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

As a avid snorkel diver i grew up diving crayfish and perlemoen in Pringle bay/Hangklip.(now perlemeon is illegal) Since moving to East London i have yet to find a spot where one can dive crayfish apart from the Transkei. Are there spots in the East London area where one can DIVE crayfish?--I know this is a tricky question as people DONT want to give there spots away!--But u never know... dying for a good crayfish dive

I used to buy from the piks on the side of the road in Tkei but a japie told me they kept them in the longdrops for weeks to grow and fatten them up before selling them to us troepies. This is back in the old days... any truth to this?

Hi, jusr be very carefull,this is more likely to be illegal.

Guys from a girls point catch ur lobsters urself. Dnt encourage unlicensed anglers to do the same I have seen that happen too many tyms.there are no friends in fishing favours. There should be no cover ups and lending of permits my husband and I dnt share or favour if I or he have caught our limit its rods down til the other catches his 8

Has any one every tried farming crayfish or east coast rocklobster . I would like to give it a try . I Google it and it's not been done before.

How can Licenses only be available on the 1st March, meaning we have to wait for the Office to open before going diving meaning missing out on diving early on the 1st March? STUPID

That is not the case. The crayfish "season" opens on the 1'st of March. At your local post office you should be able to get a form which allows you to check all the fisher activities you wish to pay for. E.g. fishing, crayfish, molluscs, etc. The license is valid for 12 months from purchase.

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