Haddon, M and Gardner, C, Tasmanian Rock Lobster Fishery 2007/08, Fishery Assessment Report, Tasmanian Aquaculture and Fisheries Institute, Hobart, Tasmania, 2009 (2009) [Government or Industry Research]
Current Stock Status
The present commercial catch is taken from areas all around the State and involves the annual harvest of around 1.6 million animals. In the 2007/2008 season 203 licensed vessels reported catches of rock lobster, down from 344 in 1994/95. In addition, there were approximately 20,000 licensed recreational fishers taking an estimated 135 tonnes in 2006/2007.
Relative to the stock’s lowest point in 1993/94 there has been significant rebuilding in terms of legal biomass, which has led to a rise in catch rates The fishery performance measures are currently under formal review and consequently, for this year, details of additional performance measures are given in order to characterize the status of the re-source. The assessment also considers details relating to Ecosystem Based Fisheries Management.
The distribution of effort and catch (fleet dynamics) continues to exhibit strong spatial trends related to the amount of lobsters recruiting into the legal sized stock. Effort peaked in 1992/1993 (2.07 million pot lifts), with current effort only 62.2% of that amount (1.29 million pot lifts). Current effort is 67.6% of a secondary peak of pre-quota effort in 1996/1997 (1.90 million pot lifts), and 80.9% of effort in 1998/1999, the first year of the quota management system (1.59 million pot lifts). The level of rebuilding is evident in the reduced number of potlifts and vessels required to catch the Total Allow-able Commercial Catch (TACC). This is especially significant given that there has also been a shift to more winter fishing, when catch rates are generally lower. Effort in-creased this year due to stock decline in many areas.
The geographical distribution of effort has changed, dropping significantly in assess-ment areas 1, 2, 4, and 5 and continuing to rise in areas 7 and 8 (with very slight in-creases in Areas 3 and 6). Catches over a three-year period are at record highs in Area 1 and 8 (and very high, although not record levels, in Area 7). Conversely, catches are at record low levels (since at least 1975) in Areas 3, 4 and 5. This pattern is of concern, because while northern catches appear to have reduced because of prolonged poor re-cruitment, the TACC continues to be taken through record high harvesting from the south. It is unlikely that catches in the south can be maintained at such high levels.
Combining these trends in effort and catch, catch rates are rising slightly or are stable in Areas 3 to 5, with reductions in Areas 1, 2, and 6. Standardized catch rates in Area 7 continue to rise and have remained stable in Area 8. Consequently the stock is continu-ing to rebuild in the southwest while rebuilding appears to have slowed or even begun to reverse in the north and east of the State.