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Show Bioregions

Rock lobster, tropical - ornate

Panulirus ornatus
Minimum size (mm)
Daily bag limit
Rock lobsters (all species combined), of which no more than 4 may be tropical rock lobsters
Boat limit
Of which no more than 12 may be tropical lobsters - see 'Additional rules and information'
Possession Limit
Rock lobsters (all species combined) - see 'Additional rules and information' for details

Pots may not be pulled or rock lobster taken by diving at night from:

  • 7.30 pm to 4.30 am, 15 October – 31 March.

  • 6.00 pm to 6.00 am, 1 April – 14 October. 


You must have a licence to fish for any species of rock lobster and be able to produce it if required.

Apply for a new licence or renew an existing licence online

Alternatively, application forms are available from Department of Fisheries offices and online.

You are not permitted to sell or use recreationally-caught rock lobster for any gain or reward (including barter or exchange for other goods and services).

Additional rules and information

Size limits allow fish to reach maturity to complete their breeding cycle. Measure all your fish and return undersize or excess fish alive to the water.

Bag limits assist in sharing the resource and contribute to the sustainable management of the State’s fish stocks.

A daily bag limit is the maximum number of fish that you may take or bring onto land in any 24-hour period, from midnight to midnight (except from midday to midday for marron, prawns and when recreational netting).

For rules about fish kept and stored beyond 24 hours, see 'Possession limit' for details.

Individual species daily bag limit

This is the maximum number of an individual species that you may take within your total mixed species daily bag limit.

For demersal finfish, large pelagic finfish and nearshore/esturarine finfish, an individual daily bag limit for a group of species applies to each of the individual species in that group. 

For example, emperors (except blue-lined emperor) have an individual daily bag limit of three in all bioregions except the West Coast. They are also within a mixed species daily bag limit of five (across all demersal scalefish for these bioregions).

Mixed species daily bag limit

This is the combined maximum number of fish of any species within one category (such as demersal, large pelagic, nearshore/estuarine) that you may take.

For example, demersal finfish in the West Coast Bioregion has a total mixed bag limit of two fish:

Within the mixed daily bag limit, you cannot exceed the stated individual species daily bag limit. For example, you may only take a maximum of one coral trout per day.

For freshwater finfish, baitfish, crustceans, molluscs and other invertebrates - where species are displayed together as a group, rock lobsters for example - the bag limit applies to the group as a whole.

To protect fish and their habitats in key environments, some activities are banned. In particular you are not allowed to:

  • use fish traps or ‘pots’ of any kind (except lobster pots and octopus trigger traps – see the website for further information);
  • use dredges;
  • obstruct any bay, inlet, river, creek or any tidal or inland waters so that fish are enclosed, left stranded, destroyed or wasted;
  • be in possession of explosives or noxious substances (for example, fish poisons);
  • ‘jag’ (deliberately foul-hook) fish;
  • use commercial fishing gear of any kind;
  • use set-lines; or
  • attach fish hooks to lobster pots, anchors and anchor lines or moorings.

Note: Fishing tackle stores may carry gear that does not meet WA legal requirements. In particular, the use of crab traps, ‘opera house’ traps and bait jigs with more than three hooks are illegal in WA waters. Please check before you make a purchase.

This is the maximum number of rock lobsters (all species combined) you may carry on a boat at any one time.

  • If there is only one licensed fisher on board, the maximum is one day’s bag limit (8), including no more than 4 tropical rock lobsters.
  • If there are two licensed fishers on board, it is two days’ bag limit (16), including no more than 8 tropical rock lobsters.
  • If three or more licensed fishers are on board, it is three days’ bag limit (24), including no more than 12 tropical rock lobsters.

This limit applies regardless of how long the vessel is at sea. The master of the boat must ensure these rules are followed.

Plastic bait bands

Possessing plastic bait bands at sea is prohibited on all commercial and recreational fishing boats in WA. The bands pose a risk to marine life through entanglement in plastic strips.


Divers may only catch rock lobster by hand, or by a hand-held snare or blunt crook. Spears, nets and similar devices that can damage rock lobster are illegal. Diving for rock lobster is now permitted at the Abrolhos Islands.

Divers should make all attempts to measure and count rock lobsters as accurately as possible in the water. Check each rock lobster as you catch it to determine if it is totally protected (see the "Totally protected rock lobsters" section below.). If totally protected release it carefully and immediately, before another rock lobster is captured.

Fisheries Officers in normal circumstances allow five minutes from when a diver returns to the vessel for divers to sort, recheck for any totally protected lobster and tail clip their catch, before undertaking their inspection.

Illegal baits

You may not fish for rock lobster using any bovine material (other than gelatine or tallow), any skin or hide, anything to which any mammal skin or hide is attached, any abalone material or any lobster material.

Pot limits

No more than two rock lobster pots per licence holder. Six pots may be pulled when there are three or more licensed fishers on board.

No more than six pots may be pulled per boat trip. No more than six pots may be carried on a boat at any time.

Pots must be pulled by the licence holder. Pulling someone else’s pot is illegal.

Removing someone else’s float from a pot and replacing it with your own is also illegal.

Sharing pots

Two licensed fishers are now permitted to share a rock lobster pot. Each licensed fisher must attach a separate float with only their own gear identification (ID) number on it, to the pot. No more than two floats, each with only one gear ID number, must be attached.

Each licence holder may use no more than two pots to fish for lobster, even if sharing pots.

Fishers are not permitted to bring home lobsters on behalf of the person who shares their pot and may only take and land their own bag limit.

Lobsters you keep

Rock lobsters must be kept and stored whole (with head and tail) unless they are being prepared for immediate consumption. However, you may now store rock lobster tails (shell on), at your principle place of residence.

If a lobster is kept, within five minutes of taking the lobster from the water you must:

  • clip the central flap on its tail fan, removing at least the bottom half of it (see picture below), or
  • punch a circular hole of no less than 10 mm in diameter in the central segment of the tail fan within five minutes of the lobster being brought to the boat or land where a boat is not used.

This is done to identify it as a recreationally caught lobster, which can’t be sold.

In normal circumstances a Fisheries Officer will allow five minutes from the time a diver returns to the vessel or from where a pot is pulled before undertaking an inspection. 

At the end of your fishing activity you:

  1. Must not have any Totally Protected Fish i.e. undersize tar spot etc.
  2. Must not have more than the bag limit or boat limit.
  3. Must have tail clipped all retained lobsters.

The FishWatch phone line provides a quick and easy way to report sightings or evidence of:

  • illegal fishing;
  • aquatic pests; and
  • aquatic diseases (including fish kills).

You can also report illegal or suspicious fishing activities via our online form

Illegal fishing could include someone netting in the river, exceeding their bag or possession limits, taking undersize fish, fishing in a closed area, having more fishing gear in the water than they should or illegally selling recreationally caught fish.

Before you call or report online, note:

  • How many people you saw.
  • Who they were. Did you hear/know any of their names?
  • What they were doing.
  • Where it happened; the nearest known landmark or intersection of the closest road.
  • What type of equipment, cars or boats, registration numbers and descriptions.
  • When it happened: time and date. Is it something that is happening right now, while you are making a report, or was it something you observed previously?

Your reports are treated in strict confidence. We recommend you do not approach anyone you think is involved in illegal activity relating to fish or fishing.

If you don’t wish to contact us through FishWatch you can pass information to your local Fisheries office or to Fisheries Officers.

Call FishWatch now - 1800 815 507.

Interfering with another person's fishing gear or catch, selling recreationally caught fish and other similar offences can result in penalties of up to $400,000, imprisonment for four years and loss of boats, vehicles and equipment.

Offenders may also lose the privilege of engaging in a licensed fishing activity.

In WA, licences are required for:

  • use of a powered boat to fish or to transport your catch or fishing gear to or from a land- based fishing location (Recreational Fishing from Boat Licence);
  • rock lobster;
  • abalone;
  • marron;
  • South-west (south of 29°S) freshwater angling; and
  • net fishing (set, haul and throw nets).

The licence covers a 12-month period from the date of issue.

With the exception of the above, you do not require a licence to fish from the shore.

You must produce your licence when requested by a Fisheries and Marine Officer. 

How to get a licence

Apply for a new licence or renew an existing licence online. Alternatively, application forms are available from Department of Fisheries offices and online.

Fishing licences issues in other states are not valid in Western Australia.

Different type of marine protected areas exist in WA waters (to three nautical miles off the coast) and special fishing rules apply.

Information about marine protected areas is provided through our location search – click on the 'View map' link at the top of this page or search for your location.

Marine protected areas include marine reserves, fish habitat protection areas and other fishing closures such as wreck sites. Most of these areas are subject to additional rules.

Marine reserves, which include marine nature reserves, marine parks and marine management areas, are managed by the Department of Parks and Wildlife.

In addition to marine reserves, there are a number of fish habitat protection areas and other closed areas managed by the Department of Fisheries.

Always use the correct gauge – these are available to buy at tackle shops. 

Western and tropical rock lobster

Place the end of a gauge over the ridge between the two spikes at the front of the rock lobster’s head (A) and the other end of the gauge over the back of the carapace (B).

Southern rock lobster

Place the end of a gauge over the groove at the base of the antennae at the front of the lobster’s head (C) and the other end of the gauge over the back of the carapace (D). 

This means the maximum number of rock lobsters (all species combined) you may have in your possession, even if they were not all taken from the sea on the same day.

A Statewide possession limit of 24 rock lobsters (all species combined) per person applies, including at your permanent place of residence - which does not include a tent, vehicle, boat or caravan (unless you permanently live in a caravan).

You can only be in possession of rock lobster tails on the landward side of the high water mark (on land). Rock lobster must be in whole form when on a vessel unless it is being prepared for immediate consumption or the part of the rock lobster is not a tail. The landing of rock lobster in whole form enables compliance staff to check the size of your catch.

Rock lobsters MUST only be transported whole, so it is illegal to take stored tails away from your principle place of residence.

Various types of pots: batten, beehive (cane) and other pots (such as moulded plastic pots), can be used. Before using pots, check that they conform to standards set out in the Fish Resources Management Regulations 1995. 

See our Recreational fishing for rock lobster guide for details.

Surface floats

These must be fitted to every pot rope. They must be at least 15 cm in diameter and stamped or branded with the licence holder’s gear ID number, with lettering 6 cm high and at least 1 cm wide.

To help prevent pot theft and illegal pot pulling, and to help us identify lost or stolen pots, we encourage fishers to engrave their gear identification number into their own pots – if possible, on the frame and on the end where the hauling ropes are attached.

You may only have two floats attached to your pot at any time, regardless of the length of the rope you are fishing with or if you are pot sharing.

Pot sharing arrangements 

You are not permitted to pull or set another person’s pot unless that person is onboard the boat. This includes for the purpose of rebaiting. 
You are permitted to share pots, but each fisher must have their own float with their issued personal gear identification marked on it. No more than 2 floats at any time, each with only one gear identification number may be attached.
The use of pool noodles is not permitted.

Rope requirements

When more than 20 m of rope length (combined pot line and float rig) is attached to a pot, fishers must ensure that the top half of the pot line rope is hung vertically in the water column (see our Recreational fishing for rock lobster guide for details).

This applies to recreational fishers from 1 April to 31 October in any year.

Reducing the amount of rope on the surface of the water will minimise the risk of gear entanglements with migrating humpback whales during the winter months and will reduce the loss of fishing gear from entanglement with other fishing boats.

Suggested methods for hanging pot rope vertically in the water column:

  • Attach a weight to the rope, half way down the pot line or;
  • Replace the top half of the pot line rope with negatively buoyant rope.

Ways to safely and efficiently weight the rope:

  • Attach a ‘shark clip’ to a snapper sinker and attach to the pot line rope.
  • Attach (splice) a small piece of rope with sinkers attached, into the main pot line rope

It is recommended that fishers use at least a 16 ounce (~450 gram) weight to ensure the rope remains vertical in the water column.

Coiling and tying up excess rope on the surface of the water is called ‘dog boning’ and is permitted although not encouraged due to the risk of rope coming undone or lengthening if not secured correctly. 

Fishers must ensure the dog bone or coiled rope is held securely - any dog bone or rope coil that comes undone may result in the rope in the combined pot and float line rope
exceeding 20 m in length.

Sea lion exclusion devices (SLEDs)

Fishers who use lobster pots between 30°51.06'S, 115°10.32'E (south of Wedge Island) and Freshwater Point, south of Dongara, are required to fit SLEDs to their pots to prevent sea lion pups being caught.

SLEDs are also mandatory in two areas of the Abrolhos Islands – the Pelsaert and Easter groups of islands.

See our Sea Lion Exclusion Devices brochure for details.

Lobsters are totally protected at some stages in their lifecycle.

When lobsters are protected, you may not take them, have them in your possession, buy, sell or consign them, or bring them into the State or into WA waters.

You are legally required to immediately return them to the water from which they were taken, before the next pot is pulled. 

Berried females

Any species of lobster that is carrying eggs (berried) is protected (see picture below). 

Tar spot females

Western rock lobsters in this condition are protected between Windy Harbour and North West Cape. Females shed their shells and begin their breeding cycle in late winter and spring.

Signs they are ready to spawn include:

  • A ‘tar spot’ under the carapace between the back legs. This black spot is a packet of sperm attached during mating. During spawning, the female releases sperm from the tar spot to fertilise the eggs.
See our Recreational fishing for rock lobster guide for details.