The Victorian government has thrown a lifeline to rock lobster fishers, rolling over their quotas until next financial year as the coronavirus stops live exports to China.
The Victorian Fisheries Authority reviewed the quotas at the request of Fishing and Boating Minister Jaala Pulford this week after rock lobster fishers' work came to a grinding halt.
"I'm pleased to support Victoria's most valuable commercial fishery through difficult market conditions by carrying over all fishers' quotas to next season, which starts on 1 July," Ms Pulford told The Standard on Friday.
Tonnes of live lobsters have piled up in sea cages and processing facilities throughout Australia due to buyers cancelling orders for Chinese New Year and for the foreseeable future.
South west rock lobster fishers had told The Standard this week they had fears they could lose "hundreds of thousands of dollars" due to leasing or purchasing quotas they now were unable to catch.
Portland rock lobster fisher Neil O'Connell removed his 70 pots from the water this week, with the slump in demand making his fishing non-viable.
Mr O'Connell said the support was a relief after he was set to lose $100,000 on leased quota.
"It is a great job for the fishers to do it so quick. I don't think the season is going to open any time soon," he said.
"We just have to hunker down until next year and see what happens."
But he said affected fishers would have to make up for their lost catch next financial year.
Apollo Bay-based Victorian Rock Lobster Association president Markus Nolle said the support would help fishers "sleep at night".
But Mr Nolle said the government would still have to consider other measures to support the fishers who he estimated could be out of work for between one and four months.
"There are mechanisms for assistance packages for farmers, something similar for fishers and processors may need to be considered for exactly the same reasons," he said.
The Victorian Fisheries Authority is also working with the industry to grow the domestic lobster market to offset the halt in the supply due to the outbreak.
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