Ornate Rock Lobster (2020)

Panulirus ornatus

  • Thor Saunders (Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade, Northern Territory)
  • Timothy Emery (Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES))
  • Simon de Lestang (Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia)
  • Anthony Roelofs (Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland)

Date Published: June 2021

You are currently viewing a report filtered by jurisdiction. View the full report.

Toggle content


Ornate Rock Lobsters are found in north-eastern Australia, where stock is classified as sustainable. They are also found in northern WA, where stock status is negligible as a result of low catches.

Toggle content

Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Stock status Indicators
Western Australia Western Australia Negligible
Toggle content

Stock Structure

Ornate Rock Lobster populations in northern Queensland (managed by Queensland), the Coral Sea (managed by the Commonwealth) and the Torres Strait (managed by the Torres Strait Protected Zone Joint Authority) are thought to comprise a single North-Eastern Australia biological stock, as a result of mixing of larvae in the Coral Sea [Pitcher et al. 2005]. Water movement models in Torres Strait predict that larvae are likely to be transported into the Gulf of Carpentaria [Wolanski et al. 2013], indicating that the north-eastern stock encompasses this region as well. Stock assessments have not been carried out for the complete biological stock, but have been conducted on the various parts of it.

Although Ornate Rock Lobster is also present in northern Western Australia, biological stock structures in this region have not been studied and the relationship with the North-eastern Australian stock is unknown.

Here, assessment of stock status is presented at the biological stock level—North-Eastern Australia; and at the jurisdictional level—Western Australia.

Toggle content

Stock Status

Western Australia

Stock status for Western Australia is reported as Negligible as a result of low catches and fishing is unlikely to be having a negative impact on the stock. No commercial catch is taken from Western Australia. Very small catches are taken by charter operators (less than 50 individuals year-1) and recorded in recreational surveys (~500 in 2017/18) [Ryan et al. 2019].

Toggle content


Ornate Rock Lobster biology [MacFarlane and Moore 1986, Kailola et al. 1993, Skewes at al. 1997]

Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
Ornate Rock Lobster 3–5+ years, > 150 mm CL 2–3 years, ~100 mm CL 
Toggle content


Distribution of reported commercial catch of Ornate Rock Lobster

Toggle content


Fishing methods
Western Australia
Western Australia
Charter Insufficient data
Recreational Insufficient data

Commonwealth – Commercial (Management Methods/Catch) Data provided for the Commonwealth align with the Commonwealth Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery for the 2018-19 financial year.

Commonwealth – Recreational The Commonwealth does not manage recreational fishing in Commonwealth waters. Recreational fishing in Commonwealth waters is managed by the state or territory immediately adjacent to those waters, under its management regulations.  

Commonwealth – Indigenous (Management Methods) The Australian Government does not manage non-commercial Indigenous fishing in Commonwealth waters, with the exception of the Torres Strait. In general, non-commercial Indigenous fishing in Commonwealth waters is managed by the state or territory immediately adjacent to those waters. In the Torres Strait, both commercial and non-commercial Indigenous fishing is managed by the Torres Strait Protected Zone Joint Authority (PZJA) through the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (Commonwealth); the Department of Agriculture, and Fisheries (DAF) (Queensland); and the Torres Strait Regional Authority. The PZJA also manages non-Indigenous commercial fishing in the Torres Strait.

Commonwealth - Indigenous (Catch Totals) This specifically refers to non-commercial Indigenous catch. Commercial Indigenous catch in the Torres Strait is included under ‘commercial’


Northern Territory — Charter (Management Methods) In the Northern Territory, charter operators are regulated through the same management methods as the recreational sector but are subject to additional limits on license and passenger numbers.

Northern Territory – Indigenous (Management Methods) The Fisheries Act 1988 (NT), specifies that “…without derogating from any other law in force in the Territory, nothing in a provision of this Act or an instrument of a judicial or administrative character made under it limits the right of Aboriginals who have traditionally used the resources of an area of land or water in a traditional manner from continuing to use those resources in that area in that manner”.

Queensland – Indigenous (Management Methods) In Queensland, under the Fisheries Act 1994, Indigenous fishers are able to use prescribed traditional and non-commercial fishing apparatus in waters open to fishing. Size and possession limits, and seasonal closures do not apply to Indigenous fishers. Further exemptions to fishery regulations may be applied for through permits.

Toggle content

Catch Chart

Commercial catch of Ornate Rock Lobster - note confidential catch not shown

Toggle content


  1. AFMA, 2019 Torres Strait Tropical Rock Lobster Resource Assessment Group Meeting 27, meeting record, 10 to 11 December 2019, Thursday Island, Australian Fisheries Management Authority, Thursday Island.
  2. Australian Institute of Marine Science 2018, Long-term Reef Monitoring Program–Annual summary report in coral reef condition for 2017–18.
  3. Chambers, M 2015, ‘Status determination for trochus and tropical rock lobster stocks in the Coral Sea Fishery hand collection sector’, in J Larcombe, R Noriega and I Stobutzki (eds), Reducing uncertainty in fisheries stock status, ABARES research report, Canberra.
  4. Emery, T, Noriega, R, and Steven AH 2020, Torres Strait Tropical Rock Lobster Fishery, in H Patterson, J Larcombe, J Woodhams and R Curtotti (eds), Fishery status reports 2020, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra.
  5. Kailola, PJ, Williams, M, Stewart, P, Riechelt, R, McNee, A and Grieve, C 1993, Australian fisheries resources, Bureau of Resource Sciences and Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, Canberra.
  6. MacFarlane, JW and Moore, R 1986, Reproduction of the ornate rock lobster, Panulirus ornatus (Fabricius), in Papua New Guinea, Marine and Freshwater Research, 37: 55–65.
  7. Pitcher, CR, Turnbull, CT, Atfield, J, Griffin, D, Dennis, D and Skewes, T 2005, Biology, larval transport modelling and commercial logbook data analysis to support management of the NE Queensland rock lobster Panulirus ornatus fishery, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation project 2002/008, CSIRO Marine Research, Brisbane.
  8. Plagányi, É, Tonks, M, Murphy, N, Campbell, R, Deng, R, Edgar, S, Salee, K & Upston, J 2020, Torres Strait tropical rock lobster (TRL) milestone report 2020 on fishery surveys, CPUE, stock assessment and harvest strategy, AFMA Project R2019/0825, May 2020. Draft final report. CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere Brisbane.
  9. Plagányi, ÉE, Campbell, R, Tonks, M, Murphy, N, Deng, R, Salee, K, Haywood, M, Upston, J, Coman, F, Edgar, S, Hutton, T & Moeseneder, C 2019, Torres Strait rock lobster (TRL): final report 2019 on fishery surveys, CPUE, stock assessment and harvest control rule development, AFMA project 2016/0822, June 2019, final report to the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, Brisbane.
  10. QFish, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, www.qfish.gov.au
  11. Queensland Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation 2011, Annual status report 2011: Commercial Crayfish and Rocklobster Fishery, Queensland DEEDI, Brisbane.
  12. Ryan KL, Hall NG, Lai EK, Smallwood CB, Taylor SM, Wise BS 2019. Statewide survey of boat-based recreational fishing in Western Australia 2017/18. Fisheries Research Report No. 297, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia. 205pp
  13. Skewes, TD, Pitcher, CR and Dennis, DM 1997, Growth of ornate rock lobsters, Panulirus ornatus, in Torres Strait, Australia, Marine and Freshwater Research, 48: 497–501.
  14. Wolanski, E, Lambrechts, J, Thomas, C and Deleersnijder, E 2013, The net water circulation through Torres Strait, Continental Shelf Research, 64: 66–74.

Downloadable reports

Click the links below to view reports from other years for this fish.