A review of lobster fishery management: the Western Australian fishery for Panulirus cygnus, a case study in the development and implementation of input and output-based management systems

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ICES Journal of Marine Science


Lobster stocks around the world support high-value fisheries with production currently about 260,000 tonnes annually. The largest fisheries harvest Homarus, Nephrops and Panulirus species with smaller production from the Jasus, Palinurus and Scylarid species groups. The majority of larger industrial fisheries have systems limiting fishing effort or catches, while many of the smaller fisheries remain open access and have yet to implement basic management controls. The review uses the Western Australian fishery for Panulirus cygnus, valued between AUS$200–400 million annually with a long history of successful management, as a case study for the consideration of lobster fisheries management systems more generally. The conclusions from the review suggest that an evolutionary approach to management with biological controls as a precursor to input-based controls is necessary to allow sufficient fishery-based data to be accumulated for management decision processes to be effective. The case study experience suggests that well-defined fishing rights leading to an input-based total allowable effort system with individually transferable effort (ITE) units can provide efficient mechanisms for the reduction of latent effort, which characterises most lobster fisheries with open access or basic limited entry. Further the system has been shown to be capable of generating significant license values for fishermen while maintaining owner-operators as the dominant group in the fishery. The ITE system was also used effectively to adjust fishing to compensate for a severe environmentally-driven downturn in recruitment, but resulted in highly complex management rules. In 2010 the fishery moved seamlessly to a total allowable catch with individually transferable quotas which removed the complexity of management, further increased the catch value and reduced costs of fishing. Price/earnings (P/E) ratios have been used to track trends in license values which highlight the industry’s increasing economic viability over time under both input and output based management.