Octopuses a ‘threat’ to rock lobsters
Booming numbers of octopuses caused by warming ocean temperatures are menacing WA’s lucrative rock lobster fishery, one of the State’s biggest commercial fishers claims.
Mike Thompson, who with his brother David runs a cray-fishing empire worth $200 million, wants research into the effects of soaring octopus numbers after claims they are costing the industry up to $10 million a year.
A recent study by the University of Adelaide found octopuses had thrived in the world’s oceans over the past 60 years as waters warmed and competing species were overfished.
Mr Thompson agreed with the findings, saying in his 40-year career at sea he had never seen as many of the molluscs as he had recently.
What was more, he said, the soaring numbers of the animals were a direct threat to the western rock lobster fishery, WA’s most valuable, with annual sales of $400 million.
Octopuses are a natural predator of crayfish and are able to attack them by infiltrating the pots commonly used by commercial fishers off the WA coast.
Mr Thompson said the losses were being compounded by the damage the lobsters inflicted on themselves as they tried to fight off the predators.
Western Rock Lobster Council chief executive John McMath said octopuses had always been a “regular encounter” for lobster fishermen but “I haven’t heard of them being a major problem”.
Mr McMath was also cautious about overhauling the design of lobster pots.
“The nature of a craypot means you’re going to have gaps, and I don’t know whether you’ve ever seen an occie in there but they’re slippery suckers and they can get into almost anything,” he said.
They’re slippery suckers and they can get into almost anything. John McMath