Fisheries Success Story

The Western Australia Rock Lobster and The Vietnamese Clam

This fisheries success story compares and contrasts a fishery from the Global South (the Vietnamese Clam) and a fishery from the Global North (the Western Australia Rock Lobster).

How to read the story:

  • “K” represents the Global North fishery’s perspective
  • “N” represents the Global South fishery’s perspective

The story:

Introductions

Global South (N): Hi there I am one of the fishers from the Global South who is on the clam committee in Ben Tre in Vietnamese. Our province covers a 65-kilometre coastal area and contains more than 4,800 hectares of protected mangroves. In this important region of immense biodiversity, the clam fishery plays a vital economic role in our community. We are composed of 11 cooperatives that harvest the clams by hand, with the aid of a rake. We are actually the first MSC certified fishery in Southeast Asia and our goal is to show certification can conserve resources, preserve local communities, and positively impact the business in our community

Global North (K): Hello there! I am a fisherman at the Rock Lobster fishery in Western Australia. This species is found along the mid-lower west coast of Western Australia. The stock is sustainable with steady increases in biomass in the most recent years. Our fishery includes 230 vessels and was the first in the world to achieve MSC certification in 2000. We use baited pots and traps that are fitted with special Sea Lion Excluder Devices to block access to juvenile sea lions while we catch our lobster. I have worked here all my life and have never had to catch lobster by hand. Our fishery reaps high numbers of live lobster to the market year round. We originally shipped frozen lobsters to US markets but now we exclusively export live lobsters to China.

Similarities

K: Hey! Our fisheries are pretty similar in some ways. Both our fisheries experienced declines in the lobster and clam populations in the mid-2000s. In 2008, the Rock Lobster fishery experienced a decline. We halved the catch and went to an output fishery. We also closed the fishery for a year to allow stocks to rebuild.

N: That’s true! Due to climate change, we saw a decrease in the number of clams and that led to a decrease in our profits. We also closed some regions where we fish but more on that later! We would now like to open the floor to some questions! We have sent out some questions privately to students so please feel free to go ahead in order of the question number!

Question Period

Q1: What are the challenges each of your fisheries faced?

K: We have not faced any recent challenges but prior to the introduction of our new quota system, our fishermen were racing against each other to meet the fishery’s quota limit the first seven months of every year.

N: We have also been lucky not to have any serious challenges but in the past we have had to re-plan some of our internal initiatives due to a small decrease in profits due to clam deaths occurring due to temperature shock. Also, Back in the 2000s, the government’s fishery initiative did not incentivize local fishers to harvest clams in a sustainable way. This led to immature clams being collected before they were a productive size, resulting in decreased profits.

Q2: What are the Laws or Acts your fisheries enacted or operated under?

K: The Western Rock Lobster fishery operates under many acts. This includes the 1994 Fish Resources Management Act, the 1995 Fish Resources Management Regulation, the 1993 West Coast Rock Lobster Management Plan, and the WCRLM Fishery License.

N: While I do not have an exact “act” we run under by name available, the fishery is operated by our local cooperative that provides close management and surveillance of the brood stock and harvestable clams within our area. Support and advice are provided to the cooperative by the Ben Tre People’s Committee Department of Fisheries and the Ben Tre Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD). Ben Tre DARD and WWF co-sponsored the MSC certification process. For an example of how the co-operative works together, ⅓ of the members catch their own quotas while older and younger sell their tickets to other members of the co-op for mutual benefit

K: I guess we outnumber you in the number of laws and licenses we operate under! I think that ensures our fishery is a bit more well managed and sustainable.

Q3: How were the fisheries managed and how did the stock status change?

K: Since 2010, our fishery has been managed by the TACC quota system. We transitioned to an individual transferable quota fishery. Fishing is permitted all year in all zones with NO closed seasons! The total annual catch is just 5554 tonnes. Another cool aspect of our fishery management is the electronic Fish eye system we have to monitor our quota. Fishers are required to complete Catch and Disposal Record forms which involve the use of an Interactive Voice Response system.

K: Our current stock status has not fluctuated much over the past ten years. If you compare our stocks with historical averages, we are 45% below the average but our current stock status is not struggling. Our biomass has increased in recent years.

N: Wow, that is really cool! The Fish eye system must be very expensive… We had some temporary closures of different areas of the fishing grounds to let clams grow to the correct size and since instituting this practice the community has noticed big increases in clam abundance. Our Ben Tre cooperative also agreed to leave certain areas of the fishery fallow, allowing for ongoing stock replenishment. In addition, the selective, low-impact fishing method of hand-raking ensures minimal disturbance to sand flat communities where the clams can be found and ensures no by catch of any other species occurs.

Q4: Can you list some of the successes that fisheries had?

K: The Western Rock Lobster Fishery was the first fishery to ever receive MSC certification and we have kept it over the past 22 years. We have been a leader in our willingness to embrace this rigorous and comprehensive certification process. Our fishery’s success has led the government to provide a $14.5 million fund to all 47 other Western Australian fisheries in 2012.

N: Being the first MSC certified fishery in South East Asia has allowed our community to be eco-labeled which offers higher profits and in turn higher wages to the co-op members. In addition to financial benefits there have also been successful replanting initiatives of mangroves that are adjacent to the fisheries.

Q5: Has your fishery been linked to any socio-economic issues?

K: Our fishery has not been linked to any crimes like human trafficking, drug smuggling or slavery.

N: Neither have we!

K: The Western Rock Lobster is one of Australia’s most highly valued commercial species and a popular recreational catch. Lobster is a very popular seafood choice here so our fishery is very important!

N: Our profits are also being re-invested into our community to build a new access road and to decrease thefts which has been an issue! We are also trying to get a school bus for a local school.

Powerpoint slides to supplement the story:

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BSc in Biology. A love for the outdoors and a passion for studying marine conservation and sustainability.

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Kasie Kwok

Kasie Kwok

BSc in Biology. A love for the outdoors and a passion for studying marine conservation and sustainability.

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