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Chasing rock lobster in Western Australia

Chasing rock lobster in Western Australia

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By Rich Keam

Western Australia has it all when it comes to food and drink. Trust me, it’s been home for the last five months, as I undertake my Taste Master duties of this vast and varied state. It’s been a tough gig, learning to brew beer, wine making, sniffing out truffles. One of my favourite missions was to Rottnest Island, to catch, cook and eat Western Australian Rock Lobster.

My guide was Welshman-turned-Perth local Kiren Mainwaring who is the chef and owner of two of the city’s hot restaurants (Co-op dining and Dear Friends). Kiren’s approach to food is a response to what’s fresh, local and in season, and he has a passion for the local seafood that can be found in the waters of Rottnest Island, a 30 min boat ride from Perth in the Indian Ocean. He took me out to catch some Rock Lobster at the start of what is known as the ‘White Crayfish Run’.

The ‘White Crayfish Run’ is when the lobsters (or crayfish as they’re known to the locals) molt their shells and become a much lighter colour, almost a pale pink. They’re preparing to camouflage themselves as they march out across the sand to deeper ocean waters.

With the help of local fisherman and chef Aristos Papandroulakis, we jumped on his boat and pulled in a pot of fresh crayfish. Kiren showed me how to cook them up on a beach BBQ with a salad of grilled peaches, nectarines and samphire he’d sourced from all over Perth.

I’ve manage to talk Kiren into sharing his recipe and you can watch him cook it up (and my attempts to catch a lobster pot) here.

BBQ Western Rock Lobster with Stone Fruit and Samphire Salad

By Kiren Mainwaring

Serves 2

Using an ingredient like fresh rock lobster I like to keep the recipe simple. Putting it straight on the BBQ is a perfect for a casual summer meal. Making use of fresh, local and seasonal ingredients is key to this dish. Keeping in mind the heat of the day, I wanted to make something that complements the lobster but also keeps it fresh and healthy.


  • 1 lobster (Crayfish) split and cleaned
  • 1 nectarine
  • 1 peach
  • 10g of lemon verbena, finely chopped
  • 25g of washed sweet potato leaves
  • 10g of wild samphire
  • 4 young grape shoots, roughly chopped
  • 2g of fennel pollen
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
  • Extra lemon
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black peppercorns


Sprinkle a little sea salt onto the prepared lobster and put it face down onto the hot BBQ. You’ll get a nice sizzle as you do this. It won’t take long to cook so roughly slice your peach and nectarine into thick chunks. Put these on the BBQ face down too.

Now for the salad. In a medium bowl add the fennel pollen, breaking it up as you go. Then add roughly sliced purple and green beans, sliced vine shoots, and finely chopped lemon verbena. Break the raw samphire up with your hands and add it straight in. Some people like to cook their samphire, but I love the texture when it’s served raw. Lobster is normally served with a potato salad or some kind of starch, but I keep this dish nice and fresh so the final thing to add is some sweet potato leaves. They have a subtle potato flavour that complements the lobster.

Finally a little dressing; some extra virgin olive oil, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and mix it up with your fingers.

You want to cook the lobster until it’s just opaque and seared on the top. Just past underdone. The nectarines and peaches should get a nice caramelized top. When they’re done turn them over carefully and squeeze some lemon over the tops.

Pull the meat from the lobster, it should come out in almost one piece. Then roughly chop and place on your dish. Top with the salad and finally the grilled stone fruit. It isn’t obligatory to eat it on the beach where you caught it, but I strongly recommend it.

Rich Keam is originally from Portsmouth, UK. He was one of thousands of entrants to Tourism Australia’s Best Jobs in the World campaign. He arrived in Perth in August 2013 to take up his prize job as Taste Master of Western Australia. Eating and drinking his way around the state… Hard job right? You can follow Rich’s adventures on or at @richkeam on Twitter. You can also follow Kiren on Twitter @chefkiren.

We would like to say thank you to everyone who participated in our photo competition and helped make it a success! All winners' photographs will be featured in the first fishery-themed photo calendar. Click here to see all winners' photos.

Visit the Back of Boat Facebook page! Created to work as a marketplace for the community and to help you find a fisher selling BOB lobsters in your area. WRL is continuously updating this page with announcements, including contact details of the fishermen who are participating.

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Chasing rock lobster in Western Australia - Recipes

While many love rock lobsters for its distinctive shellfish taste, there are some who enjoy these crustaceans for the rewarding catching process they require. There’s a different satisfaction you can get when you put personal effort into the food you place on your table.

If you are into recreational lobster fishing, you would also want to comply with regulations to ensure that you can continue your hobby for a long time and even pass it to generations after you. In Western Australia, the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development have set guidelines that recreational lobster fishers can follow to keep the practice sustainable.

The guide is handy, but it can be quite long. So, we’ve listed the essential things you have to remember if you’re planning to take this on as a hobby. If you’ve been fishing for rock lobsters for a while, you will still find something useful in this guide.

New Updates on the Recreational Fishing Guide for Rock Lobsters

Most of the rules have not changed, including acquiring a licence before you head out and fish for any rock lobster species. However, there are some notable changes:

  • Recreational fishers are now allowed to take female setose lobsters.
  • Recreational fishers are now permitted to keep rock lobster tails (shell on) at their residence.
  • There a simplified guide on pot specifications.


Acquire a new licence or renew your existing licence through the Fisheries website. You can always visit their office to get your application forms. Keep in mind that you have to present your licence for recreational fishing of any rock lobster species when a Fisheries and Marine Office asks for it.

Recreationally caught rock lobsters cannot be sold or exchanged for other goods or services.

Fishing Seasons and Times

South of North West Cape (21°44’S latitude):

Season open 15 October – 30 June.

North of North West Cape:

You can take any species of lobster year-round.

Keep in mind that there’s a night fishing ban. Between North West Cape and Cape Leeuwin, you are not allowed to pull pots or dive for rock lobsters from 7:30PM to 4:30AM on 15 October – 31 March (following year) and from 6:00PM to 6:00AM on 1 April – 30 June.

Size Limits for Lobsters you can Take

The legal size limit for Tropical rock lobsters and Western rock lobsters is 76mm. On the other hand, if you happen to catch a Southern rock lobster, you are only allowed to take with at least 98.5mm carapace length. Aside from the aforementioned, there is no longer a maximum legal size limit for taking female Western rock lobsters.

Catch Limits across the Western Australia

  • Bag limit – Each licensed fisher is allowed to bag eight rock lobsters, including no more than four tropical rock lobsters. Excess lobsters should be released immediately and carefully back to the water.
  • Possession limit – You are only allowed to possess 24 rock lobsters per day. Keep in mind that you can only transport rock lobsters whole. You are not allowed to store tails away from your principal residence.
  • Boat limit – Every licensed fisher on a boat is allowed to bag eight lobsters a day. The maximum number of allowable lobsters on board is 24. To be allowed the maximum number of rock lobsters, there should be three licensed fishers on board. No more than 12 tropical rock lobsters are allowed on board a day.

Diving for Rock Lobsters

Divers are not allowed to use nets, spears and similar devices to catch rock lobsters. They are only allowed to catch the lobsters by hand, a hand-held snare or blunt crook. Lobsters should be inspected in the water. On the other hand, Fisheries Officers may allow divers around five minutes to sort and inspect their catch on boat.

Prohibited Baits

The following baits are not allowed when you fish for rock lobsters:

  • Any bovine material apart from gelatine or tallow
  • Any skin or hide
  • Anything to which any mammal skin or hide is attached
  • Any abalone material
  • Any lobster material

Pot Limits

Each licensed fisher is only allowed no more than two rock lobster pots. Up to six pots are allowed if there are at least three licensed fishers on board. Pots can only be set and pulled by licensed fishers.

Sharing Pots

A rock lobster pot can now be shared by two licensed fishers. Every licensed fisher must attach their own float with their own gear identification number to a shared pot. Each licensed fisher can only use up to two pots to fish for rock lobsters, even when sharing pots.

Simplified pot specifications

The types of pots allowed are the following:

Make sure that your pots are compliant to the standards set out in the Fish Resources Management Regulations 1995. You can view the comprehensive guidelines on pots by visiting the Fisheries website.

Totally Protected Lobsters

You are not allowed to take lobsters while they are in the protected stages of their lifecycle. You are legally compelled to return these lobsters immediately to the water. The following are the totally protected rock lobsters:

  • Berried females – Any species of lobster carrying eggs
  • Tar spot females – Western rock lobsters ready to spawn and can be found between Windy Harbour and North West Cape

Guidelines on Lobsters you Keep

You are required to keep and store rock lobsters in whole (with head and tail). The only exception to this rule is if you are immediately consuming the lobster. On the other hand, you are now allowed to store lobster tails at your principal residence as long as you keep the shell on and that you do not transport them anywhere else.

To tag your lobster as a recreational catch, you are legally required to clip at least the bottom half of the central flap on its tail fan. You can also punch a circular hole with at least 10mm in diameter.

At the end of your recreational rock lobster fishing activity you:

  1. Must not possess any totally protected rock lobster, i.e. undersized, tar spot and berried lobsters, among others.
  2. Must only carry the allowable bag limit or boat limit
  3. Must only carry tail-clipped lobsters

Marine Conservation Areas

You are not allowed to go rock lobster fishing in marine conservation areas. To get complete information on these areas, contact Fisheries or the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions.

More Efficient Rock Lobster Fishing

If you want a more efficient way of rock lobster fishing, it is essential to have all the tools you need on your boat. You can turn to Wakemaker Marine when you need to customise your boat and add accessories that will improve your boating and fishing experience. Our team of aluminium fabrication specialists can custom build kill tanks, bait boards and most importantly, cray pot tippers and mount

Capstan winches to make pulling your pots super easy.

Cray pot tippers and Capstan Winches

We mount our cray pot tippers using stainless steel rod holders in the gunwales so they are easily removable and can hold your rods when not in use. We can even make your capstan winch removable by building a bracket that is mounted to the gunwales. This is very useful for fiber glass boats with narrow gunwales.

If you need more information about the aforementioned boat accessories, give Wakemaker Marine a call today.

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2. Take kitchen scissors or a knife and cut along the softer underside of the tail where it meets the shell.

3. Pull the underside away to reveal the tail meat. Remove this.

4. If necessary, remove the dark alimentary canal by cutting just above it and pulling it away. Cut the tail meat into portions.

5.Twist off the legs and serve with shell pliers to break open the shell. Slice into portions and serve with melted butter and salt and pepper or perhaps a richer sauce such as hollandaise or aioli.

How to kill a lobster

/>Succulent rock oysters. Photo: Marina Neil

If you buy a live rock lobster, place it in the freezer for 30 minutes until the cold renders it insensible. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and cook the lobster for nine to 10 minutes for a 600- to 800-gram lobster, 11 to 12 minutes for one weighing 800 grams to one kilogram and a further minute for every 100 grams over that. Remove and drain. When cool, prepare as above.

Alternatively, drive a large sharp knife through the head of an insensible lobster, right between its eyes, cut lengthways and remove the alimentary canal and guts but leave the liver. Cook under a preheated grill with butter and a little ground cinnamon.

The price Southern rock lobsters $90 to $110 a kilogram.

Ocean trout

Ocean trout, once Atlantic salmon's poor farmed fish cousin, is stealing the limelight. ''Ocean trout is far more delicate and tender compared with salmon,'' says former MasterChef contestant and now boutique Sydney caterer Audra Morrice, of Cook & Feast. ''It tends not to dry out as easily.''

Ocean trout is farmed in Macquarie Harbour in south-west Tasmania and is similar to Atlantic salmon, which makes up 30 per cent of the fish on Australian plates, but has firmer, denser flesh, more pleasant tasting oil and a fresher taste.

Whole fish can be barbecued, steamed or confited in oil.

For those not cooking for a tribe, ocean trout fillets and cutlets are readily available. Morrice recommends finely slicing raw ocean trout and serving with shredded ginger, chilli, spring onions, baby shiso and Sichuan sauce.

How to cook a whole fish

Note: A whole ocean trout will serve eight.

1. To cook, preheat the oven to 190C (170C fan). Line a large baking tray with baking paper and scatter with thyme leaves and some slices of garlic. Season the fish inside and out. Drizzle the inside with a little extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle in some more thyme leaves and slices of garlic.

2. Bake for 15 minutes a kilogram. When it is done, a metal skewer, inserted for 10 seconds, will come out hot. It is better to undercook the flesh, as it will continue to cook once removed from the oven.

The price A whole ocean trout weighing three kilograms costs $70 to $80. Fillets cost about $40 a kilogram.


''They're fat, they're sweet and they are in such good condition,'' says Lance Wiffen about the mussels he grows off Portarlington in Port Phillip Bay, 50 kilometres south of Melbourne. Sold as Sea Bounty Mussels, they are large, plump and have the sweet flavour of seagrass. Tasmanian mussels, known for their iodine tang and savoury flavour, are also in good condition now, but mussels grown at Two Fold Bay at Eden, on the NSW south coast, won't be ready until after Christmas.

How to muscle a mussel

Look for big, clean mussels of consistent size so they cook at an even rate. Discard any mussels with broken shells. Give mussels a rinse under running water and a scrub if necessary to remove any sand. Mussels anchor themselves with threads, known as the beard, to whatever they grow on. Some growers mechanically remove the beard, but if they haven't, pull it towards the narrow end of the mussel, where it will come away clean. Steam the mussels and serve with garlic mayo. Cook them in a pot with wine tomato and parsley or throw them whole on the barbecue and serve with romesco sauce.

Note that mussels that do not open when cooked are not off. They are simply strong and their adductor muscle is not letting go. You can return unopened mussels to the pot or prise them open with a knife.

The price Mussels cost about $6 to $12 a kilogram.


The very Australian tradition of serving prawns for Christmas means we wolf down 40 per cent of our annual local production of prawns in just a few weeks of festive fare.

''It's a military-style operation to bring the prawns down the east coast from north Queensland in time for Christmas,'' says prawn industry spokesman Graeme Stewart. The wild-prawn industry harvests 20,000 tonnes annually. Australia's farmed prawn industry produces 4000 tonnes a year, compared with the 40,000 tonnes of farmed prawns imported mostly from Asia. Many chefs we spoke to recommended frozen green (raw) Spencer Gulf King prawns from South Australia. Frozen prawns must be thawed slowly over 48 hours in a covered container in the refrigerator.

How to cook prawns

1. Cook whole green prawns on a very hot barbecue or hotplate by placing them in a bowl and sprinkling them well with plenty of rock salt, then cook for a few minutes on each side until the shell has changed colour.

Or … serve boiled prawns on a platter with aioli or chipotle mayonnaise. In warmer weather, serve on a deep bed of crushed ice, both to keep them cool and to make them look temptingly fresh. To peel a prawn, remove the head by twisting and pulling it from the body. Peel the shell by using your thumbnail against your forefinger and separate the harder segmented shell on its back from the softer shell from its underbelly. Serve whole prawns with a finger bowl of hot water and lemon and napkins.

The price Farmed medium-sized prawns cost $30 to $35 a kilogram. Wild-caught large king prawns are $45 to $50 a kilogram.


Sydney rock oysters are favoured for their superb texture. They grow from the NSW-Victoria border to southern Queensland and, in the months leading up to summer, they become quite plump and creamy as they prepare to spawn. While the oysters from northern NSW are ready to go now, Jo Rodley, of Tathra Oysters on the NSW south coast, says, ''Our oysters are fattening up and will be at their best about Christmas''.

The larger Pacific oysters, originally from Japan, are mostly grown in South Australia and Tasmania. They are known for their meaty flesh and crisp, salty tang.

South Australian oysters are on the verge of spawning, and the Tasmanian crop is expected to do so in January. Growers in those regions, however, have developed a Pacific oyster that doesn't spawn, called a triploid, so they have supply year round.

Ninety-seven per cent of oysters in Australia are sold already opened in the half shell. Almost all have been rinsed, washing away the tasty juices or liquor in which they live. Oyster aficionados believe this to be a culinary travesty and prefer freshly shucked oysters.

To open an oyster

1. Wash and scrub the shell to remove sand.

2. Take a folded tea towel and wrap it around your left hand.

3. Place the oyster on the folded tea towel, with the cupped side facing down and the flat upper shell facing upwards.

4. With the pointed end facing you, take an oyster knife in your other hand and insert it into where the two shells join. You may need a little force and slight twisting motion. Once the tip of the blade is inside the shell, twist the knife to wedge the shell open.

5. Run the knife along the underside of the flat part of the shell to cut the adductor muscle. The flat shell will now come away. Slide the knife down into the cupped part of the shell to cut the adductor muscle from the inside of the cupped part of the shell.

6. Place the oysters on a platter covered with a bed of salt or crushed ice.

7. Squeeze a little lemon over, if desired, and tip the oyster into your mouth.

The price Sydney rock oysters cost $20 dozen. Pacific rock oysters are $14 a dozen.

Storage tip Store all seafood between 0C and 4C, except live oysters, which can be stored in a cool place covered with a damp cloth for a week or so.

Riding the crest of the wave

Unusually for a commercial fisherman, James Paratore spends much of his week inside, unable to see the sky.

Saturday and Sunday are a different story, working on the family boat, with nothing more than his father, the fresh air and an empty horizon for company.

At weekends, James fishes rock lobster commercially in Western Australia (WA). The fishery, which stretches along the coast for 1000km from Cape Leeuwin in the South to Shark Bay in the North, has some 250 vessels catching rock lobster using pots and traps.

And during the week? He’s working in the local emergency department, on his path to becoming a medical doctor.

A historical landmark

The fishery where James works was the first in the world to achieve MSC certification in 2000, and has recently become the only fishery to have been re-certified four times.

Not only did it lead the way in recognising the potential value of MSC certification, it was praised for its courage for exposing its management practices to a third-party assessment. To honour the landmark occasion, events were held in London, Sydney and Boston and were attended by special guests including Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan and British-American chef Lloyd Grossman. At the time, the MSC's Fisheries Director Jonathan Peacey said:

“This is an exciting day. With the certification of the Western Australia Rock Lobster Fishery, the Marine Stewardship Council’s certification program is no longer just an exciting concept—it is fully operational”.

Swift action in the face of a near-crisis

A decade on from the certification, and the fishery was facing a near crisis, the response to which gave James the opportunity to return to medical school.

Each year, scientists predict the size of Western Australia’s rock lobster catch four years into the future by monitoring the number of larval lobster, or puerulus, within the fishery. In 2008, they discovered an alarming decline in puerulus numbers. It was to be the start of a three year period during which researchers were catching as few as one puerulus per collecting device, compared to a historical average of 100. While it remains unclear what caused the drop, swift action by the fishery addressed the situation before it was too late.

For Basil Lenzo, a third-generation Fremantle fisherman, and Vice Chair of Geraldton Fishermen’s Co-operative, the choice was stark.

“We decided that we had to either halve the catch and go to an output [catch quota] fishery or close the fishery for a year to allow stocks to rebuild. After a lot of consideration, we opted for the former.”

"MSC certification acted as an important insurance policy for us during the difficult 09/10 period when sustainability and environmental questions were raised. It really helped us to demonstrate to the Western Australia Government that the industry knew what it was doing. The cuts [in quotas] may have been even more severe if we didn't have the evidence to support our MSC assessment at the time."

Removing the race to fish

James Paratore on his father's lobster boat © MSC

The quota-based system that was introduced in 2010 completely changed the dynamics of the fishery. Instead of racing against one another to meet a fishery-wide catch limit during the first seven months of the year, each fishing boat was allocated its own individual catch quota for the whole year. Almost overnight, the pace of fishing changed.

"We soon realised that the cheapest place to keep the lobster was in the bank (the ocean) and to fish for it when the market wanted it.” says Basil.

James and his father Joe Paratore harvesting lobster © MSC

The individual quota system allows fishers to reap higher returns from the lobster they catch, and to bring live lobster to market year-round. And because fishers have less incentive to go out in dangerous conditions, it has improved safety too. But it also had some unexpected benefits, as James points out:

“Now people can fish when they choose. I've had the opportunity to go back to uni and study medicine while still helping dad on the weekends and in the holidays. That's a real advantage. Other fishers are now spending more time with their families and pursuing other interests in their lives.”

Lobster harvested by James Paratore and his father Joe. © Western Rock Lobster Council Inc.

The management changes paid off, and during the last seven years catches have been higher than anything seen before. “Catch rates have tripled” explains Basil.“I keep pinching myself - it's amazing”.

But the changes were not without sacrifice. Halving the catch meant halving the number of boats in the fleet. Thankfully, though, many fishers were able to use their seafaring expertise in WA’s offshore oil industry, which was booming at the time. Others sold their quotas in favour of early retirement.

"Seventeen years ago, a bunch of people got together and saw MSC certification as a mechanism for future-proofing our fishery. Really, they were ahead of their time. We owe our success to those guys who knew that one day this was going to be crucial, not only for the market benefits, but for our social license to operate."

A journey of continual improvement

The fishery has worked hard to maintain its certification over the past 17 years, navigating a course of continual improvement. “The MSC's benchmark continues to go up, but within that, our rock lobster fishery has become a world leader in achieving the standard that other fisheries have then adopted.” said James.

As well as managing its stocks sustainably, the fishery has introduced new measures to eliminate unintended impacts on vulnerable marine species.

Back in 2000, little information was known about the impact the fishery was having on endangered Australian sea lion (Neophoca cinerea) populations that breed along the coast of Western Australia.

To maintain its certification, the fishery needed to find out how many juvenile sea lions were accidentally becoming entangled and trapped in lobster pots.

It later introduced Sea Lion Excluder Devices (SLEDs), modifications to the pots and traps that block access by juvenile sea lions while still allowing lobsters to be caught. In 2009, the use of SLEDs became mandatory across the fishery in water less than 20m deep in the proximity of a breeding colony. As a result of the SLEDs, the number of sea lion mortalities has dropped from 20 in 2006, to zero from 2012.

And sea lions aren't the only marine mammals to benefit from improved management measures.

"Using the MSC Framework, our fishery continues to monitor, respond and innovate. For example, in 2015 new mitigation measures were implemented to greatly reduce the risk of whale entanglements in the fishery during their migration season."

Eastern Rock Lobster

Click to enlarge image Toggle Caption

Fast Facts

  • Classification Species verreauxi Genus Jasus Family Palinuridae Suborder Pleocyemata Infraorder Palinura Order Decapoda Superorder Eucarida Class Malacostraca Subphylum Crustacea Phylum Arthopoda Kingdom Animalia
  • Size Range 60 cm


This species is commonly found in Sydney's top restaurants but much of Australia's catch is exported overseas.


The Eastern Rock Lobster is the largest spiny lobster in the world and can grow to over 15 kg.


The Eastern Rock Lobster lives in coastal waters and oceans to a depth of 200 m.


The Eastern Rock Lobster is found in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. Also New Zealand.

Life history cycle

After mating, female Eastern Rock Lobsters carry hundreds of thousands of tiny orange eggs under their tail by fine hairs. The eggs hatch after about six months and, like most baby crustaceans, the juveniles look nothing like their parents. They go through a succession of moults before they reach the adult form, usually migrating to shallow waters in large numbers during the process. It is thought that the Eastern Rock Lobster lives for 20 years.

Economic impacts

The Eastern Rock Lobster is highly sought after by both recreational and commercial fishers. It is mostly caught in traps, and both commercial and recreational fishers must adhere to quotas and size restrictions, to give the lobsters a chance to breed before being caught.

If using whole lobster, extract the meat from the tail, legs and body, ensuring there are no small pieces of shell. Slice the lobster tail into thin discs and keep in the refrigerator while you prepare the salad.

Spoon out the avocado flesh and discard the stone. Cut the avocado into very small cubes and put into a bowl with the juice of half a lime. Finely chop the chilli and add to the avocado. Rinse the preserved lemon and remove and discard the pith, chop finely and add to the avocado with the chopped eshallot and coriander. Cut the tomato in quarters, squeeze out the seeds and chop the remaining flesh into small dice, adding to the avocado. Season to taste with salt, pepper, olive oil and vinegar and gentle mix the ingredients but take care not to mash them up. It should taste tangy with a slight bite of chilli.

Now spoon the guacamole onto four serving plates, top with a few sprigs and leaves of watercress and then top with the lobster meat.

Serve at once with a wedge of lime or lemon.

(To prepare ahead of time, wrap and refrigerate the lobster meat. Make the guacamole ahead, but do not dress it other than with the lime juice. It will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of hours without turning brown.)

Marvel over Australia's sensational shellfish bounty

You might think Australia is a mecca for fresh seafood - and you wouldn't be wrong.

As an island continent, Australia is uniquely poised to support a wide range of marine life beyond its coastline of more than 36,000 kilometres. Our waters provide a home for all kinds of crayfish and lobsters, molluscs and crustaceans, and sustainable fishing practices have allowed these populations to thrive the amount of seafood produced annually sits at around 230,000 tonnes. It’s why shellfish forms such a big part of Australia’s culinary culture (yes, we will put another shrimp on the barbie, thank you), and why chefs from a range of culinary backgrounds are immediately drawn to the bounty of the sea to devise their menus.

Oysters, crab, lobster, bugs and prawns. You name it and Australian seas can deliver it.

Here, SBS dives deep into the waters surrounding Australia to see what lies beneath, and how a few of the country’s most notable chefs are using it all.

The tropical north

The warm waters running along the top of the country and around to Queensland are home to the greatest diversity of marine species in the country. Balmain and Moreton Bay bugs, spanner and blue swimmer crabs abound in far north Queensland, while the Great Barrier Reef is a crustacean haven – some species haven’t been officially discovered yet.

At Saké Brisbane, head chef Chi Daisuke Sakai takes juicy Sunshine Coast prawns and marries them with a light tempura batter. “Queensland seafood is among the best I have worked with,” Sakai tells Visit Brisbane.

Darwin Fish Market boasts small mountains of locally-sourced mussels and mud crabs. Indigenous chef Zach Green uses these and other types of shellfish at his Darwin pop-up restaurant, Elijah’s Kitchen, to tell stories about his Indigenous heritage and his connection to the land.

“My cousin and I will catch the mud crabs by hand,” Green tells SBS. “We’re lucky in the Northern Territory to have a massive bounty – Australian chefs are still finding new produce to eat all the time. We’re blessed with diversity and abundance.”

The temperate south

Cooler temperatures, unpredictable weather and relative inaccessibility work together to create an ideal growing environment for vongole (little clams), squid, mussels, pippies and scallops. Shellfish in Australia’s south is difficult to plunder by the many, which means production and consumption are tightly held in a sustainable holding pattern.

“In biological and geological terms, South Australian waters are like deserts,” Paulie Polacco, a South Australian-based diver and scallop fisherman tells SBS. “Our seafood isn’t abundant on a global scale, in comparison to regions like the North Pacific or Japan. There is abundance there, but you have to know how to find and harness it.”

Polacco works closely with chefs like Jock Zonfrillo (Orana, Adelaide), who regularly showcases South Australian oysters, prawns and Port Lincoln squid in produce-led dishes.


The further south you travel, the higher the water nutrient level soars – that’s how we end up with Bruny Island oysters and world-renowned abalone. “Tasmania gets more rainfall and more storms, and it’s more exposed to the Southern Ocean,” says Polacco. “There’s more abundance of seafood, and aquaculture is easier to get up and running.”

Whenever Zach Green is in Tasmania, he’ll head straight to the northern waters in pursuit of crayfish. “Catching and cooking freshwater crayfish are processes that hold a lot of significance to the mob down there,” he tells SBS.

At upmarket Chinese restaurant Me Wah in Hobart, executive chef Gordon Tso braises Tasmanian blacklip abalone from Perkins Bay for 12 hours with flower-top shiitake mushrooms, steamed seasonal vegetables and ormer reduction – an ode to the region’s sublime aquatic produce.

New South Wales

Ask Greg Finn, an NSW-based commercial abalone and sea urchin fisherman, what shellfish best epitomises Australia’s eastern waters, and he’ll be quick to answer.

“It has to be oysters,” he says. “Sydney rock oysters are sweeter than other states’, and they’re really high quality. It’s a massive and iconic industry for NSW.”

Shellfish living off the coast of NSW are faced with a unique set of challenges, Finn explains. “We have a long coastline in NSW, but high population density along that coastline means more sedimentation from urban runoff, which affects overall water quality,” he tells SBS. “Fresh water from the rivers in northern NSW affects the salinity levels and brings oxygen levels down.” Shellfish, like abalone and turban shells, grow faster in cooler, more oxygen-and-nutrient rich waters on the south coast.

Sydney chef Dan Hong sees NSW waters as a Goldilocks zone – at least as far as eastern rock lobsters are concerned. “The water temperature here is in between Queensland and South Australia, so our lobsters have a good sweetness to them and have a totally different texture,” he tells SBS. “The cooler the water, the sweeter the lobster.”

At Hong’s restaurant Mr Wong, Eastern rock lobsters are deep-fried and doused in a salt and pepper spice mix, wok fried with different sauces, or steamed with white soy, ginger and shallots.

Western Australia

Australia’s west coast comprises warm tropical waters near Broome (according to Finn, the water reaches a maximum of 31 degrees in the summer), cooler southern temperatures and everything in between. It’s a veritable shellfish hub, recognised by not only the rest of the country but the entire world.

“The Australian snow crab from Western Australia is the best in the world,” Dan Hong tells SBS. “Why wouldn’t I use it?”

Order ‘Ahtapot’ at Sydney’s famed Turkish restaurant Anason (headed by chef Somer Sivrioglu), and you’ll be enjoying the best octopus Western Australia has to offer in true Turkish style, with broad bean fava, pickled onion, sumac and lemon.

“The octopus we use comes from all over Western Australia,” Andrea Galdo from Anason tells SBS. “We don’t stick to one place – we go wherever the best produce is.”

Maeve O'Meara is back in Food Safari Water 8pm, Wednesdays on SBS, or catch-up on all episodes via SBS On Demand. Visit the program page for recipes, videos and more.

Companies who sell Southern Rock Lobster:

- Importers, exporters and wholesalers of seafood in Kuala Lumpur. Alfonsino, Barracoutta, Barramundi, Bluenose, Butterfish, Cardinal, Blue Cod, Blue Swimmer Crab, Common Swimming Crab, Giant Cuttlefish, Mirror Dory, John Dory, Conger Eel, Elephant fish, Red Emperor, Flathead, Frostfish, Gemfish, Red Gurnard, Groper/Hapuku, Bass Groper, Hoki, Yellowtail Kingfish, Ling, Ling Maw, Southern Rock Lobster, Slipper Lobster, Blue Moki, Sea Perch, Pilchard, Prawns, Redfish, Bight Redfish, Orange roughy, Scampi, School Shark, Rig Shark, Pink Snapper, Goldband Snapper, Arrow Squid, Stargazer, Tarakihi, Trevally, Sea Urchin, Blue Warehou, Silver Warehou

Princess Seafood International Trading Co. Ltd
- Importers and processors of various seafood, like American live red rock lobsters, geoduck and rock lobster, England, Ireland, and Scotland brown crabs, blue lobsters and langoustines, Australia snow crabs, king crabs, rock lobsters and abalones, New Zealand live lobsters and green mussels, Scampi, Canada dungeness crabs and boston lobsters, Norway salmons, French oysters, salmon, scampi, langoustine, razor fish, brown crabs, conch, frozen lobster and fish

CJ Live Seafood Company
- Importers, Exporters and agents of Live seafood including halibut, Japanese abalone, sea cucumber, Peale Passage oysters, Canadian lobsters, red grouper, black grouper, tiger grouper, stonefish, keofish, Southern Rock Lobsters, Western Australian lobsters, king crab, spanner crab, clams and whelks. Fresh Ivory White King Salmon, Organic King Salmon and black cod.

Redrock Lobster Pty Ltd
- selling premium southern rock lobster (Jasus edwardsii) into the domestic Australian market and the specialising in the Asian market since 1990, sizes we sell are 600-800g B size, 800g-1kg C size, 1-1.5kg D size, 1.5-2kg E-, 2-2.5kg E+ and 2.5kg+ F size,

Tasmanian Pacific Oyster Co
- Providing the highest quality seafood to Melbourne and surrounding areas for over 30 years. Fresh Fish Fillets - Salmon Tassal fresh and smoked, Ocean Trout Huon fresh and smoked, King Fish Hiramasa Cleanseas, Barramundi, Flathead, sword fish, snapper, blue eye, Sashimi Grade Seafood - Tuna, Salmon, Ocean Trout, King Fish, Sword Fish, Oysters Tasmanian, South Australian, Sydney, Prawns - Australian, Whole, Cooked, Green, Frozen Seafood, Prawn Cuttlets, Chips, Fish Fillets, Crustaceans and Shell fish, crayfish, crabs, mussels, clams, pipis..etc

Five Star Seafoods (SA) Pty Ltd
- AQIS and EU certified exporters and suppliers of wild caught Rock Lobster (Jasus edwardsii) available live or frozen, King Crabs (Pseudocarcinus gigas) sold whole.

Yantai Rixiang Seafood Co., Ltd
- We are seafood exporter. We pride of our good quality products Pacific cod, Australia lobster, frozen squid tubes, frozen half-shell scallop, competitive price and best service.

Southern Rocklobster Limited USA
- Importer, Exporters and wholesalers of high end seafood items from Australia and New Zealand including Australian Southern Rock lobster, Live New Zealand Clevedon Oysters, Australian Barramundi, New Zealand Cloudy Bay Clams, South African Cape Lobster, Greenlip abalone, Moreton Bay bug meat, Australian Spanner Crabs

L&B Taspac
- Suppliers of Fresh Greenshell Mussel (Perna Canaliculus), New Zealand Rock Lobster (Jasus Edwardsii), Pacific Oyster (Crassostrea Gigas), Eel (Anguilla Dieffenbachii/Australis), Frozen Arrow Squid (Nototodorus Sloanii), Barracouta (Thyrsites Atun), Blue Mackerel (Scomber Australasicus), Hake (Merluccius Australis), Hoki (Macruronus Novaezelandiae), Jack Mackerel (Trachurus Declivis/Murphyi), Ling (Genypterus Blacodes), Orange Roughy (Hoplostethus Atlanticus), Red Cod (Pseudophycis Bachus), Silver Warehou (Seriolella Punctata), Southern Blue Whiting (Micromesistius Australis), Brill (Colistium Guntheri), King Salmon (Oncorhynchus Tshawytscha), Monkfish (Kathetostoma Giganteum), Pilchard (Sardinops Neopilcharadus), Smooth Oreo Dory (Pseudocyttus Maculatus), Snapper (Pagrus Auratus), Trevally (Pseudocaranx Dentex), Turbot (Colistium Nudipinnis)

JD'S Seafood Export Contractors Pty Ltd
- Export Approved Fish Processing Establishment, supplying all fin fish as whole, G&G and Filleted, crustaceans, Molluscs, live lobsters, crabs, yabbies, marron Approved for export to the EU & Russia. Fresh product flown in daily from all over Australia.

- We import and export sardine, sardinella, mackerel, horse mackerel, hake, hoki, squid, shrimps, cuttlefish, mahi mahi, dorado, bass, merluza, capelin, herring, alaska pollock, anchovy, cherne, notothenia, pangasius, tongue sole, saury, tilapia, blue shark, yellow fin tuna, skipjack, bonito, octopus, yellowtail, ribbonfish, lobsters, redfish, pomfret, canned fish, dry fish and bait etc

Vasiliki Lobsters Melbourne
- Seafood wholesaler, exporter and retailer of We also trade in crayfish tails, Moreton Bay Bugs, King Crabs, Mussels, Sydney Rock and Tasmanian Oysters and Scallops, King Prawns, Tasmanian Smoked Salmon, to name a few.

Wildfish Export Ltd
- We are Processors, wholesalers, & Exporters of Live, Fresh & Frozen Fish & Shellfish from the clean waters of New Zealand & Australia. The larger volume of our fish is caught by way of Long Line. Our company is focussed on QUALITY and supplying product that our clients can purchase with confidence.

Chasing rock lobster in Western Australia - Recipes

Geraldton Fishermen?s Co-opertaive Ltd. (GFC) was started by a group of Western Rock Lobster fishermen in 1950, who sought to deregulate an uncompetitive processing industry. The ?Brolos? brand name is now synonymous with premium .

Address:8 Sultan Way, North Fremantle Perth, Western Australia Business type:Manufacturer

Five Senses Coffee Pty Ltd

Aussiepa is australian exporter of meats and exotic meats. We registered in late 1998, began trade 1999, over the last 4 years have grown to become a lrage meats, also skins hides. Our reputation built on best quality at prices, prompt .

Address:1/8 Crompton Road Business type:Other

Moorookyle Trading PL


Address:Trade, Vermont, Victoria, Australia Business type:Exporters

Watch the video: How to prepare Australian Rocklobsters (August 2022).