Rock Lobster Fishery Overview

Commercial rock lobster vessel

Outline of the Fishery

The rock lobster fishery is a major Tasmanian industry providing significant benefits from exports from the commercial fishery and a highly popular and iconic recreational fishery.

The state's remote location and pristine environment provide ideal conditions for the southern rock lobster (Jasus edwardsii). Commonly known in Tasmania as crayfish, the rock lobster lives in a variety of habitats ranging from shallow rocky inshore pools out to the continental shelf. It varies in colour from the deep reddish purple of shallow water specimens to purple and creamy yellow in deeper offshore waters. A large female rock lobster can carry up to 400,000 eggs. These 'berried' females are totally protected in Tasmanian waters and must be returned to the water immediately. This is one of many rigorous measures implemented by the State Government to ensure sustainability of this high value and highly prized crustacean.

Management of the Fishery

The fishery is managed under the provisions of the Living Marine Resources Management Act 1995 and Fisheries (Rock Lobster) Rules 2011. Management includes a combination of input and output controls to ensure the industry's ongoing viability. These include limited entry (312 licences); restricted seasons; gear restrictions and requirements; a commercial total allowable catch (TAC); minimum size limits; and a comprehensive monitoring regime which requires documentation and real time reporting.

The industry is represented by the Tasmanian Rock Lobster Fishermen's Association, a peak body with a strong voice on the Ministerial Advisory Committee for crustacean fisheries. Industry members play a key role in determining research priorities and annual fishery assessments.

Key Markets and Exports

Rock lobster processed in Tasmania is exported to the mainland or directly overseas as live, fresh product. Export of live product has increased dramatically since the late 1980s, while exports of cooked product have declined. Tasmania, South Australia and Victoria continue to work collaboratively through Southern Rock Lobster Ltd to market their product with the aim of expanding export opportunities beyond South East Asia. The primary markets for rock lobster include Hong Kong, Japan, the United States, China and Chinese Taipei.

In March 2002, the industry gained export exemptions under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 in recognition that the industry is being managed in a sustainable manner. This status has been maintained by periodic review by the Australian Government.

Trade and Investment Opportunities

The economic impact of the Tasmanian rock lobster fishery is significantly greater than that depicted in simple comparisons of total annual revenue or gross value of product. Rock lobster is a resource derived from a wild fishery with production constrained by numerous factors (weather, access, available biomass, operating costs) that determine a very high "scarcity rent". Scarcity rent means that the return on the resource is far greater than that achieved by other primary industries.

With ongoing challenges to the fishery (including a high Australian dollar and fuel process) industry has opportunities to consider how to maximise economic gains to the community and to improve beach prices for the fishing sector.   Research into the cost and benefits of translocating rock lobsters from areas of slow growth to areas of more rapid growth is just one example of several new opportunities with potential to increase productivity.

More information on Rock Lobster:
Rock Lobster Total Allowable Catch
Recreational Rock Lobster Fishing
Rock Lobster Stock Assessments

Related websites:
Tasmanian Rock Lobster Fishermans Association
Tasmanian Seafood Industry Council
Australian Southern Rock Lobster
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