DPIRD to conduct research survey to monitor western rock lobster numbers in shallow waters off Western Australia

Photo: DPIRD

Researchers at Western Australia’s Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) will survey juvenile western rock lobster numbers in shallow waters as part of a three-year project to ensure the continued sustainability of the valuable fishery.

Funded through the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, the project will survey juvenile numbers between Mandurah and Kalbarri, as well as assess changes to the marine habitat that could impact on the population.

DPIRD researchers will work closely with the western rock lobster commercial industry and researchers at the University of Western Australia to design the survey, which will include monitoring catches from 600 lobster pots spread across 12 locations along the coastline.

Special modified pots will be used to catch as many juvenile lobsters as possible. The pots will be set twice, providing data from 1,200 different locations to analysis as part of the survey.

The surveys will be co-ordinated through the peak body Western Rock Lobster Council, and will be undertaken by commercial fishers, with support from DPIRD staff.

DPIRD principal research scientist Simon de Lestang said researchers would analyse the catch including the numbers, size, sex and health of the lobsters, and compare the data against the settlement of baby lobsters sampled as part of another long-term department survey.

De Lestang said that all undersize lobsters will be returned to their individual reef locations and many of the pots will also have a camera attached to help map the surrounding marine habitat, allowing the department to monitor any environmental changes.

It is believed a marine heat wave in 2011 may have changed the marine environment in some areas of the fishery, impacting on the survival of juvenile lobsters.

The DPIRD western rock lobster research project will run from March 2021 until March 2023.

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