Southern Rock Lobster is one of Tasmania’s most valuable commercial and recreational fishery species. Rock lobster are taken using traps and hand collection methods, with recreational fishers subject to licensing and a range of traditional management measures, including bag and size limits as well as seasonal closures.
Recreational fishing effort is concentrated off eastern Tasmania where recent assessments indicate that rock lobster stocks have been depleted by the combined effects of heavy fishing pressure and poor recruitment. Fishery simulations suggest that catches must be reduced to facilitate stock recovery above the biomass limit reference point (20% of unfished levels), initiating a 10-year stock rebuilding strategy that was implemented in 2013. A key element of this strategy is an annual catch limit, which is underpinned by a total allowable catch for the commercial sector and a region-specific notional catch share allocation for the recreational sector. While commercial catches are monitored and effectively controlled through an existing quota management system, management of the recreational catch has proven more problematic.
Reductions in bag and possession limits as well as a progressive reduction in season length have failed to achieve necessary reductions in recreational catch to target levels. This situation is likely to be exacerbated as stocks rebuild, resulting in higher catch rates that may incentivize additional recreational fishing pressure. Thus, achieving the stock recovery target depends on effectively regulating catches taken by the recreational sector. A novel approach supported by stakeholders is the introduction of an individual season limit. However, there are many practical issues to be considered in implementing this or any alternative management system. This project aims to combine an in-depth global review of existing recreational management systems with a feasibility analysis of candidate management schemes to effectively monitor and regulate recreational rock lobster catches in a practical and cost-effective manner.