Rock lobster meant for West Australian dinner plates has instead been lining fishermen's stomachs, according to a state government review.
Under the Local Lobster Program - launched in 2016 by the former Liberal government - fishers are allowed to catch 100 extra crayfish on the condition they're reserved for WA consumers.
But in its first two years, fishers kept a quarter of the reserved catch for themselves.
Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly said the review found the delicacy was often inaccessible to the local public and local restaurants.
Finding a consistent supplier was difficult and most sales of the extra catch were from fisher's homes or boats, it said.
Conducted by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, the internal study claimed the LLP's 15 tonnes of extra catch per year was too small.
The findings come amid a stoush between the WA government and industry over plans for the state to increase catch quotas and keep a 17.3 per cent stake for lease or sale to local buyers.
Lobby group Fishing Families WA says the audit echoes what industry has been telling the Labor government "for years".
FFWA spokesman Brad Arnup denied fishers were keeping a portion of the catch for themselves.
"Fishers are selling (the lobsters), giving them to charity or giving them to local families," Mr Arnup said in a statement Friday.
"It is illegal for fishers to have tagged lobsters in their homes."
He accused the minister of failing to make the full study public for independent evaluation.
The state opposition has called on WA's premier to step in and conduct the consultation.
Premier Mark McGowan was forced to defend his fisheries minister Wednesday after claims Mr Kelly had botched handling the proposal.
Mr McGowan said the industry's peak body had already signed off on an agreement to pursue the policy last month.
Mr Kelly has extended a consultation phase until the end of January, following an industry-backed advertising blitz against the changes.
Western rock lobster is the nation's most valuable fishery product and a premium WA export, with 95 per cent of its annual catch exported to China.
Australian Associated Press