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Western Rock Lobster (2018)

Panulirus cygnus

  • Simon de Lestang (Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia)

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Summary

Western Rock Lobster is found only in WA. The stock is sustainable, with steady increases in biomass in recent years. It is a highly valued commercial species and a popular recreational catch.

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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Fisheries Stock status Indicators
Western Australia West Coast Rock Lobster Managed Fishery SCCMF, WCRLMF Sustainable Catches, catch rate, recruitment, egg production, harvest rate
SCCMF
South Coast Crustacean Managed Fishery (WA)
WCRLMF
West Coast Rock Lobster Managed Fishery (WA)
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Stock Structure

Western Rock Lobster is a single biological stock, with a distribution along the mid–lower west coast of Western Australia [Kennington et al. 2013], with most of the stock (> 95 per cent) being accessed by the West Coast Rock Lobster Managed Fishery (WCRLMF). As such the assessment of stock status is presented at the biological stock level—West Coast Rock Lobster Managed Fishery (Western Australia).

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Stock Status

West Coast Rock Lobster Managed Fishery

The stock status for Western Rock Lobster (Panulirus cygnus) is determined using a weight of evidence approach based on empirical and modelled estimates of a range of indices, including catches, catch rates, recruitment, egg production and harvest rate [de Lestang et al. 2012, de Lestang et al., 2016]. The stock assessment process is reviewed annually as part of the Marine Stewardship Certification (MSC https://fisheries.msc.org/en/fisheries/australian-western-rock-lobster/) process and intermittently by international stock assessment experts (e.g. de Lestang et al. 2012; de Lestang et al. 2019).

The most recent assessment shows that catches in the West Coast Rock Lobster Managed Fishery (Western Australia) have increased slightly over the past few seasons due to small increases in quota and an increase in recreational catch however, they remain 60 per cent lower than the historical average level of catch. Standardised commercial catch rates indicate that biomass has increased in recent years and is now over three-times greater than under input controls. Under current exploitation rates, catch rates are predicted to remain stable or increase. The Integrated Population Model (IPM) indicates that catch rates in all locations of the fishery will continue to increase with a continuation of fishing at similar or slightly higher total allowable commercial catches (TACCs) than in the recent past.

Puerulus (post-larval lobsters) monitoring indicates that the current settlement levels are slightly below the historic average. The IPM suggests that this is sufficient to maintain/increase stock abundance at current harvest levels. The IPM currently indicates that the fishery is operating at harvest rates of between 20–30 per cent and these will continue to decline at current or slightly higher TACCs. Fishery-independent egg production indices at all sites are well above long-term levels and above threshold reference levels. These indices indicate high levels of spawning stock exist throughout the fishery. The IPM indicates that the biomass and egg production in all locations of the fishery is currently at the highest levels recorded since the mid-1970s, and that a continuation of fishing at similar or slightly higher TACCs will continue to result in increasing biomass and catch rates.

The above evidence indicates that the biomass of this stock is unlikely to be depleted and that recruitment is unlikely to be impaired. Furthermore, the current level of fishing mortality is unlikely to cause the stock to become recruitment impaired.

On the basis of the evidence provided above, the West Coast Rock Lobster Managed Fishery (Western Australia) biological stock is classified as a sustainable stock.

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Biology

Western Rock Lobster biology [de Lestang et al. 2012]

Biology
Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
Western Rock Lobster 20+ years, > 150 mm CL  5–7 years, 65–80 mm CL, depending on location
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Distributions

Distribution of reported commercial catch of Western Rock Lobster
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Tables

Fishing methods
Western Australia
Commercial
Traps and Pots
Indigenous
Diving
Rock Lobster And Crayfish Traps And Pots
Recreational
Diving
Rock Lobster And Crayfish Traps And Pots
Management methods
Method Western Australia
Commercial
Gear restrictions
Limited entry
Size limit
Spatial closures
Total allowable catch
Indigenous
Bag limits
Gear restrictions
Size limit
Recreational
Bag and possession limits
Gear restrictions
Size limit
Spatial closures
Temporal closures
Active vessels
Western Australia
39 in Charter, 4 in SCCMF, 234 in WCRLMF
Charter
Tour Operator (WA)
SCCMF
South Coast Crustacean Managed Fishery (WA)
WCRLMF
West Coast Rock Lobster Managed Fishery (WA)
Catch
Western Australia
Commercial 6.55Kt in SCCMF, WCRLMF
Charter 6.42 t in Tour Operator
Indigenous Unknown
Recreational 456 t
SCCMF
South Coast Crustacean Managed Fishery (WA)
WCRLMF
West Coast Rock Lobster Managed Fishery (WA)

Western Australia – Commercial (catch) The commercial fishing season spans 15 January 2017–14 January 2018. Catches have been presented in this report by calendar year.

Western Australia – Indigenous (catch) (a) The recreational fishing season spans 15 October 2016–30 June 2017; (b) Subject to the defence that applies under section 211 of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth), and the exemption from a requirement to hold a recreational fishing licence, the non-commercial take by Indigenous fishers is covered by the same arrangements as that for recreational fishing.

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Catch Chart

Commercial catch of Western Rock Lobster - note confidential catch not shown

Downloadable reports

Click the links below to view reports from other years for this fish.