Cape Town – Fishing rights for the West Coast rock lobster need to be suspended as the fisheries department has set unsustainable fishing levels, environmental organisations said on Wednesday. Only 2% of the lobster’s pre-fishing levels remained, the SA World Wildlife Fund, SA United Fishers Front, and Masifundise Development Trust said in a statement.They had worked with the department to develop a recovery plan after the lobster’s numbers became dangerously low.“This work was turned on its head when [the] department recently decided to ignore scientific advice and the agreed-upon recovery plan by setting the 2016/17 Total Allowable Catch at unsustainably high levels,” the statement reads.They called on the department to reduce fishing levels to 1 270 tons, which was consistent with current resource recovery targets. They wanted fishing restricted to a limited number of months per fishing area.Government should provide compensation, based on average market prices, to all West Coast rock lobster fishing rights holders when the season was closed.The organisations said that while the costs of paying compensation might seem significant, a multi-million rand restitution order would help cover this.In 2012, US courts awarded the South African government restitution of about R750m. This was after former Hout Bay fishing magnate Arnold Bengis was jailed in the US in 2004 for smuggling South African lobster and Patagonian toothfish into the US. In 2007, South Africa applied for Bengis and his co-accused to pay restitution. The mismanagement of the industry meant communities who relied on it would suffer more if stocks were depleted, Masifundise Development Trust director Naseegh Jaffer said.The department was unable to provide News24 with comment at the time of publication.