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VIC, SA, TAS
- Southern rock lobster are caught in fisheries throughout southern Australia. The SA fishery accounts for around 50% of the total number caught.
- Historically, stocks of southern rock lobster have been depleted in SA, VIC and TAS in previous years. There are ongoing concerns with the low number of young rock lobsters recorded.
- Management actions have been put in place to reduce the catch of southern rock lobsters to protect rock lobsters in future.
- Southern rock lobsters are caught in baited pots, which generally have a low impact on marine habitat and endangered wildlife.
- In SA, measures introduced to protect Australian sea lions have been successful; in VIC, a code of practice is in place to reduce whale entanglements and interactions are low (1-2 per year). Minimal interactions with threatened species have been reported from TAS.
- There is independent observation of all fisheries that verifies wildlife interactions reported in fishery logbooks.
- SA South Australian Rock Lobster Fishery (1,524t in 2020/21)
- VIC Rock Lobster Fishery (274t in 2021/22)
- TAS Rock Lobster Fishery (931t in 2020/21)
Southern rock lobster are fished throughout southern Australia, with the SA fishery taking around 50% of the entire catch of the species. Historically there have been concerns over the health of the population of southern rock lobsters in all fisheries, and high fishing pressure has led to population declines. Recruitment (which is a measure of the number of young lobsters that will grow to legal, fishable size in the future) is low in all fisheries, indicating that lower than usual numbers of young southern rock lobsters will be available for fishing in future. This is a significant concern that will require fisheries managers to reduce the take of lobsters to protect their stocks in the long-term.
Management actions to protect stocks have included reducing the number of rock lobsters caught, with evidence that stocks are rebuilding in some areas. For example in TAS, stock status information from 2012 suggests that the decline in stock in previous years had been arrested, though recruitment has continued to be low since then. In VIC, estimates of available biomass has increased, though this has been reflective of individual lobsters growing to a larger size, rather than an increase in the abundance of lobsters. However, low recruitment will cancel out these positive gains in the future should management actions fail to preserve stocks.
In SA, the capture rate of rock lobsters are improving, but estimates of breeding capability in the fishery remain dangerously low. Fishery managers have reduced the allowable catch of southern rock lobsters, although it is unclear if this will protect the population. Low recruitment is likely to exacerbate this issue in future.
Southern rock lobster is mainly caught in baited pots, a fishing method which generally has a low impact on endangered wildlife. In SA, the rock lobster fishery has addressed previous issues with threatened species interactions through the mandatory use of Sea Lion Excluder Devices (SLEDs) in pots. These prevent endangered juvenile Australian sea lions becoming caught in lobster traps, and have proved to be highly effective at reducing their capture. A code of practice was initiated in VIC to reduce whale entanglements in pot ropes, and reported interactions are low, at 1-2 per year. Minimal threatened species interactions have been reported in the TAS fishery. All fisheries have some independent observer coverage that verifies wildlife interactions reported in fishery logbooks.
Marine parks throughout coastal and offshore Commonwealth waters provide a small but vital degree of protection for lobster populations, habitats and ecosystems in SA and Victorian waters, but are largely absent from the Tasmanian fishing grounds.