Spiny red rock lobsters are harvested year-round in New Zealand. Important to Maori, commercial and recreational fishers, the status of stocks is closely monitored. Catch limits are the key management control used alongside minimum legal sizes, a prohibition on taking berried (egg-carrying) females and method restrictions.
New technologies have been introduced to the rock lobster fisheries in recent years in the form of BERT and ERNIE, electronic data collection systems which enable commercial fishers to capture fine scale detail as to location of catch, capture sizes, and the mix of male and female lobsters in catches. Supplementary ‘tag, release and recapture’ programmes rely on commercial fishermen to report growth information. Information provided by industry is routinely used in stock assessments.
Christmas and New Year celebrations provide an excuse for splurging on the delicacy. If buying live rock lobsters, seek active individuals from a reputable seafood retailer. Cooked rock lobsters should have their tails tucked firmly up against the underside of their bodies. When you straighten the tail out, it should snap back into place. Take care not to overcook as this will affect both texture and taste. Of course, the hard-won meat contained within the legs are among the sweetest titbits of all.