Fisheries Research Articles

Ocean circulation, Stokes drift, and connectivity of western rock lobster (Panulirus cygnus) population

Document Type


Publication Date


Journal Title

Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences


Print: 0706-652X Electronic: 1205-7533


Aquaculture and Fisheries | Marine Biology | Oceanography


An individual-based model, incorporating outputs of a data-assimilating hydrodynamic model, was developed to investigate the role of ocean circulation in the recruitment processes of western rock lobster (Panulirus cygnus) during its 9- to 11-month larval phase off the west coast of Australia. During austral summer, strong northward alongshore winds aid the offshore movement of early-stage model larvae from midshelf hatching sites into open ocean; during austral winter, eastward flows that feed the enhanced Leeuwin Current facilitate onshore movement of late-stage larvae towards nearshore habitats. Stokes drift induced by swells from the Southern Ocean is critical to retain larvae off the west coast. Diurnal migration and temperature-dependent growth are also important. Model larvae hatched in late spring – early summer grow faster because of longer exposure to warm summer temperature, which allows them to be transported towards the coast by the strong onshore flows in winter and reduces their natural mortality. Preliminary source–sink relationship indicates that the population was well mixed off the coast, with higher likelihood of settlement success from hatching sites in the north, mostly due to higher surface temperature. Weighted with the breeding stock distribution, the area between 27.5°S and 29.5°S, including the Abrolhos Islands, is the most important hatching area to the success of settlement.