​Recreational Rock Lobster Fishing 2018-19 - Frequently Asked Questions

Seasonal Closures

Why is the recreational season starting later in the East Coast Stock Rebuilding Zone (ECSRZ)?

Delaying the recreational opening date in the ECSRZ until Saturday, 8 December 2018 aims to constrain the recreational catch in the ECSRZ to 40 tonnes for the 2018/19 fishing year.

Read more about the ECSRZ.

Why is the recreational season starting earlier in part of the Eastern Region?

All waters outside the ECSRZ will now open earlier.  After considering the impact of delaying the season for the entire Eastern Region, the proposal to apply it to the targeted management area only (Eddystone Point to Tasman Head) was implemented. 

Moving the opening boundaries may have some impacts, particularly the southern boundary which is close to thousands of recreational fishers.  This brings challenges in balancing compliance risks, policing resources and the needs of fishers.

Why use seasonal closures to limit recreational catch?

Seasonal closures are cost effective and practical to implement.  The effects are easily monitored, allowing seasons to be adjusted if necessary.  The combination of season and bag limit adjustments help constrain the recreational catch on the east coast, leaving fish in the water for future years.
The reduction in total recreational catch in the ECSRZ in years when extensive biotoxin closures have applied show that seasonal closures are effective.


Why is the commercial fishery open in the winter?

The commercial and recreational rock lobster fisheries operate very differently which is reflected in the different types of management applied to each sector.

The commercial fishery is closed for part of the winter to address risks of handling spawning females and soft shelled lobsters.
Seasonal reductions are not used to limit the commercial catch in the ECSRZ because the catch cap system provides a more effective direct catch control mechanism.  The commercial catch cap is set for the East Coast each year.  Quota dockets are monitored and when the catch approaches the cap, the fishery closes in the ECSRZ until the next fishing year commences in March.

Higher rock lobster prices are often achieved in the winter fishery. As the commercial fishery catch is directly limited by the quota system, the aim is to maximise flexibility in terms of when they can fish to supply the market when demand is high to maximise economic return.

Is there a buffer period between the recreational and commercial openings?

The buffer period, where the recreational fishery opens before the commercial fishery, has been reduced from two weekends to one weekend.
The reduction of the buffer balances the need to restrict the recreational catch, maintain first access for the recreational fishers whilst recognising that there is a short term impact on the commercial sector, which operates under a catch control system.  A longer buffer period makes it very challenging for commercial fishers to meet peak Christmas market demand.

Will there still be Biotoxin Closures?

Fishers should check the status of biotoxin closures before going fishing.

Transiting Seasonally Closed Areas

Can I leave a boat ramp inside the ECSRZ before 8 December** with a pot on board and travel to open waters in the Eastern Region?  

There are no transiting provisions in place.  Recreational fishers cannot possess pots, rings or rock lobster in any part of the ECSRZ including the D'Entrecasteaux Channel and waters between St Helens and Eddystone Point during the closed season for that area.

Boat ramps at Hobart, Margate, Gordon, Dover and St Helens are within the ECSRZ so fishers should plan ahead to access waters that are open for the season.  See East Coast Stock Rebuilding Zone Map.
You may have to drive your car and boat with rock lobster gear and launch from land adjacent to the open area.  For larger vessels, transport your pots by land.

In the South, owners of non-trailerable boats will need to transport lobster pots separately by road and steam down to Southport to pick it up.   Similarly, those in St Helens will need to go to Eddystone Point.   After a fishing trip you may need to unload your lobster pot and any lobster.

 **See the rules about setting gear at season opening.

Can I carry rock lobster into the ECSRZ before 8 December?

Recreational fishers cannot possess rock lobster in any part of the ECSRZ including the D'Entrecasteaux Channel and waters between St Helens and Eddystone Point during the closed season.  You will need to offload any lobster before entering the ECSRZ.

Why can’t fishers transit the closed area with gear and lobsters on board?

Significant police resources would be needed if transiting with pots or lobsters in a seasonally closed area was allowed.  This rule has been in place for many years.

Relaxation of the policy would see thousands of recreational divers, potters and ring fishers launching and returning to and from many shore launching areas, boat ramps and moorings in the ECSRZ in a range of vessel sizes.

Transiting provisions operate in the commercial fishery to maintain an economically viable fishery and because of the tight management controls in place.  Commercial fishers can transit however their fishery of 200 vessels launch from approved ports at known times, their movements are monitored by telephone reporting, and catch is policed by quota and docket monitoring.

Does a person transporting my gear need a rock lobster licence?

Another person can transport rock lobster gear by road to the high water mark of the launching ramp or jetty.  On state waters, which is below the high-water mark, only a recreational licence holder can possess and use gear.

Does a person transporting my lobsters back by land need a rock lobster licence?

If you are giving lobsters to another person for example, to transport them, the person receiving the lobsters is responsible for ensuring that they are within their possession limits.

What if I fish in the Western Region and return by boat to the Eastern Region?

While you are in the Western Region you must abide by Western Region limits.  Once you cross into Eastern Region waters, you must be within the Eastern Region limits and abide by the season closure in the ECSRZ.

What happens if the weather is too rough to retrieve my pot?

Your safety is important.  If you cannot retrieve your gear due to bad weather, wait until the weather improves.  If it will be longer than the 48 hour potting limit, phone Fishwatch on 0427 655 557 and provide your details including your licence number.

Can someone set or pull my rock lobster pot without me on the boat?

No.  A person with more pots in the boat than authorised fishers would be considered to be using excess gear. You can only pull gear with your own buoy markings.

Can I have a rock lobster cauf in the water when the season is closed for that area?

You cannot have any rock lobster gear or lobsters in seasonally closed state waters.

Can I eat rock lobster on a boat?

Yes, with conditions.  On a boat only one rock lobster can be cut up ready for eating per licensed fisher.  This rock lobster is counted in the fisher’s daily bag limit.

Controlling Catch in the East Coast Stock Rebuilding Zone

Why don’t we just rely on biotoxin closures to reduce the catch?    

Biotoxin closures are implemented for public health and marketing purposes.  The need to rebuild rock lobster stocks is too important to rely on these closures to limit recreational catch. 


Will the bag limit be reduced to one lobster?    

Further changes to Eastern Region bag limits are not under consideration at this stage.

Why not use tags to limit the catch?    

In 2016, the Department investigated using catch tags to set an individual season limit for recreational fishers to constrain east coast recreational catch.  Due to the high cost of a catch tag system and the risks that it would not achieve catch control, the Minister of the day did not to proceed with this system.

If cost effective or new technology options become available in the future, the use of an individual seasonal limit to restrict catch may be reconsidered.    

Why doesn’t the catch cap apply to the recreational fishery as well?

There is no cost effective practical system to monitor recreational catch on a real time basis that would allow the recreational fishery to be closed when a catch cap limit was reached.  In the commercial fishery, real time catch monitoring is achieved through the quota monitoring system.

How does the Department calculate recreational catch?

In Tasmania, scientifically designed surveys provide estimates of recreational fishing participation and catch by sampling a proportion of licence holders.  The sampled fishers are engaged for a 12 month period, issued a diary to complete and contacted regularly by phone.

A sample of rock lobster licence holders are contacted each year.  These surveys have been conducted since the late 1990s, providing estimates of days fished by fishing methods (dive, pot, ring) for areas around Tasmania.  The survey methodology has been improved over time by increasing the statewide and regional sample size.

Read recent survey reports.


Catch rates have increased, so why do we need to continue with tight catch controls?

Until the stock rebuilding target is reached, it is critical to restrict total catch from the ECSRZ to the level recommended by IMAS every year, otherwise the gains in the stocks to date may be eroded if catches are allowed to increase too soon.

What other restrictions will be looked at in the future?

A research project is currently underway looking at east coast management, fisher attitudes and behaviour and future options.


Recreational Fishing Enquiries
Recreational Fisheries Section
1 Franklin Wharf
Hobart TAS 7001
Phone: 03 6165 3233, 1300 720 647
Email: fishing.enquiries@dpipwe.tas.gov.au

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