Fisheries Research Articles

Assessing the effects of moving to maximum economic yield effort level in the western rock lobster fishery of Western Australia

Document Type


Publication Date


Journal Title

Marine Policy


Print: 0308-597X Electronic: 1872-9460


Western rock lobster, Maximum economic yield, Input control, Catch prediction, Decision rule, Target reference point


Agricultural and Resource Economics | Aquaculture and Fisheries | Marine Biology | Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecology


The western rock lobster (Panulirus cygnus) fishery has been facing significant economic pressure from increasing costs, lower prices as well as predicted reduced catches due to low recruitment. A maximum economic yield (MEY) assessment estimated the fishing effort that would maximise the net present value of profits over 2008/09–2013/14 was about 50%–70% reduction of 2007/08 effort. The assessment accounted for fixed vessel costs and the variable pot lift cost. An important component of this assessment was the use of puerulus settlement time series that provided a reliable predictor of recruitment to the fishery 3–4 years later. This can be contrasted to most MEY assessments that would use an average catch-effort relationship rather than taking into account the expected recruitment. This predictive ability has been particularly useful as there has been a period of unusually low puerulus settlements over the 5 years (2006/07–2010/11) including the lowest two settlements in the 40-year time series. Due to the low settlements, substantial management changes were implemented in 2008/09 and 2009/10 (44% and 73% reduction in nominal fishing effort, respectively compared to 2007/08) to maintain the breeding stock at sustainable levels by having a significant carryover of legal lobsters into future years of lower recruitment. These effort reductions provided a unique opportunity to assess the economic impact of a fishery moving to an MEY effort level over two years. The CPUE increased from 1.1 kg/pot lift in 2007/08 to 1.7 and 2.7 in 2008/09 and 2009/10, respectively. These CPUEs were much higher than the expected levels (1.2 and 1.1, respectively) if the 2007/08 effort had been maintained in these two years. The vessel numbers declined by 14% and 36% in 2008/09 and 2009/10, respectively, compared to 2007/08. The fishery profit increased by AUS$13 and 49 million for 2008/09 and 2009/10, respectively, compared to that estimated if the 2007/08 effort level had continued. This assessment demonstrates the economic benefits of fishing at a level close to that estimated for MEY under an input management regime. The management decision-rule framework is currently based on having the egg production above a threshold reference level to ensure sustainability and now a target reference point based on MEY principles is also being considered.