|koura, matapara, matapuku (Maori), crayfish, red crayfish, red rock lobster, spiny rock lobster, southern rock lobster (Australia / US), langouste (France), ise-ebi (Japan)|
Depending on where they are caught, some rock lobster (crayfish) are better than others. Rock lobster that comes from the East Coasts of the North and South Island, from Gisborne south to around Kaikoura, are the best choice. We encourage consumers where possible to avoid rock lobster (crayfish) that has come from the Auckland – Bay of Plenty area.
Rock lobster is found throughout New Zealand coastal waters, living in and around rocky reefs at depths of 5 to 275m. Rock lobsters are caught year round, and the fishery is New Zealand’s third largest seafood export earner. In addition to an annual quota, there are size restrictions in place to protect juveniles and egg-carrying females.
Rock lobster is caught using pots. A concern of this fishery is the uncertainty over the state and size of different stocks (regional differences). Many stocks have declined to around or below the lower management target (soft limit). Most stocks rely on a few year classes above the minimum legal size. Catch rates have declined in all areas in recent years except CRA7 (lower South Island East Coast). CRA2 (Auckland – Bay of Plenty region) catch rates are down 70% on peak rates. Another concern is the absence of a management plan. Cray potting is a relatively harmless fishing method but it can have impacts on marine mammals, seabirds and sensitive seabed habitats, depending on where pots are placed. The fishery has the highest carbon footprint per kilogram of any New Zealand fisheries.
Not certified under any scheme.
Over 98% is exported live to China and Hong Kong, with much smaller markets in USA, Malaysia and Singapore. Exports were worth $304 million in 2015, up from $213 million in 2010-11.
Regional differences in sustainability of rock lobster catches were considered in this assessment. The stocks were divided based on research, management, illegal catches, and the state of the stocks. Rock lobster caught from the East Coast of the North and South Island from Gisborne south to around Kaikoura (CRA 3, 5) are the best seafood choice. Rock lobster caught in other areas are still an ok choice. We encourage consumers where possible to avoid rock lobster (crayfish) that has come from the Auckland – Bay of Plenty area (CRA 2).
|Score:||CRA 3, 4 & 5 – B, CRA 1,2, 7 & 8 – C|
|Population size:||Stocks are well below estimated 1950s population levels. Several stocks had high exploitation rates, which means that they rely on few year classes and are susceptible to periods of low recruitment which is not modelled in assessment.|
|Annual catch limit:||Limit increased from 2857.8 tonnes to 2,889.5 tonnes from 1 April 2015: the largest limit since 1996.|
|Recorded catch:||Reported landings of 2824.8 tonnes in 2014-15.|
|Stock trends:||Variable. Catch per unit of effort is used to set catch limits through a management procedure which applies in different QMAs. It is unclear how well the stock assessments are monitoring the state of the stock. However, catch rates give an indication of stock trends. Catch rates have declined in all areas in recent years except CRA 7. Catch rates in CRA 2 are the lowest in 20 years and only 30% of peak rates; CRA 1 catch rates have declined for the last 2 years and are 25% down on peak rates; CRA 3 is down 17% on peak rates; CRA 4 is down 45% on peak rates; CRA 5 is down 13% on peak rates; CRA 6 is 20% down; CRA 8 is down 21% on peak as is CRA 9.|
Stocks have in most cases rebuilt to above an assumed BREF. There unclear references to unfished stock size (B0) or sustainable yield (BMSY) in the assessments. The BMSY estimates used appear to be between 10% and 20% initial biomass, so around or below the soft limit.
|The Ministry of Primary Industries assessment plenary report includes:||
Northland (CRA 1): “Biomass in 2014 was 200% of BMSY and 173% of BREF.” “Autumn winter (AW) biomass decreased to a low point in the early-1970s, remained low until the mid-1990s and has increased since then.”
Auckland-Bay of Plenty (CRA 2): “Biomass in 2013 was 136% of BMSY and 80% of BREF.” “Overfishing is Unlikely to be occurring. Biomass has remained at relatively consistent levels after coming down from high levels in the late 1990s; there was a drop in abundance from the mid-2000s to 2011.” “Catch rates are at the second lowest level in 35 years and are well below any other area.”
Gisborne (CRA 3): “Biomass in 2014 was 261% of BMSY and 85% of BREF.” “Overfishing is Exceptionally Unlikely to be occurring.” “Biomass declined steadily from 1997 to 2003 and then increased strongly after 2009. CPUE shows the same pattern and is now near its 1997 peak.”
Wairarapa-Wellington (CRA 4): “Biomass in 2011 was 230% of BMSY and 168% of BREF.” “Overfishing is Very Unlikely to be occurring.”
Marlborough-Canterbury (CRA 5): “Exceptionally Unlikely to be below the soft and hard limits.” “Overfishing is Very Unlikely to be occurring.” “CPUE has decreased since 2009, the highest level observed in the 36 year series, but remains at high levels.”
Chatham Islands (CRA 6): stock assessment “was done in 1996.” “The status of the stock is uncertain.” “Catch rates are 50% higher than when the production model was fitted in 1996.” But catch rates have been steadily declining over the last 10 years.
Lower east coast South Island (CRA 7): “CPUE is at a relatively high level. Very Likely to be above BREF.” “Overfishing is Very Unlikely to be occurring”. Biomass levels have increased since the mid-2000s to a level well above the reference period.
Lower South Island & sub-Antarctic (CRA 8): “CPUE is at a level well above the levels during the reference period Virtually Certain to be above BREF. Overfishing is Very Unlikely to be occurring.”
Upper west coast South Island & lower west coast North Island (CRA 9): “Biomass in 2012 was 150% of BMSY; Very Likely to be above BMSY. Estimated biomass has risen steadily since the early 1990s.” (MPI 2015, p377-394).
|Score:||All areas – D|
|Distribution:||Rock lobster is found along most rocky coastlines in New Zealand, but is more abundant around the south of the South Island and the Chatham Islands.|
|Maximum age (years):||Thought to be long-lived (40+)|
|Age at sexual maturity:||3-12|
|Growth rate:||Thought to be slow growing|
|Age exploited:||5-11. Female rock lobster in the south and south-east of the South Island can be taken before they are mature as the minimum legal size is less than the size at maturity, especially in CRA 7.|
|Ability to recover:||Moderate|
|Score:||All areas – D|
|Fishing method(s):||Cray pots (often large, heavy and baited), which are dropped down to the seafloor to depths of 200m.|
|Habitat damage:||Minimal, but when carried out over sensitive habitats, may damage seafloor species. Long-lived, slow growing soft corals are broken when large heavy baited pots are dropped onto them in the deep waters of Fiordland.|
|Habitat of particular significance:|
|Bycatch:||For all QMAs, the most frequently reported bycatch are, in decreasing order of catch across all stocks: octopus, conger eel, blue cod, trumpeter, sea perch, red cod, butterfish and leatherjackets. These are considered to comprise less than 10% of the rock lobster catch.|
|Ecological effects:||Rock lobster is a generalist predator, so their depletion affects a range of species including kina. Fishing in sensitive areas may also alter seafloor community composition and diversity. In some areas they have become “functionally extinct” e.g. CRA 2.|
|Bycatch:||Few reported captures. Globally threatened Chatham Island shags, Hector’s dolphins and sperm whales are known to drown when they get entangled on pot lines, for instance near Kaikoura.|
|Management component:||Single species but actual stock structure has yet to be determined.|
|Score:||CRA 3 – C, CRA 6 – D, all other areas – B|
|Quota Management Species:||Yes, since 1990|
|Management plan:||No, but since 1992 there has been management forums operating in different regions, where the commercial and recreational fishers are working on the state of the fishery. There is mixed success, with some forums failing to protect stocks (e.g. Bay of Plenty).|
|Stock assessment:||Quantitative or semi-quantitative stock assessments for all areas: CRA 1 and CRA 2 (2015); CRA 3 (2015), CRA 4 (2015), CRA 5 (2015), CRA 6 (1996), CRA 7 and 8 (2015). The one for the Chatham Islands (CRA 6) is more than 10 years old.|
|Research:||The use of juvenile settlement data and fisheries independent monitoring is required to better assess the state of stocks. No current research into CRA 6.|