Torres Strait Tropical Rock Lobster Fishery


Map showing the area of the Torres Strait Tropical Rock Lobster Fishery (2006)

Update on Torres Strait Tropical Rock Lobster Fishery 2019-20 season

The 2019-20 fishing season for the Torres Strait Tropical Rock Lobster Fishery (TRL Fishery) will commence on 1 December 2019. The Total Allowable Catch for the 2019-20 season has been set and outlined in the table below.

 

TRL Fishery sector

TAC (kilograms)

Number of quota units

Value of each quota unit (kilograms)

Available catch per sector (kilograms)

Traditional Inhabitant Boat (TIB) licence holders

200,000

662,016*

0.200

132,403.2

Transferable Vessel Holder (TVH) licence holders

337,981

67,596.2

  

Note - It is expected that the TAC will be increased once the outcomes of the scientific assessment process and the TAC sharing arrangements under the treaty between Australia and Papua New Guinea (PNG) have been taken into account.

 

TRL Fishery harvest strategy

The TRL Harvest Strategy was adopted by the PZJA at their meeting on 19 November 2019 and sets out the objectives for the Fishery. Including how the Fishery is monitored and what data will collected. The Harvest Strategy will be used in the 2019‑20 fishing season to determine the global TAC for the Fishery.

Download a copy of the TRL Harvest Strategy November 2019.

Moon-tide hookah closures

Periodic closure to the use of hookah gear for three days either side of the full or new moon each month will be implemented during the 2019-20 season.


Download the Tropical Rock Lobster fishery Moon-Tide Hookah closures for 2019-20 Fishing Season* (13 November 2019)

The Torres Strait Tropical Rock Lobster Fishery is the second most valuable commercial fishery in Torres Strait and very important to many Torres Strait Islanders.

The fishery is based on a single species, the ornate or tropical rock lobster (Panulirus ornatus).

Tropical Rock Lobsters (TRL) are taken by hand or a short hand spear by divers working from dinghies. Most divers free dive on shallow reef tops but others use hookah (surface supplied air) to dive the large areas of open bottom in Torres Strait. Most fishing occurs during neap tides when currents ease and underwater visibility improves. The commercial fishing season is from 1 December to 30 September the following year (inclusive), with a peak in fishing occurring during March to August.

Three sectors operate within the Torres Strait TRL Fishery including:

  1.  Traditional Inhabitant sector 
  2.  Non-Traditional Inhabitant sector
  3.  Papua New Guinea (under cross-endorsements).

 

Torres Strait Tropical Rock Lobster Fishery Quota

 

The Torres Strait Tropical Rock Lobster (TRL) Fishery operates under a quota management system. To fish in the TRL Fishery a transferrable vessel holder (TVH) operator must hold both a fishing licence and unused quota. For a traditional inhabitant boat (TIB) operator, the person must hold a fishing licence and either be fishing unused quota held by the Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) for the benefit of the TIB sector or individually hold unused quota. TIB operators will be notified when the unused quota held for the benefit of the TIB sector has been exhausted. The value of a quota unit is determined each fishing season. Units that are not used in the current season do not accumulate for use in another season.

Transfer of TRL Quota Units

Quota units can be permanently transferred, except by the TSRA, by lodging an Application to Register a Permanent Transfer of Tropical Rock Lobster Quota Units (PDF)

 

Unused quota units can be temporarily transferred lodging an  Application to Register a Temporary Transfer of Unused Tropical Rock Lobster Quota Units (PDF). This transaction does not change the ownership of the quota units, and the temporary transfer only has effect during the fishing season it is registered in.

Allocation of quota units under the Tropical Rock Lobster (TRL) Fishery Management Plan

15 October 2019

On 16 September 2019, Senator the Hon Jonathon Duniam, Assistant Minister for Forestry and Fisheries, allocated quota units in the Torres Strait Tropical Rock Lobster Fishery (TRL Fishery) in accordance with the Torres Strait Fisheries (Quotas for Tropical Rock Lobster (Kaiar)) Management Plan 2018. Further details regarding the allocation are provided below.

Read the letter to all TRL Fishery licence holders issued on 15 October 2019 (PDF)
Download the Torres Strait Fisheries (Quotas for Tropical Rock Lobster (Kaiar)) Management Plan 2018
Download the Explanatory Statement for the Torres Strait Fisheries (Quotas for Tropical Rock Lobster (Kaiar)) Management Plan 2018
Read the Guide to the Torres Strait Fisheries (Quotas for Tropical Rock Lobster (Kaiar)) Management Plan 2018 (PDF)

Should you wish to learn more about quota management systems, an introductory video can be accessed here

*Published by the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries on 2 June 2019.

 

Final TAC for TRL Fishery now 494.85 tonnes

A recent agreement with Papua New Guinea (PNG) on catch sharing arrangements under the Torres Strait Treaty has resulted in an additional Total Allowable Catch (TAC) allocation to Australia of 86.212 tonnes.

As a result the Australian TAC has increased from 408.637 tonnes to 494.85 tonnes.

TAC share for the TIB sector

The TAC share for the TIB sector, under a final Australian TAC of 494.85 tonnes, will be 327.442 tonnes (66.17 per cent share of the TAC). The TAC for the TIB sector is exclusively available to all TIB licence holders.

As of 13 June, the reported catch TIB catch is 175.79 tonnes.

TAC share for the TVH sector

The TAC share for the TVH sector, under a final Australian TAC of 494.85 tonnes, will be 167.407 tonnes (33.83 per cent share of the TAC). The TAC for the TVH sector will be individually apportioned to TVH licence holders, through revised licence conditions, in accordance with individual provisional allocation notices of October 2007.

As of 13 June, the reported catch TVH catch is 92.73 tonnes.
 

Consultation outcomes on the draft TRL Harvest Strategy

The Protected Zone Joint Authority (PZJA) agreed at its meeting on 1 April 2019 to release the draft harvest strategy for the Torres Strait Protected Zone Tropical Rock Lobster (TRL) Fishery for public comment. The period for submissions closed on 31 May 2019. To facilitate consultation on the draft harvest strategy, AFMA undertook a round of community visits across the Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula Area. A copy of the report from the community visits is below. AFMA also received a number of written submissions in relation to the draft TRL harvest strategy.

Report from Torres Strait Community Visits, April - May 2019 (PDF)

Written submission from Cape York Land Council (PDF) with attachments (PDF)

Written submission from Ken McKenzie (PDF)

Next Steps

The PZJA Tropical Rock Lobster Resource Assessment Group (TRLRAG) and TRL Working Group (TRLWG) will consider the consultation outcomes on the draft TRL harvest strategy at their meetings in September 2019. The harvest strategy will then be considered by the PZJA for approval.

A copy of the draft harvest strategy together with frequently asked questions (FAQs) about harvest strategies and an overview of the TRL harvest strategy are below. 

 

Revised Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for the 2018/19 Fishing Season (as at 18 March 2019)

On 15 March 2019, the Protected Zone Joint Authority (PZJA) agreed to a revised total allowable catch (TAC) of 408.6375 tonnes for Australian boats in the Australian waters of the Torres Strait Tropical Rock Lobster Fishery (TRL Fishery) for the 2018-19 fishing season.

 

TAC Share for TIB Licence Holders

The TAC share for the Traditional Inhabitant Boat (TIB) sector, under a revised TAC of 408.6375 tonnes, will be 270.395 tonnes (66.17 per cent share of the TAC). The TAC for the TIB sector is exclusively available to all TIB licence holders.

TAC Share for TVH Licence Holders

The TAC share for the Transferable Vessel Holder (TVH) sector, under a revised TAC of 408.6375 tonnes, will be 138.242 tonnes (33.83 per cent share of the TAC). The TAC for the TVH sector will be individually apportioned to TVH licence holders, through revised licence conditions, in accordance with individual provisional allocation notices of October 2007.

Further details regarding the revised TAC are provided in a letter to all TRL licence holders issued on 18 March 2019.

View the latest TRL Fishery Catch Watch Report March 2019.
 

Tropical Rock Lobster (TRL) Fishery Management Plan in place for 1 December 2018

27 November 2018

The Protected Zone Joint Authority (PZJA) has considered the views of stakeholders and agreed to implement a Tropical Rock Lobster (TRL) Fishery Management Plan, from 1 December 2018, to coincide with the commencement of the Torres Strait Fisheries Amendment (Tropical Rock Lobster) Management Instrument 2018.

For the 2018-19 fishing season (starting 1 December 2018) separate Traditional and non-traditional shares of the total allowable catch (TAC) will be implemented.

Read the Communiqué – Protected Zone Joint Authority, meeting 28.

Read the Media Release from the Protected Zone Joint Authority - Delivering the Torres Strait Tropical Rock Lobster Fishery Management Plan

Download the Torres Strait Fisheries (Quotas for Tropical Rock Lobster (Kaiar)) Management Plan 2018 (PDF)

Download the Explanatory Statement for the Torres Strait Fisheries (Quotas for Tropical Rock Lobster (Kaiar)) Management Plan 2018 (PDF)

Download the Torres Strait Fisheries Amendment (Tropical Rock Lobster) Management Instrument 2018 (PDF)

Download the Explanatory Statement for the Torres Strait Fisheries Amendment (Tropical Rock Lobster) Management Instrument 2018 (PDF)

 

    Management objectives:

    The management objectives for the Tropical Rock Lobster Fishery are:

    • To maintain the fishing mortality at a level below that which produces the Maximum Sustainable Yield (F MSY) (accounting for all sources of fishing mortality);
    • In accordance with the Torres Strait Treaty, to protect the traditional way of life and livelihood of Traditional Inhabitants, in particular in relation to their traditional fishing for Tropical Rock Lobster;
    • To provide for the optimal utilisation, co-operative management with Queensland and PNG and for catch sharing to occur with PNG;
    • To monitor interactions between the prawn and lobster fisheries;
    • To maintain appropriate controls on fishing gear allowed in the fishery so as to minimise impacts on the environment;
    • To promote economic development in the Torres Strait area with an emphasis on providing the framework for commercial opportunities for Traditional Inhabitants and to ensure that the opportunities available to all stakeholders are socially and culturally appropriate for the Torres Strait and the wider Queensland and Australian community; and,
    • Optimise the value of the fishery.

    Management arrangements

    Growth in the Torres Strait TRL Fishery is limited to Traditional Inhabitants of the Torres Strait so as to maximise their economic development and employment opportunities.

    In support of this, the PZJA has introduced licensing restrictions that prevent growth within the non-Islander sector, both in terms of fishing capacity (boat replacement policy) and the containment of licence numbers.

    There is also a ban on trawlers taking lobster to prevent pressure on the lobster resource from the prawn trawling fleet.

    Most of the management arrangements are outlined in Fisheries Management Notice No. 80 and include size restrictions, closed seasons, gear restrictions and bag limits. These are detailed below.

    Management regulations

    Regulations currently implemented in the Torres Strait TRL Fishery include:

    • fishing method is restricted to hand collection or with the use of a hand held implement, such as a spear or scoop net;
    • a complete seasonal commercial fishing closure during October and November (inclusive);
    • a further seasonal closure on the use of hookah gear during December and January (inclusive);
    • a minimum tail size of 115 mm or minimum carapace length of 90 mm for all commercially caught lobsters; and
    • a prohibition to process or carry tropical rock lobster meat that has been removed from any part of a tropical rock lobster on any boat.

    Condition of the fishery

    Stock assessment modelling indicates that the population of TRL naturally fluctuates from year to year however the stocks within the Torres Strait Protected Zone are currently not considered to be overfished.

    Since 2006 a preliminary Total Allowable Catch (TAC) has been estimated to gauge the performance of the fishery and actual catch has not exceeded the preliminary TAC.

    As at 30 June 2010, 289 Traditional Inhabitant boat licenses with TRL entries were active in the fishery and 13 non-Traditional Inhabitants licensed to fish in the fishery. Six PNG cross-endorsements were also issued to PNG commercial fishers to fish in the TRL Fishery during 2010.

    Torres Strait commercial fishing application forms

    Quota units can be permanently transferred, except by the TSRA, by lodging an Application to Register a Permanent Transfer of Tropical Rock Lobster Quota Units (PDF)

    Unused quota units can be temporarily transferred lodging an  Application to Register a Temporary Transfer of Unused Tropical Rock Lobster Quota Units (PDF).

    Strategic Assessment

    The Torres Strait Tropical Rock Lobster Fishery was strategically assessed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 in 2017 and accredited as a Wildlife Trade Operation for three years.

    The Department of Environment and Energy also provided a number of recommendations to improve the sustainability of the fishery. The export accreditation is valid until 18 December 2020 at which time the fishery will be re-assessed.