skip to content
Government of Western Australia - Department of Fisheries
Tuesday 20 December 2022

Rock lobster retains its crown as the most popular recreational catch in WA

For just the second time, western rock lobster maintains its crown as the most caught species in Western Australia’s state-wide Recreational Boat Fishing Survey.

The survey is produced every two to three years by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development’s (DPIRD) Aquatic Science and Assessment team.

The latest analysis is based on 12 months of survey data from 2020/21 and around 660,000 western rock lobsters were kept or released by recreational fishers. Blue swimmer crabs were the second most popular species, with 570,000 crabs caught by fishers.    

The survey data helps assess the recreational fishing catch in WA to inform stock assessments, manage resource allocation between fishing sectors and contribute to management plans to ensure sustainability. Funded through licence fees, the latest survey reveals that recreational fishers returned an average 42 per cent of invertebrates and 58 per cent of finfish catches to the water.   

DPIRD Director of Aquatic Resource Management Nathan Harrison said 125,000 Recreational Boat Fishing Licences were issued in 2020/21.

“Rock lobster became the most popular species overall in the 2017/18 survey, but prior to that, blue swimmer crab was at the top of the recreational fishing catch list,” Mr Harrison said. 

“Rock lobster has gone through some good recruitment years in recent times and reduced fishing pressure by the commercial sector has seen stock levels increase. Recreational fishers are benefitting from greater abundance of rock lobsters and year-round access to the fishery.   

“The most popular fishing bioregion was the West Coast (between Augusta and Kalbarri), with almost three quarters of the boat-based fishing effort occurring here. Throughout all waterways, 3.03 million finfish, sharks, rays, and invertebrates were caught among 242 different species.”

DPIRD researchers in Broome for Recreational Boat Fishing Survey work

The latest survey also indicates that 54 per cent of the recreational catch was finfish. This includes 320,000 school whiting, which bumped them up to third on the favourite species list. Australian herring followed in fourth place with 190,000 caught and the next most popular species was pink snapper with 136,000. Interestingly, the survey shows that 76 per cent of pink snapper reeled in were released by recreational fishers.

WA’s Recreational Boat Fishing Survey has been running since 2011 and, along with the annual commercial and charter fishing data, helps DPIRD manage the State’s aquatic resources to deliver sustainable and enjoyable recreational fishing experiences.  

For more information, catch the facts on the Fisheries website here​

Last modified: 20/12/2022 11:03 AM

© 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