Victorian recreational lobster catches are increasing in many areas due to a range of issues including population growth in coastal communities and efforts to promote fishing through initiatives such as "Target 1 million". Understanding these catches which in some areas is on par with commercial catches is critical for sustainable management of the fishery (for both sectors) and informing resource allocation discussions. The Victorian Fisheries Authority (VFA) has been conducting a recreational tagging program to estimate recreational southern rock lobster catches for the last two seasons. Uptake and compliance with tagging has been high, however reporting of tag usage has been more problematic with the fate of 30,419 of the 92,326 tags issued in the first (2017/18) season remaining unknown. This project will run a recreational diary/phone survey (as used in Tasmania) in parallel with the upcoming 2019/20 tagging season to calibrate the tagging program and provide a comparison of the methods. This will enable a calibration of the tagging based catch estimate and guide management as to the future applicability of both methods.
Incorporating recreational catch estimates in stock assessment models remains challenging due to i) a lack of catch estimates prior to the commencement of surveys and ii) potential reporting biases in survey results. This project will develop a protocol for incorporating recreational catch estimates in a robust manner that specifically addresses these concerns and is aimed at increasing model accuracy and robustness to future changes in recreational catch whilst promoting stakeholder confidence in the utilised approach.
A disadvantage of conventional tagging systems is the requirement of issuing plastic tags and the consequent costs and environmental impacts. In consultation with VFA and stakeholders this project will investigate alternative smart-phone based 'tagging' systems that avoid this issue and develop a guide for future implementation of such a system.