Project number: 2014-004
Project Status:
Budget expenditure: $499,999.00
Principal Investigator: Jason How
Organisation: Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) WA
Project start/end date: 1 May 2014 - 7 Jul 2016


Whale entanglements in the western rock lobster (WRL) fishery have increased dramatically with changes in fishing times from a move to a quota. The recent commonwealth Department for the Environment (DE) assessment removed the fishery from five-year export approval, granting a two-year Wildlife Trade Order (WTO) with conditions on whale entanglements. Subsequent correspondence from the Department of Fisheries (DoF) and DE requested information from industry as to what actions will undertaken for the 2014 and 2013 humpback migrations respectively. DoF correspondence indicated a seasonal closure may be implemented ‘in the absence of specific alternative action(s)’. A closure during the humpback migration (1 May-30 Nov) would concentrate fishing into the remaining 5 months resulting in a reduced beach price. Winter beach prices are ~$70/kg, with a move from this high value period into a condensed season reducing GVP by ~$50 million.
TRF project (2013-037) addresses the immediate aspects of the WTO conditions, required by 31 March 2014. Industry groups, while cognizant of the need to address the issue of whale
entanglements are reluctant to proceed with the introduction of gear modifications without a clear scientific rationale behind their testing.
Project 2013-037 is a preliminary study and with its initiations after the 2013 humpback migration has begun, detailed gear testing and migration information was not possible. However it is planned to identify a number of viable mitigation options that are worthy of detailed evaluation in 2014. This project extends on Project 2013-037 addresses the longer term (2014-2015) DE conditions, which would enable year-round market access.


1. Determine and implement appropriate gear modifications and management changes to reduce entanglements with migrating humpback whales
2. Produce fine-spatial and temporal information on whale migrations along the west coast of Western Australia necessary for a tailored spatio-temporal closures and/or areas for gear modifications.
3. Provide clear scientific methods behind the testing of selected gear modifications to reduce whale entanglements
4. Incorporate any new practices that may reduce entanglements with migrating whales in the CoP for the fishery and ensure its extension and adoption

Final report

ISBN: 978-1-921258-43-5
Authors: J How D Coughran M Double K Rushworth B Hebiton J Smith J Harrison M. Taylor D Paton G McPherson C McPherson A Recalde Salas C Salgado-Kent and S de Lestang
Final Report • 2020-03-01 • 5.85 MB


This project provided a robust assessment that gear modifications introduced into the WCRLMF and octopus fisheries have reduced the number of reported entanglements. The management arrangements around the implementation of these modifications are appropriate in light on the new spatial and temporal information on the migratory behaviours of humpback whales off the west Australian coast. Therefore, it is recommended that the current management arrangements that are in place to reduce whale entanglements remain. It should be noted however, that while gear modifications have been effective, the whale population off the west Australian coast is predicated to continue to increase. As a result, entanglements may increase in the future as a result of this population increase, and additional research may be required to assess possible additional gear modifications or management arrangements. 

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