Balmain Bug


Latin names: Ibacus alticrenatus, I. brucei, I. chacei, I. peronii


Common name: Bug

  • Say No

Wild Caught

Region:
QLD

Key Facts

  • The term ‘Balmain bugs’ refers to four species of fan lobster that occur along the eastern coastline of Australia, which are managed as though they were a single species. Although there is a lack of stock status information, there are no immediate concerns over the stock status of these species.
  • The fishery interacts with threatened species, including critically endangered species of sawfish, sea snakes and pipefish. Although efforts have been made to reduce the impact of fishing on these species, catches remain significant but are not thought to be driving further declines in populations.
  • The fishery observer program in QLD was cancelled in 2012, meaning there is no independent record of the impact of the fishery on threatened species. Observation of the fishery is considered essential to the management of a sustainable fishery. It is highly likely the impact of the fishery on endangered wildlife is higher than currently recorded.
  • Balmain bugs are caught using otter trawls that operate just above the seafloor. Trawling is conducted over sandy and muddy seafloors in and around the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Zoning closes 66% of the marine park to fishing and the impact of trawling over trawled habitat is not thought to be of high risk to the marine environment.
  • QLD fisheries are currently undergoing broad reforms that have a strong potential to improve this ranking in the future, provided that the reforms deliver the strong and effective management necessary to support sustainable fisheries.

More information

  • QLD East Coast Otter Trawl Fishery (67t in 2016)

This assessment is based on the current impact of fishing for Balmain Bugs in QLD-managed fisheries. A reform of QLD fisheries is currently underway in order to modernise the management framework, demonstrate sustainability, improve the profitability of the industry and meet community expectations. AMCS will review the sustainability of the fishery following the fishery reform process.

The term ‘Balmain bugs’ refers to four species of fan lobster that occur along the eastern coastline of Australia. Balmain bugs are caught in trawl fisheries in NSW and QLD, with the majority caught in QLD. The same stock is caught in both states, but managed as separate units. Although there are no formal stock assessments available for Balmain bugs, stocks of Balmain bugs appear healthy, based on information from long-term catch records in the fishery. Undersized bugs are released, allowing them to grow large enough to spawn before being harvested.

In QLD, Balmain bugs are caught in a trawl fishery that targets multiple species of prawns and scallops. The fishery operates within and around the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Bycatch reduction devices (BRD) and Turtle Exclusion Devices (TEDs) reduce the amount of threatened and other species that are caught and killed in fishing gear. They are mandatory in this fishery and it is believed they have been successful in reducing turtle deaths. However, threatened species bycatch, including of turtles, sea snakes, sawfish and seahorses, remains an ongoing issue.

Trawl fisheries generally catch a high number of species other than those targeted, which can result in a high volume of discarding of unwanted catch. Discarded catch is not required to be reported in QLD, which means that there is no information on the impact of this fishery on marine animals that have no commercial value.

Independent fishery observer programs are an important method of verifying protected species interactions, as well as other fishery impacts, such as the type and volume of discarded catch. Unfortunately the QLD Government has closed the observer program for all QLD managed fisheries in 2012. In the intervening six years, there has been no independent on-vessel monitoring of the impact of the fishery, which is unacceptable for fisheries operating in the ecologically sensitive regions of the Great Barrier Reef. Concerns have been raised regarding under-reporting of endangered species caught in the fishery in logbooks. Since there is no record of actual protected species interactions over time, the ecological impacts of this fishery cannot be measured or managed.

Trawling occurs over sandy and muddy sea floor within the Great Barrier Reef and Moreton Bay Marine Parks, where habitats are relatively well understood, as well as outside these marine parks. Zoning closes 66% of the Great Barrier Reef and 44% of the Moreton Bay marine park to trawl fishing, protecting a significant proportion of marine habitat. Assessments of the impact of fishing to marine habitats showed that trawling presents a relatively low risk of long-term or significant damage to habitat within the marine park. In addition, all boats operating in the fishery have location monitoring devices, which means authorities can ensure fishing is only taking place in areas open to fishing.

QLD fisheries are currently undergoing broad reforms that have a strong potential to improve this ranking in the future, provided that the reforms deliver the strong and effective management necessary to support sustainable fisheries.