Torres Strait Tropical Rock Lobster Fishery

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

Start of Season Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for the 2020-21 Fishing Season (as at 4 September 2020) 

On 27 August 2020, Senator the Hon. Jonathon Duniam determined a total allowable catch (TAC) of 200,000 kilograms of tropical rock lobster (TRL) in the Australian waters of the TRL Fishery for the 2020-21 fishing season. This TAC was agreed by the Protected Zone Joint Authority (PZJA) at their meeting on 27 August 2020 and will apply for the fishing season commencing 1 December 2020. It is expected that the TAC will be increased once the outcomes of the scientific assessment processes and the TAC sharing arrangements under the Treaty between Australia and Papua New Guinea (PNG) have been taken into account. Any increase in the TAC is expected to be determined by the end of February 2021. 

TRL Fishery Sector 

TAC (kilograms) 

Number of quota units 

Value of each quota unit (kilograms) 

Available catch (kilograms) 

Traditional Inhabitant Boat (TIB) licence holders 

200,000 

662,016* 

0.200000 

132,403.597 

Transferable Vessel Holder (TVH) licence holders 

337,981 

67,596.403 

* Held in trust by the TSRA 

Moontide 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 2020-21 fishing season. The first scheduled moontide hookah closure starts on 9 February 2021. 

Download a copy of the Tropical Rock Lobster Fishery Moontide Hookah Closure Calendar for 2020-21

Draft amendment to the TRL Management Plan open for public comment 

At their meeting on 27 August 2020, the PZJA agreed to a draft amendment to the TRL Management Plan and release the draft amendment for public comment for 6 weeks.  

Under subsection 17 of the TRL Plan, the PZJA must undertake a review of the allocation of quota units to the Traditional Inhabitant sector within two years of the TRL Plan commencement (which will be 30 November 2020). The draft amendment extends the period for the PZJA to commence the review to within 4 years. Further information on the proposed amendment is attached to the letter.  

A copy of the exposure draft amendment can be accessed here. 

You are encouraged to provide comment on the draft amendment by: 

  • email to: fisheriesTI [at] afma.gov.au;  

  • post to: PO Box 376, Thursday Island QLD 4875 

  • calling: (07) 4069 1990 

Comments close on 15 October 2020

 
Torres Strait Fisheries (Furnishing of Logbooks) Instrument 2020 

At their meeting on 27 August 2020, the PZJA agreed to remake a legislative instrument relating to the furnishing of logbooks. The purpose of the Logbook Instrument, made under section 14 of the Torres Strait Fisheries Act 1984 (the Act), is to require the master of a licenced boat, who uses that boat in the course of commercial fishing (other than community fishing) to complete a Daily Fishing Logbook. Relevantly, this applies to the Transferable Vessel Holder (TVH) sector of the Tropical Rock Lobster Fishery. TVH TRL operators should understand that the requirement to complete logbooks has not changed.  

Further details regarding the start of season TAC and other management updates are provided in a letter to all TRL licence holders issued on 4 September 2020. 

Download a copy of the letter sent all Torres Strait Tropical Rock Lobster Fishery licence holders.

For more information on the fishery rules in the TRL fishery, download a copy of the TRL Management Arrangements Booklet.  

 

Final Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for the 2019-20 Fishing Season (as at 21 May 2020)

On 20 May 2020, Senator the Hon. Jonathon Duniam determined an increase to the total allowable catch (TAC) of tropical rock lobster (TRL) in the Australian waters of the TRL Fishery from 392.917 tonnes to 434.785 tonnes for the 2019-20 fishing season (Torres Strait Fisheries Tropical Rock Lobster (Total Allowable Catch) Amendment Determination (No. 2) 2020). In line with the increased TAC the kilogram value of each quota unit and available catch for each TRL fishery sector is outlined in the table below and infographic image. 

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

434,785

662,016*

0.434786

287,835.49

Transferable Vessel Holder (TVH) licence holders

337,981

146,949.51

* Held in trust by the TSRA

Australia-PNG catch sharing arrangements

This TAC increase is consistent with further catch sharing arrangements between Australia and Papua New Guinea (PNG) recently agreed under the Torres Strait Treaty. The further agreement relates to the catch entitlement of 101.867 tonnes that has been set aside in Australian waters for PNG boats to fish under cross-endorsement arrangements. On 5 May 2020 the PNG National Fisheries Authority advised AFMA, that subject to any PNG nominations for cross endorsement, NFA would only seek to access 60 tonnes of the 101.867 tonnes. Through preferential entitlement under Article 25 of the Treaty, NFA and AFMA agreed for Australia to access the remaining amount of 41.867 tonnes.
 
This agreement results in a final TAC for the TRL Fishery of 434.785 tonnes which, in accordance with current quota unit holdings means a final TIB TAC share 287.835 tonnes (increased from 260.118 tonnes) and a final TVH TAC share of 146.95 tonnes (increased from 132.799 tonnes) to be allocated to individual TVH licence holders.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Further details regarding the revised TAC are provided in a letter to all TRL licence holders issued on 21 May 2020.
 
 

Revised Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for the 2019-20 Fishing Season (as at 4 March 2020)

On 3 March 2020, Senator the Hon. Jonathon Duniam determined an increase to the total allowable catch (TAC) of tropical rock lobster (TRL) in the Australian waters of the TRL Fishery from 200 tonnes to 392.917 tonnes for the 2019-20 fishing season (Torres Strait Fisheries Tropical Rock Lobster (Total Allowable Catch) Amendment Determination (No. 1) 2020). In line with the increased TAC, the kilogram value of each quota unit and available catch for each TRL fishery sector outlined 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

392,917.5

662,016*

0.393

260,118.452

Transferable Vessel Holder (TVH) licence holders

337,981

132,917.500

  * Held in trust by the TSRA

Australia-PNG catch sharing arrangements

This TAC increase is consistent with catch sharing arrangements between Australia and Papua New Guinea (PNG) recently agreed under the Torres Strait Treaty. The arrangements comprise agreement on a global TAC of 582.1 tonnes and apportionment of catch between jurisdictions.  Subject to PNG’s utilisation of its catch entitlements in Australian waters (through a process known as ‘cross endorsement’), the Minister may determine a further TAC increase.  AFMA is working closely with the PNG National Fisheries Authority to finalise any cross endorsement arrangements by April 2020.


Further details regarding the revised TAC are provided in a letter to all TRL licence holders issued on 4 March 2020.

 

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.
 

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. 

 

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.