Fisheries Research Articles

The orientation and migratory dynamics of the western rock lobster, Panulirus cygnus, in Western Australia

Document Type


Publication Date


Journal Title

ICES Journal of Marine Science


Print: 1054-3139 Electronic: 1095-9289


Aquaculture and Fisheries | Marine Biology | Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecology


Large-scale migrations are known to occur in numerous species, and in the case of the Western Rock Lobster, Panulirus cygnus, result in juveniles moving from nursery areas into deeper offshore breeding grounds. In 2008 the Western Rock Lobster fishery reduced harvest rates to increase legal and spawning biomass throughout the fishery, which also allowed greater numbers of lobsters to migrate. Increased lobster migration could potentially reduce biomass in some areas, thus adversely impacting commercial catch rates. Over 20 000 tag–recaptured lobsters were analysed to determine the dynamics underlying migration in this species and to assess the impact reduced harvest rates may have had on catches. This study showed that P. cygnus migration was associated with body size and water depth, and that magnetism and oceanic currents appear to be the most likely guideposts used for orientation. Size at migration varied in a constant fashion along the coast, being larger towards the southern end of the fishery and smallest at the offshore Abrolhos Islands. During the migration period, up to 50% of lobsters at their mean size of migration moved from coastal areas out towards deeper waters (>40 m), whereas