Fisheries Research Articles

Overview, opportunities and outlook for Australian spiny lobster fisheries

Document Type


Publication Date


Journal Title

Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries


Print: 0960-3166 Electronic: 1573-5184


Crustacean fisheries, Jasus, Panulirus, Sagmariasus, Seafood exports, Supply chain


Agricultural and Resource Economics | Aquaculture and Fisheries | Food Security | Marine Biology


Australia’s lobster fisheries are relatively small in volume (9500t) compared with global production (289,000t), but are the country’s most valuable in terms of both overall production and value of export (2014 Gross Value of Production of $610 million AUD). Further, they support commercial, recreational and indigenous fishers along most of the continent’s coastline. Here we review similarities and key differences between these lobster fisheries, based on biological characteristics, fishery data collection, assessment and management methods, and supply chain considerations. A diverse range of palinurid lobsters occur in Australia, but only three genera, distributed across eight different management jurisdictions, support significant fisheries. Catches of western rock lobster Panulirus cygnus dominate landings (61%), followed by southern rock lobster Jasus edwardsii, tropical lobster Panulirus ornatus and the eastern rock lobster Sagmariasus verreauxi. Large-scale environmental influences such as climate change are impacting on these fisheries in similar or different ways forcing new management and raising the need for greater resilience in current supply chains. Although these are separate fisheries, the integrated nature of the dominant Chinese export markets suggests potentially important economic and market-related interactions. Our overview highlights the critical role of continued monitoring of recruitment pulses, in combination with robust harvest strategies, to ensure that harvests respond adequately and fisheries achieve biological and economic sustainability. Approaches that also include socio-cultural considerations (triple bottom line) are important given many fisheries include indigenous Australians. Our integrated analysis of Australian lobster fisheries highlights differences and similarities with spiny lobster fisheries worldwide and lessons from opportunities, including adapting to new free trade agreements, enhancing the reputation of wild lobsters as a whole, sharing expertise, and better alignment of supply and demand.