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Government of Western Australia - Department of Fisheries

​Western rock lobster      (Panulirus cygnus)

Wednesday 3 June 2020

Research survey to monitor western rock lobster numbers in shallow waters

​Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development researchers will survey juvenile western rock lobster (WRL) numbers in shallow waters as part of a three-year project to ensure the continued sustainability of the valuable fishery.

Funded through the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, the project will survey juvenile numbers between Mandurah and Kalbarri, as well as assess changes to the marine habitat that could impact on the population.

Department researchers will work closely with the WRL commercial industry and researchers at the University of Western Australia to design the survey, which will include monitoring catches from 600 lobster pots spread across 12 locations along the coastline.

Pots will be set twice, providing data from 1200 different locations to analysis as part of the survey.

Special modified pots will be used to catch as many juvenile lobsters as possible.

The surveys will be co-ordinated through the peak body Western Rock Lobster Council, and will be undertaken by commercial fishers, with support from department staff.

       DPIRD rock lobster research scientist Simon de Lestang

Department principal research scientist Simon de Lestang said researchers would analyse the catch including the numbers, size, sex and health of the lobsters, and compare the data against the settlement of baby lobsters sampled as part of another long-term department survey. 

“All undersize lobsters will be returned to their individual reef locations. Many of the pots will also have a camera attached to help map the surrounding marine habitat, allowing the department to monitor any environmental changes,” he said.

“Over the past nine years, the abundance of juvenile WRL have started to diverge from their historical relationships.

“It is thought a marine heat wave in 2011 may have changed the marine environment in some areas of the fishery, impacting on the survival of juvenile lobsters.

“This project will help us to get a better understanding of the juvenile population and the marine habitat, allowing us to provide further information to industry on the future management of the fishery.

“The first survey will be undertaken in March 2021 and will provide us with baseline data for comparison in following years.

“The aim is for industry to continue the survey work at the conclusion at the project with support from the department to analyse the data.”

Western Australia’s western rock industry is valued at $450 million. The project will run from March 2021 until March 2023.

Last modified: 4/06/2020 2:37 PM

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