Rock lobster fisheries throughout southern Australia are in decline with resultant direct and indirect losses of hundreds of millions of dollars annually. While the cause for the decline is uncertain, observed declines in the recruitment of larvae is of concern in western and eastern Australia. In Australia, larval (puerulus) collectors have been established in shallow water regions where they are serviced by divers (SA, Tas & Vic) and from dinghies (WA). By requiring servicing by department staff, and particularly by dive teams, collectors are expensive to service and thus limited in their regional distribution to a few sites. For southern rock lobster there has been concern over how well the observed larval settlement represents the entire fishery as sampling sites are few and the majority of catch is from deeper reefs. To improve our understanding of the relationship between recruitment, future catches and short and long term recruitment trends, there is a need to improve spatial (region and depth) coverage. Previous attempts to deploy puerulus collectors in shallow regions in southern and western Tasmania, where over 60% of the catch is obtained, have failed due to weather conditions. To-date there has been no attempt to trial deeper water collectors.
This proposal requests funding for phase 1, the development and trial of deepwater collectors, of a 3 phase project with the ultimate aim to develop cost-effective collectors that can withstand all weather conditions, can be serviced in deeper water and can be serviced by the fishing industry throughout southern Australia.