People development program: Enabling productivity and efficiency gains in Australian rock lobster fisheries – the 2011 trans-Tasman 7th Rock Lobster Congress.

Project Number:



New Zealand Rock Lobster Industry Council Ltd

Principal Investigator:

Daryl Sykes

Project Status:


FRDC Expenditure:





Australian rock lobster fisheries constitute a range of the most economically valuable seafood industry components of the Australian economy. Despite a 16 per cent decrease in the volume of production the combined Australian lobster fisheries generated a landed value of AU$403.8 million in 2008-09 , ranking as the most economically valuable of the wild catch fisheries. New Zealand rock lobster fisheries generated an estimated NZ$184 million in 2008/09 . Australia and New Zealand share a common species – cold water southern rock lobster, Jasus edwardsii – whilst Australia also produces western and tropical rock lobsters, Panulirus species, from temperate and warm waters in Western Australia and Queensland respectively. As a consequence of the markedly different circumstances in the Australian and New Zealand lobster fisheries and the industries which are dependent upon them there has been increased interest from Australian industry participants and management agencies in the New Zealand research and management processes and outcomes. The principal ‘architects’ of the 2011 trans-Tasman Congress are confident that the chosen theme of ‘productivity’ is one of sufficient scope to draw together the best available information and advice in regard to the complete product chain for rock lobsters. The exchange of information, ideas and aspirations at the 2011 trans-Tasman 7th Rock Lobster Congress will streamline and accelerate stock rebuild initiatives and enable greater efficiency gains in terms of research and compliance spend across the various fisheries’ jurisdictions.


1. Australian and New Zealand rock lobster industry participants who are better informed of the range of biological and economic options and opportunities which may arise as a consequence of ongoing information sharing and market coordination.

2. Enabling Australian and New Zealand lobster industry participants to gain a hands-on experience of harvest and stock monitoring technologies which can increase productivity; reduce operating costs; and improve sustainable utilisation.

Final report - 2011/402 - 2011 Trans-Tasman 7th Rock Lobster Congress

Final Report
Author(s):Daryl Sykes
Date Published:March 2012

Principal Investigator: D R Sykes

Key Words: Rocklobster, education, conference, partnership, New Zealand, management, Western Rocklobster, Southern Rocklobster, Tropical Rocklobster



The notion of productivity addressed by the 7th Lobster Congress presentations was directed at making the most productive use of opportunity, of technology, of knowledge and of experience.

That line was pursued because the limits to productivity in rock lobster fisheries are biological and regulatory. In regard to the biology there are sufficient time series of data to understand that the wild fisheries are dynamic, subject to cyclical variations in abundance, and strongly influenced by environmental factors over which managers (including industry) have no direct control.

In New Zealand at least it is recognised that wild fisheries have a finite productive capacity – currently in the order of 2,800 tonnes. Industry participants are unlikely to ‘manufacture’ significantly more commercial catch but overall productivity is dependent on retaining access to fishing grounds and maintaining high stock abundance as a buffer against recruitment variability.

Regulatory constraints on productivity are something else again. Spatial exclusions in favour of marine protection agendas driven by eco-cults; or the spatial ‘separations’ with which some politicians intend to solicit votes from the recreational fishing communities are damaging the productivity of rock lobster and other inshore fishing industries.

The 7th Lobster Congress agreed to strengthen working relationships between the Australian States and New Zealand industries in support of the rights-based fisheries management regimes in which all operate. Every one of the rock lobster fisheries represented at the 7th Lobster Congress has a rightsbased system relying on output controls.

The important take home message from this stream – from abundance flows all benefits. Invest in good science and show confidence in the outcomes of it. Maintain high stock abundance – take a step up and stop living on (or below) the edge.

The next take home message – and a most important one – continued Trans Tasman cooperation and collaboration.