Western Red Lobster

Common Name:

Western Red Lobster

Scientific Name:

Panulirus cygnus

Market Name(s):

Australian spiny lobster, Rock lobster

Find Sustainable Products

Seafood guides quicktabs

Sourcing Summary

1-5 lbs.

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. 

Harvest Methods



Product Forms


  • Live


  • Cooked
  • Tails (raw)
  • Whole
Fresh Seasonal Availability
Culinary Composition





Health & Nutrition

Nutrition facts

Serving size: 100 Grams
Amount per serving
  • Calories
  • Total Fat
  • Cholesterol
  • Sodium
  • Carbohydrates
  • Protein

Cooking Methods

Advisory Concern


The Western Red Lobster is a species of spiny lobster. Spiny lobsters lack the large front claws that American lobsters have. Western Red Lobsters can grow up to 16 in (40 cm) and can live for more than 15 years.

The number of eggs females can produce per spawn is linearly related to their size.

Western Red Lobsters are omnivorous scavengers, feeding on sedentary or semi-sedentary reef flora and fauna. However, they do prefer mollusks and fish. Their direct predators are octopus, blue tuskfish, and the West Australian dhufish. They are especially vulnerable to predation after molting when their carapace is soft. Individual lobsters have limited capacity to defend themselves, especially juveniles, so often they will form aggregations during the day to better detect predators and defend themselves using their spiny antennae.

Species Habitat

The Western Red Lobster’s distribution is limited to the subtropical waters of the Indo-West Pacific, specifically Western Australia. They are benthic animals, with a depth range between 0-394 ft (0-120 m), but usually 0-295 ft (0-90 m). Their preferred water temperature is 72°F (22°C).

Western Red Lobsters are nocturnal and stay in rock crevices and coral during the daytime. After foraging during the night, they return to the same den or one nearby. Juvenile lobsters will spend 5-6 years in shallow reef areas, then move offshore.

Western Red Lobsters undertake annual limited migrations. In November, large numbers of them will molt, and then leave the coastal reefs to move seaward to deeper reefs between late November and December.

Science & Management:
  • Wild

    Data has been upkept since the 1960s in the Western Australian fishery, enabling scientists to accurately predict catches and ensure that controls are adequate to maintain sustainable population levels.


    Western Red Lobsters are the main coldwater spiny lobster species on the US market. It is also the most valuable single-species fishery in Australia, with a total of 5,500 tons landed in 2011. Lobsters are exported to Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong, China, the US, and Europe.

    The Western Australia pot and trap fishery has been certified by the Marine Stewardship Council, indicating it is well-managed and sustainable. In 2017, the fishery became the first to be recertified for a fourth time, holding continuous certification for 17 years. The fishery has strict requirements in place, including:

    • Seasonal closures
    • Minimum size requirements
    • Ban on catching breeding females

    After consultation with the Department of Fisheries Western Australia, the fishery recently moved from an input, or effort control, management system to an output, or catch quota, management system. This change was an effect of below-average recruitment rates in recent years, a reduction that was nearly half of the catch from the 2005-2006 season. This quota management measure brought a significant reduction to the number of pots used in the fishery, which also reduced its impact on the ecosystem. The fishery also introduced Sea Lion Exclusion Devices (SLEDS) to minimize sea lion mortality and banned bait bands, which can entangle marine mammals.


Impact on Stock

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

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 Effectiveness

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.

Origin Harvest Method Sustainability Ratings
Australia - Western Australia (MSC) Pot/Trap
Seafood Watch- Eco-Certification Recognized
Ocean Wise- Not Recommended
Good Fish Guide - Unrated
Unassessed Origin Unassessed Fishing Methods
Seafood Watch- Unrated
Ocean Wise- Unrated
Good Fish Guide - Unrated
Name Country State/Province
Calkins & Burke Canada British Columbia
Euclid Fish Company United States Ohio
Fortune Fish & Gourmet United States, United States, United States, United States, United States, United States Illinois
Lusamerica Foods United States, United States, United States California
Pacific Harvest Seafoods United States California
Samuels & Son Seafood Company, Inc. United States Pennsylvania
Santa Monica Seafood, Inc. United States California
Seattle Fish Company of New Mexico United States New Mexico
Tai Foong USA United States Washington


  • Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. (FAO)
  • Marine Stewardship Council
  • SeafoodSource
Last Updated: 7/2/2020