The sudden emergence of the highly contagious coronavirus in China could not have occurred at a worse time – the eve of Chinese New Year when demand and prices can be at a premium.
There is provision in the Fisheries Act for up to 10 percent carry over of uncaught Annual Catch Entitlement (ACE) into the next fishing year, but this does not apply to lobster stocks.
Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash won praise last week in being quick to agree to allow some of the 150 to 180 tonnes of live rock lobster held in pots and tanks on sea and on land to be returned to the wild before they deteriorate in quality and value.
However, there is little point in returning lobsters to the sea without the opportunity to catch and land them for sale at a future date.
The alternative is to sell them for whatever market return is achievable.
“Carry forward does not cause any sustainability issues,” NZ Rock Lobster Industry Council chief executive Mark Edwards submitted.
“The stock assessments tell us the commercial catch that can be harvested to meet the management targets and there is no issue created by taking the uncaught entitlement in the next fishing year.”
An early decision is hoped for to remove uncertainty.
The New Zealand rock lobster fishery is divided into nine management areas, with a loss of catching rights affecting 144 ACE holders.
There were about 470 tonnes still to be caught by the end of the cray fishing year on March 31 as at January 1.
Rock lobster, more commonly called crayfish in this country, are the centre of seafood attention but the much smaller live p?ua trade to China has also stalled.
The wider economy is being hit by a sharp downturn in log and meat exports, in tourism and education and all sorts of goods and products, from cherries to reusable nappies.
Even so, the Reserve Bank under Governor Adrian Orr remains positive in its economic projections.
While the virus is undoubtedly serious, and is still spreading, there is a hysterical edge to the media coverage and public reaction.
There needs to be some perspective here.
An average 88,100 Chinese died annually from influenza-related illness in the five years to 2015, according to an analysis of Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention figures.
That is not a misprint – that is eighty eight thousand mortalities.
In the current flu season in the United States, 19 million have been sickened and 10,000 have died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In this country, about 800 people die every year from influenza and pneumonia.
It is difficult to assess the true picture in authoritarian China, but reports are the disease contraction has stabilised, with the number of deaths at around 1300.
America’s National Fisheries Institute has reassured the public the virus is not related to seafood and does not come from seafood.
Halted seafood sales to China are unrelated to public health.
Neither is there any evidence that the coronavirus has been associated with goods imported from China.
Meanwhile the Aussies have a novel approach to boosting sales in the wake of summer bushfires and coronavirus.
Seafood Industry Australia is urging consumers on Valentine’s Day today to “say it with seafood” to improve their love life.
“A recent study has shown couples are 39 percent more likely to be intimate on days when they have both eaten seafood,” SIA chief executive Jane Lovell claimed.
“A dozen oysters or a posy of pippies would make the perfect present, and who wouldn’t want a leatherjacket?”
She might have added you would be cray-zee not to take advantage of more product on the domestic market.