The CRA8 industry

The industry began in earnest after the end of World War 2 as a response to an increase in demand for frozen tails from the USA. The fishery at that time was a ‘virgin biomass’ ie: a fishery that was unfished to that point in time.

As a result high catches of very large rock lobsters occurred resulting in annual catches estimated to be in excess of 3,500 tonnes by the early 1950’s. By 1960 catches had reduced and then fluctuated between 1,500 tonnes to 2,600 tonnes annually until 1987 where they dropped further to approximately 800 tonnes.

Deep water lobster fishing gear on deck

During this time vessel numbers had increased to a peak of 340 before dropping to 160 by 1987. It is now clear that high level of effort expended by vessel operators over this time held the annual catch at an unsustainable level until it inevitably dropped.

Catches then fluctuated before being reduced to 567 tonnes in 2002. From that point the fishery rebuilt rapidly to a point where by 2007 it was assessed as being sustainable.

  • In 2020/2021 the Total Allowable Commercial Catch was set at 1191.7 tonnes.
  • There are currently 65 vessels operating in the CRA8 area. About half are manned by a skipper and one crewman and the balance by a skipper and two crewmen.
  • The fishing year runs from 1st April to the 31st March of the following year. Fishing is permitted during all of this time.

Processing and exporting companies

There are five companies that process and export CRA8 lobsters (bullets)

  • CRA8 Fisheries
  • Fiordland Lobster Co Ltd
  • Live Lobster Southland Ltd
  • Ngai Tahu Seafood Processors Ltd
  • Southern Seafoods Ltd


During the 1990s demand from the USA for tails declined. This necessitated the development of new markets which founded the live export of lobsters to Japan and Taiwan.

Today China is the most important market for CRA8 lobsters, with 96% of all lobsters landed in CRA8 sent live to China and a number of other minor markets. A small domestic market accounts for the balance of the landings.