The West Coast Rock Lobster Managed Fishery (WCRLF) targets the western rock lobster (Panulirus Cygnus), colloquially known as crayfish, on Western Australia’s coast between Shark Bay and Cape Leeuwin.

This pot-based fishery was one of the first limited entry fisheries in the world and used a sophisticated individual transferrable effort-based system for more than 20 years.

In 2009-10 a nominal total allowable commercial catch (TACC) system was introduced and a year later, the fishery began its transition to an individually transferable quota (ITQ) fishery.

Historically, the fishery has been Australia’s most valuable single species wild capture fishery and was the first fishery in the world to achieve the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) independent third-party certification for sustainable management. It was also the world’s first to be certified three times running (in March 2012) and it has maintained continuous MSC accreditation since 2000.

In early 2013, the West Coast Rock Lobster Managed Fishery Management Plan 2012 came into effect which completed the fishery’s transition to an ITQ system.

Key elements of the management regime included:

  • a TACC of 5554 tonnes (1076 tonnes for Zone A, 1921 tonnes for Zone B and 2557 tonnes) for Zone C);
  • fishing permitted all year in all zones, no closed season;
  • facility for units for more than one zone to be held on a licence;
  • separation of access to the Abrolhos Islands and Zone B into separate, individually transferrable units; and
  • introduction of Fish Eye, the Department’s electronic nomination and quota monitoring system.

In addition, the development of a Harvest Strategy and Control Rules was progressed with a final industry consultation phase commencing in December 2013.

Interactions with listed species, particularly humpback whales, became a significant issue in 2013 with 18 confirmed entanglements of humpback whales in rock lobster gear being recorded.

The Commonwealth Government granting the fishery only a two year Wildlife Trade Operation (export approval) where previously five year exemptions had been granted and conditions were imposed that required the fishery to take action to mitigate entanglements.

In late 2013 a special Ministerial Taskforce was formed to oversee the development and implementation of research and management responses to whale entanglements.

The Western Rock Lobster Fishery is an important sector of WA’s economy, with the commercial catch from the current reporting season valued ex-vessel at more than $270 million. Employment is now year round, the fishing season being from 15 January to the following 14 January. During the year, 4 main processing establishments, located in the
Perth metropolitan area (3) and Geraldton (1), and Cervantes (1) serviced practically every location where fishing occurred.

Key Species Fished

Western Rock Lobster
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