Frequently asked questions for the Rock Lobster Fishery

What is this the Rock Lobster Fishery?

The Victorian Rock Lobster Fishery is the second most valuable fishery in Victoria after abalone. The fishery is important to the State's economy and coastal communities and had a production value of approximately $24 million in 2014/15.

The rock lobster resource is accessed by recreational and commercial fishers. The commercial Rock Lobster Fishery has been in operation from the early 1950s and operates throughout Victorian marine waters in two separately managed zones (the Eastern Zone and the Western Zone).

The commercial fishery has been under a Quota Management System since 2001. The quota for the fishery is set annually and is divided into individual transferrable quota units that can be permanently or temporarily leased throughout a zone in the fishery. The fishery also utilises limited licences, seasonal closures, pot limits, and a minimum size limit.

The recreational fishery is managed through daily bag limits, seasonal closures and a minimum size limit. There is a notional quota of 10% of the Eastern Zone commercial fishery and 5% of the Western Zone.

The only species that can be harvested under the Rock Lobster Fishery Access Licence is the southern rock lobster, Jasus edwardsii.

What are the Victorian government's objectives for the Rock Lobster Fishery?

A draft Rock Lobster Fishery Management Plan has been prepared that outlines the proposed management arrangements for the next five years so that recreational, commercial, conservation and indigenous interests have a clear framework of how the valuable resource will be sustainably managed.

The draft management plan sets out the following objectives:

  • Objective 1: Ensure the sustainability of the rock lobster resource
  • Objective 2: Ensure a fair and equitable allocation of the rock lobster resource
  • Objective 3: Ensure optimal economic utilisation of the rock lobster resource
  • Objective 4: Cost-effective and participatory management
  • Objective 5: Maintain the ecological integrity of the fishery ecosystem

How is quota set in the Rock Lobster Fishery?

The draft plan includes a new harvest strategy that uses commercial catch rate to determine the TACC.

The proposed harvest strategy aims to be simpler and more straightforward to enable fishers and fisheries managers to better predict and plan for future TACCs rather than having to wait until yearly stock assessment modelling had been completed.

TACCs are pre-set and are based on harvesting an appropriately conservative proportion of the total stock in the fishery. This will ensure that the TACCs set allow the rock lobster stock to continue rebuilding, catch rates to improve and ultimately provide for long-term business viability and investment security.

Will there be any change to the recreational fishing arrangements?

The draft plan maintains existing recreational fishing arrangements and access. However, there will be a focus over the life of the plan consistent with the Target One Million election commitment to quantify the recreational take of rock lobster. This will improve the quality of information being used to make fishery management decisions.

Who was involved in developing the draft management plan?

The draft Rock Lobster Fishery Management Plan (Attachment 1) has been prepared by The Victorian Fisheries Authority with the assistance of a stakeholder-based Steering Committee comprised of representatives from Seafood Industry Victoria (SIV), Rock Lobster Fishery Access licence holders, VRFish, SCUBA Divers Federation, The Nature Conservancy and an independent scientist.

What is the current state of the rock lobster resource?

While there have been improvements in stock levels, there are concerns about the capacity of the fishery to continue rebuilding and to future-proof itself should any unfavourable conditions (e.g. environmental changes) arise in the future:

  • Levels of egg production are low across the whole of south-eastern Australia.
  • The numbers of pre-recruits and undersize lobsters continue to be below average in Victoria.
  • Biomass levels in the fishery are about 50% of 1978 levels (1978 = catch and effort logbooks introduced).
  • Levels of CPUE are still reasonably low at around 0.55kg/pot lift (unstandardised) in each zone and have not improved for the last three years.
  • The CPUEs in Victoria continue to be some of the lowest values in rock lobster fisheries in the country and overseas.
  • Although stock has been rebuilding, the numbers of lobsters that have been growing through the fishery have come from higher levels of recruitment and the indications are that these trends will not continue.
  • High beach prices have kept the fishery profitable but profitability should come from increased catch rates and a decreased effort to catch the quota.

These trends emphasise that a precautionary approach is necessary and that the lower harvest rates are the only way to ensure stocks will continue to rebuild and support improved catch rates and industry profitability.

How will this plan support the sustainability of the resource?

The draft plan sets out strategies to ensure that the management of the fishery is precautionary and focused on advancing the fishery by ensuring adequate scientific information is collected, new technologies are trialled, and that economic, social and cultural aspects are enhanced.