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Tasmanian Giant Freshwater Lobster

Astacopsis gouldi

Tasmanian Giant Freshwater Lobster
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Tasmanian Giant Freshwater Lobster • Astacopsis gouldi

As the largest freshwater invertebrate in the world, with records of specimens reaching more than five kilograms in weight and over 80 cm in length, the Tasmanian Giant Freshwater Lobster sometimes known as a crayfish is found only in the rivers of northern Tasmania, although habitat disturbance combined with a long history of fishing has contributed to its decline.

The spiny Tasmanian Giant Freshwater Lobster varies in colour from blue to brown, as well being jet black. Today, the average weight of 2-3 kilograms is considered large. Also referred to by biologists as the ‘freshwater Thylacine’, due to not only the fact that it was is heading towards extinction, but it is also the largest animal and predator in its freshwater habitat, as was the Thylacine on Tasmania’s land.

Protected Status
The Tasmanian Giant Freshwater Lobster is currently protected, originally listed in 1995 as ‘vulnerable’ and placed on the Tasmanian Threatened Species Protection Act and the Commonwealth Endangered Species Protection Act. From 1st January, 1998, it was declared a ‘protected fish’ under the Inland Fisheries Act. With a maximum fine for taking lobsters of $10,000, it is now illegal and a finable offence to catch or disturb the animal in any way. Disturbance include kill, injure, catch, damage, destroy or collect the animal, either deliberately or accidentally.

Tasmanian Giant Freshwater Lobster (2 kg) © DM & TS Walsh www.lobsters.tascom.net

Tasmanian Giant Freshwater Lobster (Black) © DM & TS Walsh www.lobsters.tascom.netWhy are they Threatened?
A steady increase in habitat disturbance, combined with the long history of traditional fishing has caused the decline of the lobster. The larger individuals were targeted for eating and trophies, which has had a significant effect on breeding stock, completely removing cohorts from some river systems. The lack of any bag limit until the 1990’s allowed overfishing to occur for many years.

Continuing habitat disturbance, including the removal of stream vegetation, bank erosion, desnagging, channelisation, siltation, nutrification and chemical pollution continues to occur at every level from the small private landholder to large scale commercial forestry. Increased ‘roading’ has led to a significant increase in fishing pressure and access to previously unexploited populations. The clearing of streamside vegetation, extensive modification of stream channels, access by stock and influx of chemicals and nutrients have also contributed to the decline of lobster populations.

Tasmanian Giant Freshwater Lobster (Blue) © DM & TS Walsh www.lobsters.tascom.netIn addition, they grow extremely slowly, only at a pace of 5-10 mm per year for some adults, with it reaching maturity at a late age of 9 years in males and 14 years in females. Reproduction in females occurs only every two years, making Astacopsis gouldi very vulnerable to disturbance of the environment or over fishing by humans.

Tasmanian Giant Freshwater Lobster © DM & TS Walsh www.lobsters.tascom.netRange
The range of the Tasmanian Giant Freshwater Lobster is found only in rivers of northern Tasmania that flow into Bass Strait with the exception of the Tamar catchment. It is also found in the Arthur River catchment, which flows into the West Coast, occurring in river systems below 400m, and being most numerous in streams below 200m. Interestingly, their range coincided with that of the blackfish Gadopsis marmoratus.


 

Activity, Diet and Habitat
The Tasmanian Giant Freshwater Lobster are slow growing, slow to colonise new areas and have a low reproductive rate. With a diet of mainly decaying wood and leaves, fish, rotting flesh and detritus are also eaten. While little is known of their dispersal patterns individuals have been recorded moving 500m in 24 hours, with movements over land also being recorded. They have been recorded as most active during early autumn and summer when water temperatures are higher.

By nature, the Tasmanian Giant Freshwater Lobster is shy and secretive. With the ideal habitat including intact stream catchment of several stream sizes, including rivulets and small headwaters. These should flow and meander through a relatively undisturbed well vegetated catchment containing snags, pools and undercut, but not eroding, banks. The water temperature should seldom exceed 18°C, have a high oxygen content and be clear of sediment.

Life Cycle
The females of the specie breed every two years with mating and spawning occurring between March and April (Autumn). The female carries the eggs under her tail over winter until they hatch in late December-January (Summer). Hatchlings stay attached until late February when they measure about 6 mm CPL (Carapace (Body/Head) Length). The young then moult several times a year, but this becomes less frequent as they get older.

Juvenile lobsters have been located in shallow faster flowing areas known as riffle zones. It is suspected they migrate into smaller stream zones including semi-permanent creeks. It is in these areas that they are safer from many predators such as larger fish (blackfish, trout) and platypus, which struggle to swim in the very shallow sections. The juveniles find cover amongst the cobble rocks and woody debris and remain in this area until large enough to move into the deeper areas known as runs. Runs are deeper flowing straight sections of a catchment. Many sub adult (<100mm CPL) have been located in these areas. It is suspected that these sub adults are not large enough to enter the domain of the adult lobsters, the deeper pools.

Adults take refuge in still, deep pools, which are sheltered and well shaded beneath submerged and decaying timber and can live in larger numbers (up to 20 individuals) in one large pool. Although sometimes aggressive, lobsters appear to tolerate one another in these pools. It is estimated that lobsters may live beyond 40 years.

Female lobsters mature after about 14 years, weighing about 500g with a carapace (head shell) length (CPL) of 120mm. Males mature more quickly at around 300g and approximately 76mm CPL in about 9 years.


Tasmanian Giant Freshwater Lobster 1999 © DM & TS Walsh www.lobsters.tascom.net

 

 

 

Tasmanian Giant Freshwater Lobster (Measuring a Juvenile) © DM & TS Walsh www.lobsters.tascom.net
Measuring a juvenile.

 

 

 


Further information available on the
Tasmania's Giant Fresh Water Lobster from the Inland Fisheries Service.

‘Tayatea’
Historical accounts suggest the Tasmanian Aborigines referred to freshwater lobsters as ‘Tayatea’. To help change the association of lobster from eating to preserving, the cultural name has been adopted in recognition of the species that is an unique link to Tasmania and the people.

There is a distribution map of the giant freshwater lobster on the Parks & Wildlife site.

Source: Tasmanian Giant Freshwater Lobster © DM & TS Walsh

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Eco Tours

The Giant Tasmanian Freshwater Lobster
• DM & TS Walsh • Tayatea Enterprises & Lobster Eco Tours
• Ph: +61 3 6429 3377 • Email
See this incredible animal in it's spectacular habitat!! Help carry out Population Surveys or join us for one of our Lobster Eco Tours.

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Scientific Classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Crustacea
Class: Malacostraca
Order: Decapoda
Suborder: Pleocyemata
Family: Parastacidae
Genus: Astacopsis
Species: A. gouldi
Binomial name: Astacopsis gouldi

Tasmanian Giant Freshwater Lobster • Other links

Parks and Wildlife Tasmania
Follow the links through Parks & Wildlife > Nature of Tasmania > Threatened Species > Vulnerable - Giant Freshwater Lobster and Giant Freshwater Lobster Recovery Plan 2006-2010.
Department of the Environment and Water Resources
EA > Biodiversity > Threatened Species
The National Threatened Species Day is held on September 7th each year. First held in 1996, to commemorate the death of the last Tasmania Tiger in captivity in 1936 in Hobart, National Threatened Species Day aims to encourage the community to prevent further extinctions of Australia’s fauna and flora, and to restore healthy numbers of endangered species and ecological communities in the wild. September is also Biodiversity Month, a time when many Australians celebrate our unique and valuable biodiversity with activities to protect and conserve the environment. There is also the annual Hands on for Habitat Awards. They list the Giant Lobster as a threatened species.
Department of Primary Industries and Water
Bush Information and Management and Tasmania’s Threatened Fauna Handbook
Animals listed as extinct, endangered or vulnerable. Information sourced from Tasmanian Threatened Fauna Handbook.
Inland Fisheries Service
• PO Box 288, MOONAH TAS 7009 • Ph: 03 6233 4140 • Fax: 03 6233 4141 • Email
Tasmania's Giant Fresh Water Lobster
Dorset Waterwatch
A community group of volunteers including educators and school children. Has a section on the Giant Freshwater Lobster.
The Tayatea Giant Freshwater Lobster Landcare Group / Tayatea Landcare Group
Email Formed on the 26th of June 1998. Interstate and International members are most welcomed.

 

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