Project number: 2022-060
Project Status:
Budget expenditure: $749,000.00
Principal Investigator: Daniel Fels
Organisation: Western Rock Lobster Council Inc (WRLC)
Project start/end date: 30 Nov 2022 - 29 Jun 2025


The Program is required to enable the economics research required over the next 3-4 years by retaining the WRL Economist and engaging a WRL Data Analyst to :

1. undertake research and demonstrate the effects of COVID-19 and international trade disruptions on the industry’s financial wellbeing and economic contribution, as a narrative incorporating the pre-, current and post-disruption era;

2. investigate and implement enhancements to the WRL MEY model based on verified stakeholder feedback;
• MEY modelling is based on (among other factors) expected longer-term beach prices for lobster achieved by fishers. Beach prices are themselves underpinned by prices achieved in domestic and export markets for live, frozen and other processed forms of western rock lobster, and supply chain costs — all of which have changed markedly over the past couple of years and have influenced the longer-term outlook considerably.
o Domestic markets have absorbed higher volumes of Australian product over the past two years than in the previous ten, encouraging a pivot by processors to include more cooked, frozen and other processed product in the product portfolio.
o Frozen and chilled product has also been demonstrated to have general acceptance in overseas markets, albeit at lower prices than achieved by similar live product.
o Air and sea freight costs and reliability have been adversely compromised in the face of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, with the medium-term outlook for freight costs expected to be a multiple of pre-COVID rates – affecting the relative attractiveness of domestic versus export markets.
o Processors and marketers have explored alternative export markets and paths to market in the wake of political uncertainty and trade disruptions. There is a need to understand the implications of this market shift on the net beach prices achievable by fishers, which will be achieved through a better understanding of the changes in market access and supply chain costs (transport, live holding, handling, additional processing, freight forwarding by air and by sea).
o Taken together, this suite of change constitutes a significant, and potentially longer-term, challenge to the western rock lobster industry that has high potential to bring about changes in industry structure.

3. research and implement mechanisms by which individual fishers / business owners can benchmark their businesses against relevant industry economic standards.

• Benchmarking aims to improve the internal performance of fishers' private business operations by providing each business with an opportunity to compare itself to the industry's performance
• Benchmarking is not limited to economic metrics, including physical metrics such as fuel use that enable a more granular understanding of the carbon footprint of the fishing fleet.
• The aim is to generate an understanding of the range of cost structures in the fishing fleet, to better inform the cost elements of MEY modelling for economic sustainability of the fishery.

4. investigate and implement enhancements to the WRL Global Trade Report.

• The pandemic and its ongoing turmoil, combined with trade disruptions to Australia’s live exports, has brought about a change in global lobster trade flows into the highest volume, highest value market – at Australia’s expense.
o The resultant situation includes a loss of market share and value to alternative suppliers of live spiny lobster, other lobster species, and other high value crustaceans.
o Consumer preferences have shown signs of changing in response to COVID and associated health policies, regulations and restrictions. During the course of the pandemic, consumption of rock lobster pivoted to at-home consumption, with some preference-shifting to frozen product, particularly in countries with aggressive health policies that enacted operating restrictions on restaurants and larger gatherings.

5. research and implement mechanisms by which WRL's Global Trade Report, MEY Model and Markets Dashboard would work together with DPIRD's Harvest Strategy to underpin TACC setting into the future, adding considerable benefit to government as the resource manager by supplying timely, independent, industry-oriented information to the consideration set


1. Enable the Global Trade Report the MEY Model and the Markets Dashboard to work together with the Harvest Strategy to underpin TACC setting and ensure the continued sustainability of the stock.
2. Demonstrate the effects of the SARSCoV2 pandemic and trade disruptions on the industry’s resilience, economic contribution and adaptation to changing market forces.
3. Develop benchmarks for use by fishers’ businesses against industry economic standards to enhance industry reslience and adaptation to trade disruptions.
4. Ensure usability of economics data by driving further integration of data sets, models and tools, and building into the digitization program.

Related research


Climate driven shifts in benthic habitat composition as a potential demographic bottleneck for Western Rocklobster: understanding the role of recruitment habitats to better predict the under-size lobster population for fishery sustainability

1. The overall objective is to evaluate the implications of habitat change for the western rock lobster fishery, by determining the relative importance of habitat for the survivorship and growth of critical western rock lobster life stages, to inform the interpretation of existing settlement and...
University of Western Australia (UWA)