As with the majority of world wild fisheries, the sustainable landings of Australian rock lobsters have reached their maximum. Nevertheless, demand from the world markets to which Australia exports to continue to increase. Increases in rock lobster production will only arise from aquaculture production.
One approach towards aquaculture production is that of ranching. It is already possible to grow rock lobsters from newly-settled puerulus harvested from natural recruitment, in commercial fisheries areas, to market size in 2-3 years using cost effective diets. However, natural settlement is unreliable and recruitment from the wild fishing sector has many political implications. The only method for resolving this problem is to develop a cost/effective larval culture technique to produce pueruli from eggs.
The participants at the FRDC Rock Lobster Propagation workshop in 1999 concluded that culture of pueruli from eggs was biologically feasible and worthy of investigation. The workshop identified several components needing to be addressed by further research in order to improve the survival and growth of larvae through the extended larval phase, including:
1. Advancing the design of larval culture systems.
2. Identifying larval nutrition requirements and production of cost effective larval feeds.
3. Reducing the long larval period.
Preliminary research of the RLEAS subprogram in 1999/00 indicates that progress can be made towards addressing the three major constraining components. Based on the recent Workshop for Rock Lobster Enhancement and Aquaculture Subprogram (RLEAS) in Hobart (February 2000), the RLEAS Steering Committee requested that separate funding applications be submitted for the research effort towards issues of nutrition and larval period.