Geraldton Fishermen's Co-operative Rock Lobster Exporters


Catch & Delivery Guidance

Lobster Delivery

GFC prefers Fisher’s warn the relevant depot as far in advance as possible with the following detail:

  • Time of arrival.
  • Estimated catch.
  • Bait requirements.
  • Any other information that may assist depot staff.

GFC authorised grading sites are located at the Geraldton, Welshpool and Rous Head Road live lobster facilities. All lobster deliveries to trucks, depots, jetties or from carrier boats are graded at these two sites. The WCRL quota system is based on world standard auditing systems that cross-check a delivered gross and net weight supplied by fishermen against GFC’s gross and net weight. If the fisherman’s net weight is lower than GFC’s, the difference will appear on the docket as water loss – Catch and Disposal Records (CDR)

GFC maintains a CCTV system to ensure quality assurance and control over the grading process. Fishermen are encouraged to view the grading process at the Geraldton or Fremantle sites to verify the grades and weights shown on their catch dockets. Catch Dockets are usually emailed to fishermen within one hour of grading being finalised. Occasionally a docket may be placed in a holding queue if irregularities are detected. Held dockets will be reviewed and are usually released within 24 h. The following deductions are listed on the GFC docket:

  • Seizures by Department of Fisheries Inspectors.
  • Dead lobster not suitable for further processing.
  • Totally Protected Fish including berried, tar spot, setose and undersize.

The points of contact for queries relating to CDRs are:

  • North – (08) 9965 9074
  • South – (08) 9435 8926

Fishermen wishing to escalate CDR or GFC docket concerns can contact Glen Davidson, General Manager Operations

0427 218 019

GFC lobster grades and Quality Guidelines

GFC’s lobster weight grades are tabled below:


Lobster Weight (g)

A <490
B 491-610
C 611-740
D 741-850
E 851-970
F 971-1220
G 1221-1800
H >1801
2nd grade All sizes with defects

Lobsters will be graded as Second Grade for the following reasons:

A Premium Brolos lobster is one that has:

  • At least one feeler reaching to at least the back of the head (or carapace) (Fig. 1)
  • Not more than 2 legs missing on either or both sides (Fig. 2)
  • No cracks or other damage/defects to the shell
  • No significant fan tail damage
  • No swelling at the membrane between the carapace and the tail
  • Translucent meat under the tail (i.e. no “Cotton Tail”) (Fig. 3)
  • No other defects that graders deem unsuitable for premium grade

and is:

  • Strong, vigorous and likely to survive international live export, etc.
  • Not obviously soft-shelled( Fig. 4)

Cotton Tail

When viewed through the flexible membrane under the tail, the tail meat of a lobster with Cotton Tail appears white and resembles that of a cooked lobster (Fig. 5).  While the cause of this condition is poorly understood, thankfully it is relatively rare.  Whether eaten cooked or raw, the flesh of these animals is unappealing.  The weight of any Cotton Tail lobsters found at grading will be deducted from the catch (i.e. have zero value) as they are not suitable for sale in any form.

Figure 3: Example of a lobster with Cotton Tail.

Soft-shelled lobsters

Any soft-shelled lobsters consigned will be downgraded to Second Grade at intake.  Even though these lobsters may look strong when consigned, our customers clearly tell us that soft-shelled lobsters do not perform well during and following live export.  This problem has also been recognized in other species, such as the Southern Rocklobster.  While it’s difficult to give precise guidance on what a soft-shelled lobster is, the guiding principle is to reject any lobster that is “noticeably soft”.  You and your crew handle thousands of lobsters each season and are perfectly qualified to make this assessment.  GFC’s grading staff check shell hardness by gently squeezing the sides of the head between thumb and forefinger in the area where the white line runs the length of the head (Fig. 4).  If the shell deflects easily, the lobster is considered soft-shelled.

Figure 4: Example of a lobster being assessed for shell hardness.


On Board Quality Recommendations 

Four out of five GFC members are now consigning better than 99% of their catches as premium grade lobsters.  Maximising beach price from this point is about maintaining the highest quality through the whole supply chain – a task that starts with you, the fisherman.  There are two main areas to focus on when considering onboard practices: Handling and equipment set up:

Best practice onboard handling procedures include:

  • Regularly rinsing all contact surfaces, including cakka boxes and gloves to remove salt build up that might cause lobsters to shed legs.
  • Grading all lobsters in the cakka box as quickly as possible before the next pot is pulled.
  • Draining catches prior to consignment for the shortest time possible.
  • Draining catches in tanks whenever possible and protecting lobsters from exposure to sun, wind and heat using wet hessian or other material to cover baskets when on deck.
  • Handle baskets of lobsters gently – don’t throw or drop baskets
  • Don’t overfill baskets – lids should not be bulging

These are all very simple measures that can be addressed by clear communication with deckies.

Best practice onboard set up includes:

  • Adequate aeration* in all tanks, including the day tank.
  • Constant (not engine rev-driven) and adequate water flow to all tanks, including the day tank.
  • All baskets fully lined with mesh (sides and bottom) and any solid areas of the basket should be drilled out to maximise water and air flows and to speed up drainage to minimise water loss.
  • Basket lids with the maximum possible total open area to allow water and air to pass easily through the lobsters – there should be no solid sections on lids covering lobsters.
  • An adequately-sized cakka box that is lined with foam or some other shock absorbent material and is fitted seawater sprays.
  • A tipper “nipple” to protect legs and feelers from being sheared off between the pot base and the tipper.

Totally Protected Fish

Totally Protected Fish (TPF) include breeding females (setose, tarspot and berried) and undersized lobsters.  No person or company is allowed to be in possession of TPF.  The weight of any TPF found at grading will be deducted from the catch (i.e. have zero value) and the animals released back to the ocean.  Remember that the rules around what is a TPF change throughout the year, so be sure to check the Department of Fisheries regulations.

Exemption to Permit the possession, consign & sale of totally protected Setose

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