Panulirus cygnus


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Panulirus cygnus
Species Authority: George, 1962
Common Name/s:
English Australian Spiny Lobster
Panulirus longipes subspecies cygnus George, 1962

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2011
Date Assessed: 2009-12-03
Assessor/s: Butler, M., Cockcroft, A., MacDiarmid, A. & Wahle, R.
Reviewer/s: Collen, B., Livingstone, S. & Richman, N.
Contributor/s: Batchelor, A., De Silva, R., Dyer, E., Kasthala, G., Lutz, M.L., McGuinness, S., Milligan, H.T., Soulsby, A.-M. & Whitton, F.
Panulirus cygnus has been assessed as Least Concern. This species is harvested throughout its range along the coast of Western Australia, however catch per unit effort data indicates stability in the stock.  The fishery is well managed and appropriate restrictions have been introduced when catch declines have been highlighted  by ongoing monitoring.  There is substantial research supporting this fishery that ensures it remains sustainable.  Continued monitoring and regulation mean this species is currently not threatened by extinction.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: This species is restricted to the coast of Western Australia, from Northwest Cape to Hamelin Harbour including offshore islands (Holthuis 1991).
Australia (Western Australia)
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Indian Ocean – eastern
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: There are no detailed population data for this species.  It has been said to be an abundant species in areas of suitable habitat, with the Western Australia Rock Lobster fisheries catching over 10,000 mt annually (Holthuis 1991).

Population Trend: Unknown

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: This species can be found sheltering in vegetated rocky reefs and coral reefs at a depth range of 0 - 120 m, although is more commonly found to depths of 90 m (Holthuis 1991).
Systems: Marine

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): This species is harvested throughout its range.  Overall harvesting does not pose a threat to this species, however it does appear to be more vulnerable in some areas where exploitation is greatest (Caputi et al. 2008).  Despite coastal development along Western Australia the species does not appear to impacted by this threat (The Fisheries Department 2004).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions:

The following fishery management measures are in place to ensure sustainable practices (The Department of Fisheries 2004): 

  • From 1993-1994 a period of 2.5 months has been set at the start of the open season when a minimum size limit of 77 mm is in place to allow immature lobsters a chance to migrate and mature.
  • It is illegal to take mature females when in breeding condition, when carrying eggs or tar spots (sperm packets)
  • Pot size and number are regulated, as well as escape gaps (54 mm) to allow immature individuals to escape.  Hours when, and depths at which, pots are pulled to the surface are regulated.
  • Any new technology that may enhance fishing efforts and increase exploitation (such as underwater video cameras) must be assessed and approved.
Research regarding this fishery includes: computer models of the lobster fishery used as the basis for catch prediction and stock management; commercial catch monitoring (Abrolhos Fremantle, Lancelin, Jurien and Dongara sites); and the study of egg production, peurelus (between larvae and juvenile) settelment and age at maturity (The Department of Fisheries 2004).

The Department of Fisheries staff act as advisers to the Rock Lobster Industry Advisory Committee (RLIAC) and there is close consultation between this body, the Department of Fisheries, the fishing industry and the Minister on the status of the rock lobster fishery. Public submissions are welcomed and considered by the RLIAC (The Department of Fisheries 2004).  Continued monitoring will ensure the population of this species is sustained, and prevent over-exploitation.

In 2000, the fishery was awarded the Marine Stewardship Council certificate for operating in an ecologically sustainable way.

Bibliography [top]

Caputi, N., Melville-Smith, R., de Lestang, S., How, J., Thomson, A., Stephenson, P., Wright, I. and Donohue, K. 2008. Stock Assessment for the West Coast Rock Lobster Fishery. The Department of Fisheries.

George, R.W. 1962. Description of Palinurus cygnus sp. nov., the Commercial Crayfish (or Spiny Lobster) of Western Australia. Journal Royal Society Western Australia 45(4): 100-110.

Holthuis, L.B. 1991. Marine lobsters of the world. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of species of interest to fisheries known to date. FAO species catalogue 13(125). FAO, Rome.

IUCN. 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2011.1). Available at: (Accessed: 16 June 2011).

Melville-Smith, R., Thomson, A.W., Caputi, N. 2004. Improved forecasts of recreational western rock lobster (Panulirus cygnus) catches in Western Australia, by predicting licence usage. Fisheries Research 68(1-3): 203-208.

The Department of Fisheries. 2004. Commercial Fisheries of WA - Western Rock Lobster. Available at: (Accessed: 22/04/2010).

Wallace, I.F., Lindner, R.K., Dole, D.D. 1998. Evaluating stock and catchability trends: annual average catch per unit effort is an inadequate indicator of stock and catchability trends in fisheries. Marine Policy 22(1): 45-55.

Citation: Butler, M., Cockcroft, A., MacDiarmid, A. & Wahle, R. 2011. Panulirus cygnus. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. <>. Downloaded on 24 April 2014.
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