Western Australian rock lobster is sold fresh live, and frozen as raw tails with meat and whole either blanched or fully cooked. Rock lobster are typically graded by the ounce. Rock lobster meat has a firm texture and mild flavor. Unlike American lobster, rock lobsters have a spiny hard shell for protection and lack large front claws. These lobster tail shells will be rough and have a deep reddish-purple color. Coldwater lobster tails, which include Western rock lobster, sell for a premium over warmwater lobster due to their higher quality. Rock lobster tails from Australia have strong quality controls and are packed “dry,” meaning without a glaze.
Rock lobster is a type of spiny lobster found in cooler waters off the west coast of Australia. These lobsters are highly fecund and have a complex life history. They are influenced greatly by broad environmental changes that affect their distribution.
Western Australian rock lobster is the second largest spiny lobster fishery after the Caribbean, and it experienced a population decline between the 1950s and 1980s, likely from fishing pressure. However, improved management measures have helped the population return to a medium abundance level. Currently rock lobster in Australia are being fished closed to its maximum sustainable yield.
Habitat impacts (Wild)
Rock lobsters are primarily caught with baited traps in Australia. Although a large number of traps can have a negative impact, the Australian rock lobster fishery mainly occurs on limestone reefs. These areas are considered robust.
Bycatch in this fishery regularly includes sea lion pups, which try to steal bait in the lobster pots, get trapped, and drown. Since the sea lion population is at a low abundance level in Australia, the fishery has introduced sea lion exclusion devices (SLEDs) to prevent them from entering the traps and banned the use of bait bands that can entangle marine animals. Fishermen have also had interactions with some endangered leatherback turtles. Occasionally whales will also get entangled in the pots. Octopus can also get caught in the traps, although the fishermen usually retain this and sell them.
Management in this fishery is considered substantial and includes strict limits on the number of licenses and pots allowed, regular scientific monitoring, size restrictions, gear restrictions, and seasonal closures. In recent years quotas have been introduced, reducing the annual catch to ensure future stocks. In addition, sea lion exclusion devices are now mandatory for all pots within a specially designated zone.