Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences

Healthier lobsters in a marine reserve: effects of fishing on disease incidence in the spiny lobster, Jasus edwardsii

D. J. Freeman A B D and A. B. MacDiarmid C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A University of Auckland, Leigh Marine Laboratory, PO Box 349, Warkworth, New Zealand.

B Present address: Department of Conservation, Research and Development Group, PO Box 10-420, Wellington, New Zealand.

C National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, PO Box 14-901, Kilbirnie, Wellington, New Zealand.

D Corresponding author. Email:

Marine and Freshwater Research 60(2) 140-145
Submitted: 25 March 2008  Accepted: 24 October 2008   Published: 20 February 2009


Comparison of the health of spiny lobsters (Jasus edwardsii) within and adjacent to a New Zealand marine reserve revealed marked differences in the incidence of a handling-related bacterial infection. Lobsters outside the reserve were significantly more affected by tail fan necrosis than lobsters within the reserve, with up to 17% of the males caught outside the reserve over a 3-year period showing signs of tail fan necrosis, compared with less than 2% within the reserve. The incidence of tail fan necrosis changed abruptly at the marine reserve boundaries, strongly implying repeated handling as the causal agent. The incidence of tail fan necrosis in males increased up to the minimum legal size, consistent with a handling effect. Female lobsters, which comprise only a small proportion of the catch in this area, were comparatively unaffected by tail fan necrosis. There was no significant difference in the recapture rates of individuals tagged either with or without tail fan necrosis, but tagged individuals outside the reserve were more likely to develop tail fan necrosis than tagged individuals within the reserve. These findings have implications for both the dynamics of the lobster populations and their management, and highlight the role of marine protected areas in providing a baseline against which such effects of fishing can be assessed.

Additional keywords: marine protected areas, New Zealand.


Field work was undertaken with the assistance of staff from the Department of Conservation and of commercial fishermen from Gisborne. This research was funded by the Department of Conservation, through core funding and via the Cross-Departmental Research Pool project ‘Maori Methods and Indicators for Marine Protection’. Our research was conducted under Ministry of Fisheries Special Permits NN0205 and 335, and Department of Conservation Animal Ethics Committee Approval AEC92. We thank Richard Taylor (University of Auckland Leigh Marine Laboratory), Ian West (Department of Conservation), Louise Chilvers (Department of Conservation) and two anonymous referees for their useful advice and comments on the manuscript.


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