Spiny Lobster

Panulirus ornatus

Common Name(s)

English: Ornate spiny lobster, tropical rock lobster, ornate rock lobster, ornate spiny lobster, ornate tropical rock lobster ; French: Langouste ornée ; Spanish: Langosta ornamentada

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





Kung mangkon

Date of Assessments

July 2020

Peer Reviewer

Dr Yvonne Sadovy, Honorary Professor, The University of Hong Kong

Assessment Organisation

The University of Hong Kong


Spiny lobsters are caught throughout the year, and often grown out in pens for Capture Based Aquaculture.



  • 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 (FAO, 2017).
  • 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.

Traps and pots

Traps and pots made of wood, metal wire or plastic are placed on the seafloor to catch fish, sometimes by using bait. The captured animals are usually still alive in the traps and pots when they are harvested. Traps and post are commonly used to catch lobsters and crabs.


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.

  • Evidence of the catch certificate showing the following:
    • latin species name,
    • country sea area / RFMO area,
    • vessel flag,
    • name of vessel,
    • Unique Vessel Identifier,
    • capture method,
    • landing port
  • Is the fishery in a fishery improvement project?


No Known FIP


  • 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.