxing input controls have been considered or trialled (for example a trial allowing operators to use 60 pots instead of the usual 50 pots).