Tropical rock lobster fishery

From 1 September 2021, there are new rules and reporting requirements for Queensland commercial fisheries.

Find fact sheets on the new rules and reporting requirements.

The east coast crayfish and rock lobster fishery includes all tidal waters east of longitude 142°31'49'E, south of latitude 10°41'S and north of latitude 14°S.

The commercial fishery area also includes tidal waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria and adjoining waterways, between the 25 nautical mile line and the shore, south of latitude 10°48'S. However, the commercial fishery operates almost exclusively on the east coast between Cape York and Cape Melville.

The fishery is designated by the fishery symbol R.

Target species

The east coast fishery consists mostly of 1 species – the tropical spiny rock lobster (Panulirus ornatus). Other species of tropical spiny rock lobster are also found in Queensland waters, but these are much less abundant and contribute only marginally to the total catch.

Fishing gear

Commercial collection of tropical rock lobster is carried out using hand spears, spear guns or handheld non-mechanical implements such as noose rods.

Panulirus ornatus rarely enters pots and is therefore collected exclusively by diving. Underwater breathing apparatus is used in this commercial fishery (hookah equipment is the most common method). Most fishing occurs in reef-top waters deeper than 5m.

The method of capture varies, but the collection of lobster for frozen tails is usually by a rubber-powered hand spear used to penetrate the animal's carapace. As a result of market demand and better prices received by divers, live collection of lobster is now the preferred method, with divers taking the animals by gloved hand or by use of a noose placed over the tail.

Other management arrangements

  • The total annual quota for all commercial licences must not be more than 195,000kg of whole weight rock lobster.
  • An individual transferable quota exists for the fishery. This means quota can be transferred between licence-holders.
  • The fishery has limited entry - there are currently 28 licences.
  • Distance between tender and primary boats is restricted to 5 nautical miles.
  • No more than 1 diver per tender boat can collect.
  • Primary boats can be up to 20m in length.
  • Tender boats can be up to 7m in length.
  • A maximum of 7 tender boats can operate under this licence.
  • There is a closed season north of 14°S from 1 October to 31 January (inclusive).
  • The minimum size limit for Panulirus ornatus is 90mm (carapace length) and 115mm (tail length).
  • Fishers must not take egg-bearing and tar-spot females.

Also consider...


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