Lobster Fishery

Lobsters

The NSW Lobster Fishery is a small but valuable fishery, with a GVP of approximately $11 million for the 2014/15 fishing period.

Eastern rock lobster (Sagmaraisus verreauxi) is the main species harvested but occasionally, southern rock lobster, Jasus edwardsii, and tropical rock lobster, Panulirus longipes and P. ornatus, are also caught.

The Fishery extends from the Queensland border to the Victorian border and includes all waters under jurisdiction of NSW to around 80 miles from the coast.

It is characterised by inshore and offshore sectors. Inshore fishers use small beehive or square traps in waters up to 10 metres in depth, whilst offshore fishers use large rectangular traps.

Managing the fishery

A comprehensive Fishery Management Strategy (FMS) has been prepared for the Lobster Fishery and was approved by the Minister in February 2007. The strategy includes a description of the fishery and the management arrangements that apply or are proposed. Before the strategy was finalised, a draft strategy was subject to a formal environmental impact assessment process under the NSW Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979. The

Environmental Impact Statement was publicly exhibited in December 2004 to February 2005.

The Lobster Fishery is a share management fishery and the rules and regulations that apply to the application of shares in the fishery are contained within the Fisheries Management (Lobster Share Management Plan) Regulation 2000 the Fisheries Management Act 1994 No 38 the Fisheries Management (General) Regulation 2010 and Fisheries Management (Supporting Plan) Regulation 2006.

Commercial fishing of the target species, eastern rock lobster in NSW is controlled through a quota management system. The quota management system was introduced in July 1994 following recommendations made by the Rock Lobster Steering Committee, as a means of controlling fishing effort in the lobster fishery.

Total Allowable Commercial Catch

A Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) is set each year by the statutory and independent Total Allowable Catch Setting and Review Committee. The TACC is proportionately allocated to shareholders on the basis of their shareholding in the fishery.

There are currently 9727 shares held by 98 shareholders in the fishery (as at 5 August 2015) and some shareholders also hold endorsements in other NSW commercial fisheries.

A TACC of 160 tonnes has been set for the 2015/16 fishing period (1 August 2015 to 31 July 2016) following the determination of the Total Allowable Catch Setting and Review Committee.

Key changes to the management arrangements which have or will be introduced to the Lobster Fishery as a result of the Lobster Fishery Management Strategy include:

  • Limiting lobster fishers to a defined list of species that can be retained as byproduct in the Lobster Fishery when working in waters deeper than 10 m;
  • Modifying the catch recording system to record and monitor landings of all other species taken in lobster traps (including sharks);
  • A daily trip limit (applying to a minimum 24 hour period) for wobbegong shark carcasses;
  • Ongoing improvements to the selectivity of lobster traps for catching target species.
  • Require the use of fish escape panels in lobster traps if it becomes evident that lobster traps are being used to target finfish;
  • Promoting cost effective and efficient management of the fishery;
  • Mapping major lobster grounds;
  • Using best-practice handling techniques, including the prohibition on the use of fish spikes, clubs or any other such implement that could unduly harm non-retained organisms;
  • Developing a code of practice for the fishery;
  • Ongoing performance monitoring and review.

Background

The earliest records of NSW landings of the rock lobster speciesSagmaraisus verreauxi(formerly

Jasus verreauxi) show the fishery dates back to 1873. There was a significant increase in the number of commercial lobster fishers after the Second World War with the return of ex-servicemen. At that time the fishery was centred around the northern ports between Evans Head and Crowdy Head, near Taree.

Fishing in southern NSW became significant in the 1960s when offshore grounds were discovered off Sydney. Offshore grounds were also subsequently developed around Ulladulla and Batemans Bay.

Management strategies have been employed to control the taking of lobster since the fishery began, including:

  • 1902 - first legal minimum carapace length on the eastern rock lobster set at 104mmCL (carapace length).
  • 1936 - recreational fishers restricted to one trap.
  • 1968 - recreational fishers restricted to five lobsters.
  • 1992 - Rock Lobster Steering Committee recommended restricted entry to the fishery and the introduction of a quota scheme and a tagging scheme for commercially caught lobsters.
  • 1993 - lobster fishery declared a restricted fishery, and 157 fishers satisfied the criteria.
  • 1994 - a quota management system implemented for the eastern rock lobster and management tags issued to fishers. All rock lobsters landed for sale in NSW required to have a tag attached until the point of consumption.
  • 1994 - the introduction of a maximum size limit for Eastern Rock Lobster of 200mmCL
  • 1996 - fishery ceased to be a restricted fishery and entered the first stage of share management. Successful applicants issued with shares on a provisional basis in proportion to their catch history.
  • 2000 – fishery became a full share managed fishery on commencement of the Fisheries Management (Lobster Share Management Plan) Regulation 2000.
  • 2004 - A reduction in the maximum size limit from 200mmCL to 180mmCL
  • 2004 – completion of the Environmental Impact Statement on the lobster fishery in NSW
  • 2007 – completion of the Fishery Management Strategy for the NSW Lobster Fishery

Contact

For further information contact the Lobster Fishery Manager on +61 02 6652 0919.

Want to know more?

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