The WRL-FRDC Industry Partnership Agreement (the IPA)

The Western Rock Lobster Council (WRL) and the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) have established a collaborative partnership to drive research, development, and extension initiatives within the Western Rock Lobster industry. 

This joint effort is guided by the WRL-FRDC Industry Partnership Agreement (IPA), aimed at fulfilling WRL’s strategic objectives, addressing industry risks, and supporting the priorities outlined in the RD&E Plan.

To effectively allocate resources and prioritise investments, WRL collaborates not only with FRDC but also with the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD). Together, we concentrate our efforts and funding into RD&E priority areas, ensuring a focused approach to drive positive outcomes.

The planning and execution of RD&E investments, projects, and programs are undertaken through a collaborative partnership involving WRL, FRDC, DPIRD, research providers, and industry stakeholders. Consultation with WRL members, the Fishing Operations Committee, and the board plays a crucial role in shaping our initiatives and ensuring their relevance and effectiveness.

Programs in the IPA

Project number: 2020-123

Western rock lobster life stage biology, behaviour, and ecology research program.

Project number: 2021-091

Whale entanglement mitigation program – understanding whale population dynamics, entanglement dynamics and gear modifications to reduce entanglements in WRL fishing gear.

Project 2021-030

Digital transformation of the WRL industry to help resolve challenges and leverage opportunities to grow GVP and maintain competitiveness.

Project number: 2022-060

Understanding the Economics and Markets of the Western Rock Lobster industry.

Project 2022-063

Communication, Education and Engagement Program.

Projects in the IPA

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Project number: 2020-123

Western rock lobster life stage biology, behaviour, and ecology research program.

The Biology, Behaviour, and Ecology (BBE) research program is dedicated to the sustainable management of the western rock lobster resource. Its primary goal is to strategically control the research focus and streamline the research application process, ensuring efficient administration and timely execution of small to medium-sized research projects.

Understanding the lifecycle of the western rock lobster, its ecology (including oceanography), and current stock levels/population structures is fundamental for managing the sustainability of this valuable natural resource. It also empowers the industry to make informed decisions on catch limits and fishing strategies, reducing risks associated with these activities.

Over the past 70 years, extensive scientific research has been conducted on the western rock lobster, resulting in hundreds of peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, and scientific reports. While the dynamics of its biology, behaviour, and ecosystem are constantly changing due to factors such as exploitation rates, shifts in predator and prey populations, habitat variations, marine heatwaves, and climate change, much of the historical research remains highly relevant. However, due to the sheer volume of publications and the passage of time, a significant portion of this valuable research has been forgotten, creating a knowledge gap in our understanding of this species.

In addition to addressing this knowledge gap, the BBE research program continuously adapts to evolving research priorities driven by the ever-changing environment experienced by commercial fishers. Interactions with marine parks, Oil and Gas exploration, seismic surveys, changing legislation, and market demands have introduced new challenges and research areas. By gaining a clear understanding of existing knowledge, identifying relevant research, and addressing current and future demands, we can direct research efforts effectively and provide the industry with the necessary tools to remain highly efficient and profitable.

Project 2021-091

Whale entanglement mitigation program – understanding whale population dynamics, entanglement dynamics and gear modifications to reduce entanglements in WRL fishing gear.

Since the cessation of commercial whaling in Australia in 1978, the population of humpback whales off the Western Australian coast has been steadily increasing. This, coupled with changes in the fishing practices of western rock lobster fishers, has led to a rise in entanglements, reaching its peak in 2013. To address this issue, a series of mitigation measures based on two projects funded by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) were introduced into the fishery.

An assessment of these measures revealed their effectiveness in significantly reducing entanglements of humpback whales in lobster gear. However, with the humpback population still growing, further efforts are necessary to minimise interactions.

To support ongoing research and reduce interactions, the WRL/FRDC Whale Entanglement Mitigation Program provides funding for various projects. These initiatives aim to gain a better understanding of humpback whale migration patterns, enabling the development of targeted mitigation measures that minimise impact on fishing operation while effectively reducing entanglements. Research may also focus on innovative gear modifications to mitigate entanglements or improve training and resources for disentanglement options.

Through these research programs and proactive measures, the WRL industry is taking steps to identify and implement mitigation measures should interactions increase in the future. This collaborative effort demonstrates the industry’s commitment to coexistence between humpback whales and fishers while ensuring the long-term sustainability of both the fishing industry and whale populations.

Project 2021-030

Digital transformation of the WRL industry to help resolve challenges and leverage opportunities to grow GVP and maintain competitiveness.

The Western Rock Lobster industry is embracing digital transformation to address challenges, seize opportunities, and propel growth while honing its competitive edge. Guided by the Industry Digital Strategy (IDS), which serves as a comprehensive roadmap, the industry is harnessing digital technologies to deliver a wide array of benefits including improved operational efficiencies, streamlined supply chain logistics, and enhanced compliance with state reporting regulations.

Specific elements being delivered include:

  1. Streamlined catch reporting, scanning, weighing and grading
  2. Unique identification of every animal caught
  3. Tracking animals through the supply chain from the boat to the plate
  4. A unit registry and quota trading platform
  5. An online marketplace and tools for conducting Back of Boat sales
  6. An Industry Engagement Platform to enhance communication; and
  7. Subsea data collection to enhance our knowledge of the lobster’s environment.

By digitising systems and processes the IDS enables real-time data collection and reporting, ensuring accurate and timely management of essential information. This seamless flow of information helps maintain transparency and accountability within the industry, facilitating knowledge transfer, effective governance, and enhanced regulatory compliance.  This digital transformation reduces administrative burdens on fishers, enabling them to devote more time and resources to their core activities.

Through the IDS, the industry is charting a course towards a digital future, driven by innovation and powered by cutting-edge technologies. By embracing this digital revolution, the Western Rock Lobster industry is poised to thrive in the dynamic landscape of the global market, while fostering sustainable growth and environmental stewardship.

Project 2022-060

Understanding the Economics and Markets of the Western Rock Lobster industry

This program focuses on enhancing the commercial Western Rock Lobster industry’s understanding of the industry’s economics, such as boat and business costs, as well as markets. Its primary objective is to improve the industry’s knowledge of its competitiveness in global markets, maximise the overall value of the fishery, and assist individual operations in identifying key drivers for efficiency and profitability.

Key initiatives of the program include:

  1. Building a benchmarks database that collects operational costs of boats throughout the fleet.
  2. Developing a Maximum Economic Yield (MEY) model that utilises the best available information from scientists, fishers, processors, and marketers.
  3. Generating an annual “State of the Markets” report that provides valuable insights into market conditions.

This knowledge is utilised in the following ways:

  1. Informing the Council’s advocacy and management efforts with the government, particularly in the quota-setting process, through the development and regular updates of the MEY model.
  2. Adding value to the industry by creating an interactive benchmarking tool. This tool allows industry members to compare their own operations with peers in the fleet, identifying opportunities to increase efficiencies.

By implementing these initiatives, the program aims to empower the Western Rock Lobster industry with comprehensive economic knowledge, enabling better decision-making, improved competitiveness, and sustainable growth.

Project 2022-063

Communication, Education and Engagement Program

The WRL Communication, Education, and Engagement Program aims to strengthen the Western Rock Lobster industry’s connection with the community, increase support from stakeholders, and consolidate its social license to operate. It builds on the previous Communication Program and implements a revised communications strategy, focusing on engaging members, stakeholders, and the general public.

The program utilises two key methods to create connections with the community: storytelling and engagement through the industry’s produce. Through these approaches, the program aims to reach and engage the local community effectively. Specific methods and tactics include stakeholder and community consultation, the Back of Boat Lobsters initiative, collaborative partnerships with tourism and hospitality sectors, engagement with high-profile individuals, participation in community events, and a partnership with the Marine Stewardship Council.

The Back of Boat program serves as a flagship initiative, allowing industry members to connect directly with the community, sharing information about the fishery and its operation. The program intends to raise awareness, refine processes, and foster genuine relationships. 

Collaborative partnerships with tourism, hospitality, and other sectors aim to reach a broader audience and harness positive public perception. Strategic alliances with organisations like the Australian Hotels Association help extend communication activities and increase awareness of the industry. Collaborations with high-profile individuals from different sectors, including chefs and influencers, further raise the industry’s profile and reach new audiences.

The program also focuses on establishing the Western Rock Lobster as a Western Australian icon by highlighting its multi-generational history and pride of place on dinner tables during festive seasons. The WA Cray Day campaign and storytelling initiatives celebrate the industry’s contributions and create a sense of identity and pride.

Overall, the objectives of the program are to enhance industry engagement, strengthen relationships with external stakeholders, raise awareness of the industry’s contributions, increase community awareness and accessibility to western rock lobster, and maximise the social license benefits of the Marine Stewardship Council certification.

Through these strategic initiatives, the WRL Communication, Education, and Engagement Program advances the industry’s sustainability goals and ensures its long-term success in supplying the community with high-quality lobster products while maintaining strong support from government, stakeholders, and the public.