East Coast Rock lobster Crayfish. (Panulirus homarus)

IDENTIFICATION
Rock lobsters or spiny lobsters are popularly known as crayfish, but should be distinguished from the freshwater crayfish, which are considerably less popular in restaurants! Rock lobsters like crabs, belong to the crustacean family and have a horny exoskeleton (carapace) but they have a long tail ending with a tail fan. The East Coast rock lobster is brick red with orange spines and blue-green markings on the head.

There are two horns next to their eyes but unlike other species, there are no spines between these horns. The rock lobsters that may be sold in restaurants are either West Coast rock lobsters (Panulirus lalandii) or deep-water rock lobsters (Palinurus spp.) both have spines between their horns.

DISTRIBUTION
The East Coast rock lobster occurs from central Mozambique and Madagascar to East London. They inhabit rocky reefs in the surf zone at depths of 1-36 meters.

FEEDING
The most important prey of the East Coast rock lobster is the brown mussel <i>(Perna perna)</i>. They sever the byssus threads that hold the mussel and can crush the thin edge of the shell using their mouthparts. They also feed on limpets and will scavenge on the seabed.

GROWTH
Rock lobsters grow slowly, reaching sexual maturity after approximately 3 years when their carapace is 50-60 mm long. The legal size limit is 65 mm, to ensure that animals caught have had a chance to breed. If a rock lobster loses a leg or feeler, a new one is grown but then their overall growth is slower. It is therefore important not to damage undersize rock lobsters. Try to determine if an animal is the right size before attempting to catch it.

REPRODUCTION
Breeding occurs in summer and that is why we have a closed season from 1 November to the end of February: to protect the lobsters while they are brooding their eggs so these can hatch and replenish our stocks. Male rock lobsters place a packet of sperm on the underbelly of females. When the female is ready to lay eggs, she scratches open the packet to fertilise her eggs and then places them on the paddles (pleopods) under her tail. The eggs are tended there until they hatch. The larvae spend about five months in the currents out at sea and undergo metamorphosis 11 times before returning inshore. Larger female rock lobsters produce three times more eggs than smaller females.

FISHERY
In KwaZulu-Natal, rock lobsters may only be collected by permitted recreational harvesters. This sector collect 138 000 to 450 000 kg of rock lobster each year.

MANAGEMENT
The East Coast rock lobster stock is managed using a closed season, size limits, bag limits and gear limits. It is also illegal to possess any rock lobster carrying eggs.

With thanks to www.kznwildlife.co.za

Comments

Hi J, you can get a permit from your local post office for about R80.00. This will let you catch 8 per day in season, with the carapace measuring 65mm and over. None with eggs are allowed. You can also catch them at night with an approved trap or jig available from your local fishing shop. When diving, you may not use scuba gear or dive from a boat. Hope this helps. Try go with someone who is familiar with the area, local knowledge is valuable. You can scratch them out the shallows or go deeper if you are fit enough. Stay safe and enjoy................ B.

hey guys,we got a problem with lighties at garvies that just take all bugs they get,what can we do?

the crayfish on the wild coast are being monitored very closely for africas standards .there are monitors in place to try and protect illegal fishing .the problem is that tourists buy crayfish from the locals when they are not meant to.This stimulates illegal fishing .Just to add that the firm buying crayish is legal and closely monitored by national parks and green scorpions and the catch is accounted for .The fisherman are all licenced and the catch is measured . 1]you as a tourist are not allowed to buy crayfish 2]every person in the transkei who wants tto catch crayfish as a subsistance fisherman has to have a licence 3] the licence is given to them for free on the understanding that they weigh their catch with the coastal monitors who patrol the beaches ,who in turn keep these records and are picked up by national parks every month.the system is well thought out but who knows how effectively it is carried out

All i can ad to this is that the people employed to do the monitoring normally find a nice warm place to sleep all day, then go home and fill in false reports, in summer they sleep all day in the shade under the trees!.........no monitoring of crayfish is ever done, so it is being ripped off......cancel the licence of the company who is making millions off our wildcoast

I am a frequent bug diver on the bluff beaches and was recently stopped by the parksboard and questioned wether i had any soft shelled crayfish in my haul, fortunateley i didnt and i only ever catch that which my permit allows me to and no soft shelled bugs, however and maybe i am being realy daft here but no where in any rules can i find a clause saying that you may not catch soft shelled crays. Is there a law stating this or is it an urban myth

John, i am in the dark about this, as i also have not seen the written law, however my guess is there must be something written somewhere, i suggest we direct this question to the webmaster.......Jeff Brown, c'mon Jeff help us out here.

It's always been the case in the 'Kei. From what I understand, the regulation didn't apply to (either the Cape or KZN, not sure which, as the article at http://spearfishingsa.co.za/regulations.htm is confusing. Should have been illegal in KZN and legal in the Cape, I would have thought), but came into effect nationally with the new MLRA of 1998. http://cer.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/MLRA-Regulations-R1111-updated.rtf (pg 24)

Thanks for the quick responses Chaps, checking out your link Jeff it certainly does indicate that soft shelled crays are illegal to catch,

What is the best time to fish Mazzeppa Bay

Night time. ;) Seriously, though I'm sure that's not what you meant. Depends what you're after. Generally, the best fishing on the Wild Coast is between June - September. July being shad season. I think the garrick run around PSJ is usually around September/October.

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