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Government of Western Australia - Department of Fisheries

Lobster management

Rock lobster is targeted by commercial and recreational fishers in Western Australia, and we manage both sectors together to ensure sustainability. Western rock lobster is the main species targeted.

We use an integrated fisheries management approach to ensure each sector receives a fair share. 

Recreational lobster fishers need a licence and there are also gear restrictions and size, bag and boat limits.

In 2000, the commercial West Coast Rock Lobster Managed Fishery (WCRLF) was the first in the world to be accredited by the London-based Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) as an ecologically sustainable fishery. Then, in 2022, the first to be recertified for a fifth time.

The WCRLF is divided into three zones: (A) Abrolhos Islands; (B) north of latitude 30°S; and (C) south of latitude 30°S (see map below). This has prevented concentrated fishing in some areas, and has also allowed for management that addresses zone-specific issues.

Commercial rock lobster fishing zones

Commercial fishing management measures include: 

  • areas closed to fishing;
  • lobster size limits;
  • protection for any females in breeding condition;
  • controls on the type of gear used; and
  • a limit on the catch for the whole fishery, known as Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC)
Until the late 2000's, the commercial fishery was managed through a total allowable effort (TAE) system and associated controls, such as limits on the number of lobster pots used by each licence holder.

Following poor recruitment years in 2007-2009, fishery moved to output controlled fishery through quota system. Fisheries management utilises a full Individual Transferable Quota (ITQ) system, which means each licence holder has a quota (catch limit) attached to the licence in the form of units. They will be able to transfer (sell) some units to other licensees.

Fisheries management used to apply seasonal closures to manage the fisheries, however a 12-month fishing season was introduced in 2013. This, combined with individual catch limits, is giving fishers more flexibility to fish when the market price for lobsters is high.
For further information about commercial catch and effort please refer to the Status reports of the fisheries and aquatic resources of Western Australia. This publication should be read in conjunction with our Annual Report.

Monitoring, assessment and research

An extensive science program supports the management of lobster fishing. We collect data on commercial and recreational catches and fishing activity, as well as carry out independent monitoring to look at the abundance of the breeding stock, juvenile stock, puerulus settlement and environmental factors that may affect breeding success and survival.
These programs enable our researchers to estimate catches up to four years ahead, and assess the impacts of changes in fishing technology and practice.

Recreational rock lobster fishing has been monitored annually for more than 35 years, using integrated survey methods to provide estimates of participation, fishing effort and harvest. Further information on monitoring of recreational catches can be found on our lobster recreational fishing page
We monitor commercial fishing through:
  • compulsory catch and effort records from fishers and processors;
  • onboard commercial monitoring by our staff; and
  • a range of independent surveys.

These sources of information are used for modelling and stock assessment. There are also a range of other research projects which are undertaken to improve our understanding of lobster biology, behaviour and ecology which assist in our sustainable management of this resource.
Research projects include:
  • A study of the ecosystem effects of lobster fishing in deep water as part of an environmental management strategy.
  • A second project to examine the effects of lobster fishing in deep water off the west coast by comparing fished and unfished areas, funded by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC).
  • Sampling of extra sites in the Big Bank region since 2009 to help assess the effect of the fishing closure.
  • A project examining variation in lobster catchability during the breeding stock surveys, this will be used to standardise these the breeding indices, making them more representative of the true lobster biomass.
  • A program to collate all historic research conducted on Panulirus cygnus and publish this in an easy to digest format. This information will then be used by stakeholders to identify research priorities and subsequent research projects.
  • A program to oversee all whale related research that can better inform management decisions surround reducing interactions with whales.


Last modified: 20/12/2022 10:27 AM

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