Larnce Wichman doesn't like the taste of rock lobster, nor is he a diver, but despite all of that he's probably one of the most influential people in the industry.
His 40-year career has culminated in him receiving the New Zealand Order of Merit for his significant contributions to sustainable practices and innovation within the sector. Wichman told REX host Dom George that
"I've tried them. I've always tried different dishes, but I don't bring them home or eat them, no," he says.
"In fact I don't remember us consuming a lobster in our household unless we've got a guest."
Despite this personal aversion, his influence has been profound. Wichman was instrumental in establishing a quota-based system that turned around the once-dwindling lobster stocks.
He recalls the early days of the industry, describing it as "gung-ho" with "no stringent regulations."
However, through his efforts, the rock lobster fishery experienced a resurgence, seeing catch-per-unit effort ratios climb from a mere 345 grams to a robust 2.2 kgs per pot lift, demonstrating the successful turnaround of the industry under his stewardship.
Another highlight of the conversation is the innovative Mainland Catch app, designed to monitor and manage fish stocks by collecting more accurate information on recreational catches which is set to come out in late March this year.
"We have no idea of what is actually caught from the recreational sector."
Wichman also touches upon the complexities of balancing various interests within the fishery management, including dealing with the implications of resource theft, which he estimates could be over 400 tonnes. This challenge underscores the need for a holistic approach to fisheries management, encompassing all sectors and stakeholders.
Upon discussing the New Zealand Order of Merit, Wichman expresses his humble nature.
"Quite humbled, actually very humbled, and yeah, I don't go out for those sort of recognitions but I had to accept it."
In summary, this podcast episode celebrates Larnce Wichman's journey from an industry outsider to a pioneering leader in sustainability and innovation. His work not only stabilised the rock lobster industry but also set a precedent for sustainable fishing practices globally.
Listen to the full chat between Larnce Wichman and Dominic George above.