The development of this proposal is strongly supported by the Australian Southern Rock Lobster Council who want sustainable development. The council realises the need for research, monitoring and extension, so that future management issues inherited with the OCS transition can be addressed. Issues such as limitation of access, pot numbers, sustainable yield, compliance with regulations and optimisation of product value, will all require a firm knowledge base for consideration.
The major problem is to establish the intermoult period so that growth rates can be established.
In terms of population structure we have a reasonable picture so far, however the price differential for the crabs indicates product value could be optimised by selective harvest of a range of smaller sizes. This option could not be initiated without real time data on population structure. Given the current history of depletion in some areas of the fishery, the consideration of this option in the absence of such information, would lead to overfishing and mismanagement.
The crabs wide geographic distribution (straddling 11 management areas), the changeover in jurisdictional responsiblity, its status as a developing fishery and its $11 million per annum value are justification for a continued effort on the species. It would be foolish to squander an Australia-wide effort involving industry, scientists and government, at the time when states are working to formalise managment of the fishery; to discontinue research when information is most needed. Managers will not have the advice they need if the resource is handled peicemeal by the new array of jurisdictions, however this project offers an existing cost effective network and an overview that will provide most of the information needed to deal with the fundamental issues.
The future of the Giant Crab fishery is a national resource development issue.