Southern Rock Lobster in Robe - The Industry

Southern Rock Lobster in Robe

Lobster season starts 1st Oct - 31st May

Lobster is available in most restraurants in ROBE (May have to book).


The Industry

Rock lobster fishing is a significant and expanding industry in South Australia, generating a business turnover of more than $230 million and supporting over 2200 jobs. About 95% of the annual commercial catch of 2620 tonnes is sold live to Asian markets, which brings more than $100 million into the State. The total catch has remained relatively stable during the past decade, as both fishers and managers have taken steps to ensure the long-term sustainability of the resource, but rising prices have seen the gross value of production increase. The rock lobster industry operates on a full cost-recovery basis and finances its own management, research and resource protection. Every year, about $1 million is fed back into research, $1 million into management and $1.3 million into resource protection.

The impact of the rock lobster industry extends well beyond the initial effects of the income received by the fishers at the wharf, flowing on through the purchases ofr items such as fuel, bait, boats and services. For every fisher catching lobster, a further seven to eight jobs are created.

The value added to the State's regional economy is in excess of $125 million a year, and for many small towns it is the primary source of economic activity.

Fishing is carried out in the pristine waters of South Australia's entire coastline, but the fishery is divided into two distinct areas - The Southern Zone, which reaches from the Victorian border to the mouth of the Murray River south of Adelaide, and the Northern Zone, which covers the area from the mouth of the Western Australian border.

While geographically smaller, the Southern Zone is the more significant in terms of the number of commercial boats operating (184 compared with 71 in the Northern Zone) and a total catch (1720 tonnes compared with 900).

The ports of the Southern Zone are Port MacDonnell, Blackfellows Caves, Carpenter Rocks, Southend, Beachport, ROBE, Cape Jaffa and Kingston.

Northern Zone fishing emanates from the ports of Kangaroo Island, Port Lincoln and Pondalowie Bay, and the far West Coast.

The rock lobster season runs from October to May. All commercial fishers must be licensed, and their activities are controlled through quotas in the South and tight management of fishing time in the North.

Fishers record their catch every day and also participate in a voluntary pot sampling program, in which the size, gender, colour and location of their catch is recorded. Female lobsters carrying eggs are returned to the sea.

Abundant stocks and sustainable fishing make South Australia's rock lobster fishery among the best managed in the world. The 255 licensed fishers manage the stocks in partnership with the State Government, carefully determining fishing strategies with the best available scientific advice.

During the past five years the industry has worked closely with the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) on a research program to monitor and assess the sustainability of lobster stocks, population dynamics, growth rates and movements.

The result is one of the world's most extensive databases, which is updated annually and used to provide stock assessment reports to the State Government and managers.

The industry also takes an active role in assessing and determining research programs and previously has commissioned an independent assessment of research priorities.

It funds four research programs in conjunction with the Fisheries Research & Development Corporation and also funds university research scholarships.

The rock lobster industry operates outside the boundaries of the Marine Protected Areas, which cover 10% of State waters, and plays an active role in preventing illegal harvesting and protecting the environment.

While individual ports already run their own waste-management strategies, in August 1998 the peak industry body, the South Australian Rock Lobster Advisory Council, joined the Federal Government's Coasts and Clean Seas Project to develop an industry-wide waste-management strategy.