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Aussie lobsters cross the ditch

Aussie lobsters cross the ditch

New Zealand’s rock lobster industry is worth more than $120 million a year. However, NIWA scientists have shown that we do not have full control over our “patch” because the parents of some of our young lobsters could live in Australia.

The two common New Zealand lobster species, the red rock lobster and packhorse lobster, are also found in Australia. Both species have larvae, called phyllosoma, which drift on the open ocean for 1–2 years, which means that they can be distributed widely by ocean currents.

“We used patterns of oceanic surface currents derived from satellite maps to work out the path that larvae hatched off the east coast of Australia would follow,” said NIWA scientist John Booth. “These showed that larvae from Australian lobsters could easily reach New Zealand.“

Despite this, studies of lobster DNA from both sides of the Tasman show that larvae from Australian packhorse lobsters do not make it across the Tasman, but larvae of red rock lobsters might, according to the latest newsletter from NIWA’s National Centre for Fisheries & Aquaculture.

One possible explanation for this is that packhorse larvae tend to live in the northern Tasman Sea, where biological productivity is low, and so there might not be enough food for the larvae to survive the journey.

“Even though we know the red rock lobster larvae can cross the ditch, we don’t know at this stage what proportion of larvae settling on New Zealand coasts have come from Australia,” said Dr Booth.

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