Fisheries Research Articles

Development of an individual-based tag recapture model to benchmark biomass and harvest rates in an iconic lobster fishery

Document Type


Publication Date


Journal Title

Bulletin of Marine Science


Print: 0007-4977 Electronic: 1553-6955


Aquaculture and Fisheries | Marine Biology


The West Coast Rock Lobster Managed Fishery (WCRLMF) moved from input to output controls in 2010. This change affected the relativity of fishery-based data sources (e.g., catch rates and landed size composition), making the assessment of the fishery problematic. A novel examination of the stock dynamics was required to ensure the robustness of the stock assessment and associated management arrangements. This study derived estimates of current biomass levels and harvest rates from the release of over 60,000 tagged western rock lobsters (Panulirus cygnus). A Brownie tag-recapture (BTR) model was initially implemented to provide an assessment on a fishery-wide basis. Estimates from this were compared to those derived from a novel purpose-built tag-recapture individual-based model (IBM) that accounted for sex, size, month, and location-specific changes in catchability. The two models produced similar estimates on a fishery-wide scale—harvest rate (HR 0.26 vs 0.30, respectively) and legal-sized biomass (about 24,500 vs 20,735 t, respectively)—while the IBM also provided estimates on a far finer spatial and temporal scale. Both models indicate that the WCRLMF is currently in a very sustainable condition and is being fished at a rate below maximum economic yield (HRmey is about 0.39). These findings were in concert with estimates derived for this fishery based on two separate catch-rate based population models, an integrated population model and a biomass-dynamics model. Such strong agreement among all models provides great certainty in the current assessment and management of this important marine resource.