Publication Date


Series Number

Fisheries Research Report 299


Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development






The Western Rock Lobster (WRL) fishery is one of Australia’s largest single-species recreational and commercial fisheries. The recreational sector has a long history of harvesting this resource, and there is an ongoing need to provide annual estimates of the recreational catch due to the formal resource sharing policy adopted in 2004. Mailrecall surveys, supplemented with occasional phone-recall surveys, provide costeffective monitoring, since WRL is a single-species, licensed recreational fishery operating across large spatial and temporal scales. This report presents estimates of participation, fishing effort and retained catch from annual mail-recall surveys of randomly selected licensed Rock Lobster (RL) recreational fishers from 1986/87 to 2017/18 and provides comparisons of estimates with phone recall surveys conducted in 2001/02 and from 2015/16 to 2017/18. Participation rates were relatively stable from 1986/87–2004/05 with around 75% of licence holders fishing. Participation rates then began to decline to a low of 52% in 2011/12, before increasing to 64% by 2017/18. The total fishing effort (potting and diving combined; all RL species) increased from 0.41 million fisher days (in 1986/87) to 0.94 million (in 2017/18); an increase of 127%, over the 32 years. Total effort was low and relatively steady, 0.34–0.43 million fisher days per year during 1986/87–1990/91, then increased to 0.59 million days in 1992/93, followed by several years of higher effort occurring in 1998/99 (0.85 million days) and 2002/03 (0.92 million days). Total effort then declined to 0.41 million days in 2011/12 but has since increased to peak at 0.94 million days in 2017/18. Effort by potting was 75–90% of the total effort, compared to 10–25% by diving across all years. The estimated retained catch increased from 96 tonnes (CI 79–112) in 1986/87 to 480 tonnes (390–570) in 2017/18; an increase of 402% over the 32-years. Retained catch followed a similar trend to effort with significant peaks in 1999/00–2004/05 and in 2014/15–2017/18 but varied more from season to season, depending on factors such as lobster recruitment and management changes. Potting harvested 70–85% of the lobsters, compared to 15–30% by diving across all years. The trends in participation, fishing effort and retained catch vary over the 32-time period and have been influenced by various societal, biological, and management factors, including changing abundance and recruitment of RL stocks and management regulations (i.e. season length, size and bag limits). Phone-recall surveys were introduced as an alternative method of estimating recreational catch, due to declining survey responses for the mail-recall surveys. Phone-recall surveys were less biased from survey non-response and produced lower estimates of participation, fishing effort and retained catch than the mail survey. The lower estimates in the phone-recall survey were predominantly from pot fisher responses, whereas estimates for dive fishing were generally similar between survey methods.

Number of Pages



Western Australia Rock lobster, Surveys.

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