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Rock Lobster Catch Limit Changes

Rock Lobster Catch Limit Changes

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has today announced changes to the catch limits for two rock lobster (crayfish) fisheries, to apply from 1 April this year.

The catch limit for commercial fishers in the Gisborne rock lobster fishery will increase, while the limit in Otago will decrease.

James Stevenson-Wallace, MAF’s Director for Fisheries Management, says the catch limit changes are based on careful consideration of the best-available scientific and management information as well as submissions from customary, recreational and commercial fishers and the public.

“Rock lobster fisheries are closely managed to ensure long-term sustainability as well as securing benefits for all fishery sectors.”

For the rock lobster fishery in the Gisborne area (which MAF calls CRA 3) the total catch limit will increase from 293 to 322.3 tonnes. This will apply to commercial fishers only. This increase is possible because scientific work indicates there are more rock lobsters in the fishery. The non-commercial allowances are unchanged.

In Otago (CRA 7) the total catch limit will decrease from 95.7 to 83.9 tonnes. The reduction in catch will come off the commercial catch limit only, and non-commercial allowances will be unaffected.

“The CRA 7 industry association is supportive of the reduction and is committed to building a stable fishery,” says Mr Stevenson-Wallace.

The CRA 7 fishery is currently going through a period of cyclic decline. The management tool being used is expected to provide a mechanism to rebuild the fishery.

Also, new decision rules will be used in the Wellington/Hawkes Bay (CRA 4) and Marlborough/Canterbury (CRA 5) rock lobster fisheries from 1 April onwards. The use of these tools results in no change to the total catch limits for these fisheries for the upcoming fishing year.


Rock lobsters are taonga (highly prized) by many iwi, are highly sought after by recreational fishers and support the most valuable inshore commercial fishery in New Zealand.

Rock lobster is the second highest value seafood export, grossing just over $220.4M in the year ending December 2011. Most of this value is from live exports into China (55.4%), with Hong Kong (39.9%) and Thailand (4.4%) the other significant markets. The volume of rock lobster exported was 2,682 tonnes in the year ending December 2011.

Management tools (called “decision rules” or “management procedures”) are increasingly being used in rock lobster fisheries to enable the Minister to respond quickly to variations in rock lobster abundance resulting from changing environmental conditions. These tools are designed to specify changes to rock lobster catch limits over an agreed time period, which is generally on an annual basis.

Other management tools like size limits, no take of egg-carrying and soft-shell lobsters, and escape gaps in lobster pots are also used to protect the breeding stock.

The final advice paper, along with the submissions received are available on the Ministry’s website at:


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