Spiny Lobster

Panulirus ornatus

Common Name(s)

English: Ornate spiny lobster, tropical rock lobster, ornate rock lobster, ornate spiny lobster, ornate tropical rock lobster, painted crayfish

Insufficient Information

Insufficient information to assess risk

Low Risk

Certified to a third party environmental sustainability standard OR Stable and productive low impact fishery with precautionary management, proven effectiveness and confidence that the status will be maintained or further improved. If the stock is data deficient with stable catches.

Medium Risk

Stable, not optimal but not poor status. AND Actions identified to reduce environmental impact and/or improve management or stock status. May be data deficient with stable catches.

Traditional Chinese

龍蝦 Long Ha, 花龍 Fa Long, 彩龍 Choi Long, 錦繡龍蝦 Gam Sau Long Ha

Simplified Chinese



Banagan, Tiger lobster


Udang mutiara


Kung mangkon


Langouste ornée


Langosta ornamentada

Date of Assessments

July 2020 (Peer reviewed November 2021)

Peer Reviewer

Dr Clive Jones, James Cook University, Australia

Assessment Organisation

The University of Hong Kong


P. ornatus lobsters are caught throughout the year, although in some jurisdictions there are seasonal fishery closures applied as part of the resource management. Fisheries for the puerulus stage operate in Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines. These are seasonal, the settlement occurring 4-6 months after spawning from the source reproductive stock. In Vietnam the puerulus season extends from September to March.



  • Spiny lobster (Panulirus ornatus) is a tropical lobster species from the Indo-West Pacific. It ranges from Natal in South Africa, along the coast of East Africa and the Red Sea, to southern Japan, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Australia (Northern Territory south to New South Wales), New Caledonia and Fiji.
  • This species is known from slightly turbid coastal waters, sandy and muddy substrates, rocky and coral reefs; most commonly to depths of 8 m, though there are a few records documenting it to 50 m.
  • Average carapace length at maturity is around 10cm for males and 11cm for females.
  • Spawning migrations occur with females migrating to deeper water.
  • This species is harvested throughout its range for food, although most fisheries operate on a small scale.
  • Global landings of spiny lobster species average 73,000 tonnes (all species) (FAO, 2017).
  • Global landings of ornatus estimated to be <3,000 tonnes.
  • Spiny lobster is a very valuable seafood commodity meaning that it is susceptible to overexploitation without effective management in place.
  • Globally, the wild fishery for large Panulirus ornatus began to experience declines in the 1990s due to overfishing, so fishermen turned to catching smaller lobsters and fattening them up in pens, a process known as ranching or Capture Based Aquaculture.
  • This is a widespread species and is abundant in parts of its range. While it is harvested by a number of countries, much of this operates on a small scale. The main fisheries can be found in the Torres Strait (Australia), India and Kenya.

Beach seining

A net shot by hand or from a small boat in a circular shape then drawn ashore by hand from both ends. To target fish living close to the shoreline. Usually worked clear of the seabed or with very light contact therefore very little seabed impact. This method of fishing is used in shallow, inshore waters that can be nursery grounds therefore there is the possibility of the capture of immature fish.


Fishermen harvest seafood by hand because the animals in question are slow-moving. Diving equipment and nooses are used to help collect the animals when they live more than an arm’s length from the surface of the water. These methods produce live lobsters that fetch the highest price. There is some fishing of P. ornatus by spear, which produces dead lobsters that must be frozen shortly after capture. Frozen lobsters are lower value.

Trapping puerulus

Fisheries for the swimming post-larval ‘puerulus’ stage of P. ornatus lobsters have developed in Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines. Traps simulating natural settlement habitat (bundles of net or folded material to create crevices) are suspended from floating frames. The swimming pueruli settle in the traps and are removed. These seed lobsters are then traded for aquaculture purposes.

  • The Latin species name
  • Evidence of the country of origin, vessel flag, and capture method
  • Evidence that fishing vessels are compliant with national regulations
  • Evidence that the Hong Kong importer has complied with trade regulations
  • Is the fishery in a fishery improvement project?


The Indonesian Government has operated a program of fisheries enhancement for lobsters, including P. ornatus, through deployment of concrete structures in known lobster locations to enhance the habitat to improve lobster productivity. This is to counter the negative impacts of destructive fishing practices.

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  • Panulirus ornatus from fisheries in the Philippines can be considered to be a medium risk.
  • P.ornatus in the Philippines is targeted for Capture Based Aquaculture on a small-scale, for which there are additional risks.
  • A substantial wild seed resource has been confirmed along the east coast of the Philippines in 2018 through a USDA funded project delivered by Winrock International. The resource has not been quantified, but is sufficient to support a large-scale lobster farming industry. However, farmer capacity is low.
  • The Philippines government recently announced a National Lobster Development Plan to provide framework and resources to support development of a sustainable industry. Philippines can be considered 1-2 years behind Indonesia, with similar potential
  • Lobster fry are typically collected by suspended bamboo traps and beach seines.
  • Panulirus ornatus from fisheries in the Torres Strait managed by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) have been scored a low risk.
  • Following a population crash between 1999 and 2001 in the Torres Strait, stock abundance appears to be recovering, however catches have slightly exceeded the scientific advice in recent years.
  • The fishery is generally well managed, including a ban on fishing during October through November, a ban on ‘hookah’ diving during December through January, and a minimum size limit of 90 mm (Carapace Length).
  • Handpicking through freediving (‘hookah’) has minimal impacts on the environment.
  • The majority of the catch (>80%) is purchased and marketed by MG Kailis Pty Ltd based in Cairns (https://www.mgkailisseafood.com.au/TropicalRockLobster.aspx). They export all the P. ornatus, either live to China (via intermediate ports due to current ban from China on Australian lobsters) or as frozen tails to USA.
  • The remaining 20% is sold to a variety of small traders. An example is Preston Seafood in Cairns (https://www.prestonseafoodcairns.com.au) who supply to high end restaurants in Australia.
  • The Panulirus ornatus fishery in Indonesia is pending a full risk assessment.
  • A fishery for seed lobsters (puerulus stage) operates in Indonesian waters, capturing Panulirus homarus (80%) and ornatus (20%).
  • In 2018, it was estimated that more than 100 million lobster seed were captured, representing approximately 20 million ornatus seed.
  • The Indonesian government is proactively managing the lobster seed fishery to support a domestic lobster farming industry. Export of seed is banned.
  • The Panulirus ornatus fishery in Vietnam is pending a full risk assessment.
  • A fishery for seed lobsters (puerulus stage) operates in Vietnam waters, capturing Panulirus ornatus (90%) and homarus (10%).
  • The lobster seed fishery in Vietnam is stable, with annual catch ranging from 3 to 5 million seed, used for domestic lobster farming. These seed are on-grown to market size, generating around 1500 tonnes of lobsters annually.
  • Vietnam also imports lobster seed from other Southeast Asian Countries, particularly Indonesia and the Philippines.