Rock lobster baby boom

rock lobster and puerulus

A South Australian rock lobster and its larvae, called puerulus.


Ever wondered what a baby lobster looks like?

Earlier this month I wrote about the work of SARDI Aquatic Sciences.

One of their projects is helping “open a window to the future” for South Australia’s rock lobster industry by providing a strategic insight into the success of future seasons up to five years in advance.

lobster puerulusSARDI scientists are monitoring rock lobster larvae, called puerulus (pictured).

This information helps the government determine quota numbers for the fishery, which operates under a harvest management plan developed collaboratively between industry, researchers and regulators.

Southern Zone rock lobster fishers have already caught 60 percent of their 1250 tonne quota just three months into the eight-month season, while Northern Zone rock lobster fishers have caught half their 310 tonne quota in just two months.

In a media statement, SARDI scientist Adrian Linnane said high levels of puerulus were observed across all study sites in 2005 and 2006.

“In the Southern Zone it takes five years for a puerulus to grow to adult size,” Dr Linnane said.

“We were therefore able to advise PIRSA and industry stakeholders that while the fishery had declined in recent seasons, things would likely improve in 2010 and 2011.

“These predictions proved to be correct, with catch rates increasing by 56 percent in 2010 and by a further 20 percent so far in 2011.”

SARDI researchers have been monitoring puerulus across the Southern and Northern Zone fishing areas since the mid 1990s, using collectors that mimic the reefs puerulus naturally settle in.

The collectors are located at sites all around the coast from Port MacDonnell to Port Lincoln. They are checked every month on the full moon when puerulus settlement is highest.

Rock lobsters in captivity have been known to survive for up to 35 years.

Their reproductive life spans between 10 and 15 years, and while female lobsters can carry up to 600,000 eggs at a time, only one percent survive to become adults.

It is widely acknowledged that the Southern Zone rock lobster fishery is one of the best managed in the world.

puerulus collector

A SARDI diver checks a puerulus collector.

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  • http://mollersdownunder.blogspot.com Reinhardt

    Interesting post! Gives one hope that sustainable natural resource management IS achievable. Well done to them!

    • http://gorey.com.au Michael

      Yes, it shows a quota-managed fishery can be sustainable if decisions are based on research and evidence.