Project number: 2020-062
Project Status:
Budget expenditure: $72,525.00
Principal Investigator: Janet Howieson
Organisation: Curtin University
Project start/end date: 30 Aug 2020 - 31 Oct 2023


It was recently noted (in FISH Magazine Volume 27-1) that:

“Recent studies have estimated that approximately eight million tonnes of plastic end up in the world’s oceans every year. This contributes to the deaths of the marine animals that become entangled. Plastic can also find its way into the stomachs of seabirds, sea mammals, fish and other marine life, affecting the entire food chain.
The attributes of plastic that make it so attractive as a material, including its durability, are also the attributes that make it so dangerous and long-lived. Products might break down, but the plastic itself remains in the environment. Greenpeace researchers have found plastics in water and snow samples in areas as remote
as Antarctica.

CSIRO research has identified that almost three-quarters of the rubbish on Australia’s coastline is plastic, and that it comes from Australian sources. Research from the Australian Institute of Marine Science has also reported widespread microplastic contamination of waters in north-western Australia. More recently, a study of juvenile Coral Trout from the Great Barrier Reef has identified that tropical fish are ingesting both plastic and non-plastic marine microdebris (particles of less than five millimetres).”

WRL’s vision (as noted in its Strategic Plan 2018-2021) is to be “an iconic global leader in sustainable fisheries management, with one of its strategic objectives to “ensure long term access to the sustainable resource”. WRL continually strives to improve its sustainability practices for the western rock lobster industry, with practices with the ability to transfer to and assist other fisheries being particularly attractive. The research developed through this project will allow greater knowledge and understanding of:

(1) how and where plastic is used within the western rock lobster industry; and
(2) viable and environmentally friendly alternatives to the plastic currently in use.
This will form the basis for Phase 2 of this project, which will allow for the development, trial and implementation of plastic alternatives to combat and reduce the harm to the marine environment, and ultimately lead to a more sustainable fishery.


1. Identify where and why plastic is used in the western rock lobster industry.
2. Identify viable environmentally friendly plastic alternatives.