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Giant freshwater lobster

Current status

[Photo of Giant freshwater lobster by R. Mawbey.]

The giant freshwater lobster (Astacopsis gouldi) is listed as vulnerable in the Tasmanian Threatened Species Protection Act 1995. It was also the first invertebrate to have been nominated and accepted for the Federal list of endangered species. It has since been degraded to vulnerable.

What's so great about these lobsters?

A. gouldi is the largest known freshwater lobster in the world. They can live for 30 years and the largest weighed in at 4kg. Giant freshwater crayfish or lobsters are found in northern Tasmania in many of the rivers, streams and reservoirs draining into Bass Strait, including the Arthur River system in the far north-west.

Why are these lobsters a threatened species?

The giant lobster is listed as threatened for a number of reasons. These include: slow growth; long reproductive process and loss of habitat.

Giant lobsters grows very slowly and reach maturity at a very late age. The average age for sexual maturity is 9 years in males and 14 years in females. Females only breed or moult every second year (biennially).

The reproductive process is quite long. They moult one summer then mate and spawn in autumn. The eggs do not hatch until the next summer and stay attached to the mother until May. The cycle then begins again. So it is important not to catch females at any time.

Other threats include loss of habitat. For example: pulling logs out of rivers is a threat to lobsters' survival because rotting logs are their main food source. Also clearing rivers and river banks affects their habitat. They like dark, slow moving rivers. Clearing the rivers of logs and streambank vegetation causes increased siltation and pollution of the water and increases the river's velocity.

What is being done?

Studies showed that there were high levels of fishing pressure on this species. This was a serious threat when you consider that it was the larger adults that were targeted and the species has a low reproductive and growth rate. Smaller streams can no longer rely on inaccessibility to naturally protect their populations because of the ever increasing number of roads.

As a result the Inland Fisheries Service has put some protective measures in place. In 1998 the lobster fishery was closed and taking the species became prohibited. Public awareness programs have been developed to promote this special animal. The Inland Fisheries Service is continuing to monitor lobster populations.

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For further information contact Inland Fisheries Service