Project number: 2019-028
Project Status:
Budget expenditure: $538,604.00
Principal Investigator: Quinn P. Fitzgibbon
Organisation: University of Tasmania (UTAS)
Project start/end date: 31 Dec 2019 - 30 Dec 2022


The export of Southern Rock Lobster (SRL) from Southern Australia to international markets is one of Australia's most valuable fisheries. There are increasing trends in post-harvest mortality of SRL confirmed by the recent Fisheries Research and Development Corporation project (FRDC 2016-235). This is costing the industry millions due to stock losses, decreased consumer confidence in product quality and reputational damage to the SRL market brand. The causes of this increased post-harvest mortality are inconsistent across the industry sector with a range of factors implicated including environmental stressors, novel health conditions, and sub-optimal post-harvest practices. Results from (FRDC2016-235) indicate a need to optimise live lobster management processes across the entire post-harvest chain of custody in-order to minimize lobster mortality and enhance the economics of the SRL fishing and processing industry sectors.

The FRDC SRL live holding project (2016-235) conducted an analysis of the processing industry sector practices and provided guidance for best practices. These recommendations have been welcomed by the industry and further consultation has identified a critical need to extend this approach to the fishing component of the industry.

This project will address these key industry priorities and conduct an analysis of on-vessel live lobster handling and holding practices, quantify the impact of systems and practices on lobster quality and provide recommendations on improving on-vessel post-harvest practices. The current FRDC traceability project (FRDC 2016-177) is trialing a range of traceability technologies that this proposed new project will extend and enhance on-vessels to strengthen the capture, monitoring, and analysis of post-harvest data on lobster welfare, quality, and handling practices.

This project will also extend the development of practical and easy to use tools for the evaluation of lobster health including the handheld lactate meter and refractive index. Building evidenced-based approaches to measuring health and stress will provide all industry sectors with improved measurement of quality, animal welfare, and sustainability at all points in the supply chain.


1. Investigate the impacts of on-vessel handling and maintenance practices on live SRL post-harvest performance
2. Develop practical tools for the improved management of SRL industry live lobster operations (ie hand-held lactate meter and refractive index including thresholds for poor lobster performance)
3. Extend findings to the SRL industry (best practice guides and workshops) and incorporation of results into the SRL Clean green program.

Related research


Refine the Southern Rock Lobster Cold Chain

1. Develop a full understanding of the supply chain for Southern Rock Lobster into export markets, to be able to pinpoint the key challenges faced in ensuring quality and maintaining temperature control.
KPMG Australia Melbourne