skip to content
Government of Western Australia - Department of Fisheries
Friday 4 October 2019

Commercial fisher fined $76,766 over totally protected lobsters

​Tarspot on a western rock lobster makes it totally protected from being caught and kept by either commercial or recreational fishers in Western Australia and that’s because it’s a sign that female lobsters are ready to spawn.

Lobsters caught that show tarspot must be returned to the water, so the lobster can release sperm from the tarspot to help fertilise her eggs. The sustainability of the fishery depends on maximizing the success of the breeding stock.

In Moora Court this week, 44-year-old Two Rocks man Stephen Small, was ordered to pay a total of $76,766.40 for fines, penalties and court costs, related to charges of taking totally protected fish and mutilation of 224 lobsters, by removing tarspot with the intention of preventing determination of whether or not a fish is protected.

Small, who did not appear in court on Wednesday (2 October 2019), is a commercial fisherman operating out of Leeman.

The court heard that on 20 September 2017, the accused had returned to Leeman, when Fisheries officers inspected the vessel for which he was the master and noticed pieces of what they believed to be tarspot pieces on boat’s deck and in the holds.

Tarspot on female lobsters is often noticeable during late Winter and Spring and is a putty-like black mass found between the back legs on the underside of breeding female lobsters.

After finding the suspected tarspot, they inspected the consignment of 438 lobster caught on board the vessel that day and found that the tarspot of 224 of the lobsters had been removed. The court was told a Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) fisheries scientist confirmed results of the inspection the next day.

One of the lobsters, with staining and small remaining fragments consistent with tarspot being illegally removed. (DPIRD image)  

Ray Worrall, DPIRD’s Supervising Fisheries & Marine Officer based at Jurien Bay, said the fines and penalties handed down in this case demonstrated the seriousness of the matters the magistrate dealt with.

 “Fines like this send a strong deterrent message to commercial and recreational fishers and reiterate to the community that DPIRD takes seriously the need for laws to protect the sustainability of our iconic western rock lobster,” Mr Worrall said.

“I remind all commercial and recreational fishers that female lobsters carrying tarspot or eggs are totally protected and must be immediately returned to the water before another pot is pulled, or, in the case of a diver, before another lobster can be caught."  

You can call FishWatch 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 1800 815 507 to report any suspected illegal fishing activity.

Last modified: 4/10/2019 12:04 PM

© All contents copyright Government of Western Australia. All rights reserved. ABN: 18 951 343 745


© This work is copyright. You may display, print or reproduce this material only in an unaltered format for your personal or non-commercial use, or for use within your organisation. Apart from any use permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, all other rights are reserved.


The information and advice provided by the Department of Fisheries website is made in good faith and is from sources believed to be reliable and accurate at the time of release onto the website. Changes in circumstances after a document is placed on the website may affect the accuracy of the information. Full disclaimer details are available at