Fisheries Research Articles

Spatial and temporal variation in the size at maturity of the western rock lobster Panulirus cygnus George

Document Type


Publication Date


Journal Title

Marine Biology


Print: 0025-3162 Electronic: 1432-1793


Mature Female, Carapace Length, Fishing Season, High Exploitation Rate, Annual Water Temperature


Aquaculture and Fisheries | Marine Biology | Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecology


The sizes at which female and male western rock lobster Panulirus cygnus become mature were examined over 32 years from records at six localities along the coast of Western Australia. The size of males at maturity was estimated from a subset of these data by a morphometric and a physiological method, with both producing statistically similar results. Males were larger at first maturity than females at the same sites. For both sexes, the sizes at first maturity at each location correlated (P<0.05) with the mean annual water temperature at that location, decreasing from south to north along the mainland coast and being smallest at the offshore Abrolhos Islands. Smaller sizes at maturity were recorded for both sexes than have been published previously. One certain explanation for these differences is that management measures protecting females with ovigerous setae have distorted size compositions and the ratio of immature to mature females, thereby increasing the likelihood of capturing small mature females. However, these fishing effects cannot fully account for the progressive decline in CL50 observed over the past 20 years. Other possible hypotheses considered include increases in water temperature over this period, as well as whether this change could be consistent with a genotypic response caused by the selective removal of large lobsters combined with high exploitation rates.