Spiny lobster aquaculture development in Indonesia, Vietnam and Australia

Posted date: 05/31/2018
(VSA - 31/05/2018) Spiny lobsters are important species for seaculture in South East Asia. In recent years, the Project SMAR/2008/021 on lobster aquaculture has been conducted inIndonesia andVietnam, under leadership of Dr Clive Jones of James Cook University. Following isa summary based on the Project report.

Overview Objectives

There is a strong global demand for tropical lobsters, primarily driven by Chinese markets, which has pushed up the price and made lobster farming an attractive aquaculture industry. Indonesia is in a strong position to establish a clean and sustainable lobster farming industry based on capture of wild lobster seed and grow-out in sea cages. Existing technology can be adapted from a successful village- based industry in Vietnam, which produced an estimated 2,000 tons of cultured lobster in 2007­08, worth AU$ 100 million. Lobster farming is a particularly attractive opportunity for Indonesia because it involves simple technology, minimal capital and is ideally suited to village based enterprises. It has the potential to provide significant benefits to the economic and social fabric of impoverished communities throughout Indonesia. Also, existing export market chain infrastructure exits through ports in Bali, Surabaya and Medan for wild captured lobsters, which can also be used for farmed lobsters. This project will adapt lobster farming technologies developed in Vietnam and apply them in Indonesia to establish a village-based industry. This will include modification of technologies and/or definition of regulatory frameworks to ensure problems that the Vietnam industry now faces, are avoided in Indonesia.

Progress Reports

The project was initiated on 1st January 2010 after a delay due to documentation issues in Indonesia. Clive Jones travelled to Indonesia and Vietnam in January and again to Indonesia in April/May to coordinate project activities and ensure all components were activated. Although progress has been slower than anticipated all components of the project have now been started and are meeting the milestone schedule.

The projects first priority in Indonesia is to assess puerulus resources in NTB, NTT, Sulsel and Aceh. A supply of lobster seed must be confirmed in areas other than Lombok, before other project activities will follow. To that end, the standardized puerulus assessment tool, the tripod collector, will be deployed in numerous locations, each site having 4 replicate tripods for robust data. These are in place in Lombok, and have now been deployed at two sites in West Timor, near Tablolong. In South Sulawesi and Sumbawa, sites are yet to be determined. Three locations at Pulau Simeulue in Aceh have been identified and deployment will occur shortly.

Project leader Clive Jones attended inception workshop for FIS/2007/124 which is linked to the lobster project. The linkage provides opportunity to extend the puerulus assessment activities to Aceh province, which would otherwise not fit to the scope of the SMAR program. Workshop provided clear understanding of the diversification project. Subsequently, that project's leader Mike Rimmer accompanied Clive Jones and Bayu Priyambodo to Simeulue Island in Aceh to establish lobster project activities there.

The first demonstration grow-out farm (demplot) has been established at the village of Awang in Lombok, and will be fully operational bymidJune,including use of pellet feeding. This provides a test for the design and BMP to ensure readiness for other sites where puerulus availability is confirmed.

The experiment program at BBLL has been started with two lobster nursery experiments underway, the first examining density and the second assessing use of pellet food as an alternative to fresh flesh. These experiments are being co-managed by BBLL staff and UNRAM students as described above.

In Vietnam the experimental cage facility for the environmental assessment study by Institute of Oceanography has been built and trial should begin later in May. Supply of Lucky Star lobster feed has been negotiated and importation arrangements finalised.

The assessment of pond-based grow-out of lobsters by Nha Trang University has been identified as under budgeted, due to higher than anticipated cost of seed and pellet feed, In response the scale of experiments has been adjusted to meet budget available, and two trials will be initiated by June, the first a replicated experiment examining density and a free-range grow-out trial.

An information audit of lobster disease in Vietnam was completed in September 2009 and a report generated. MARD organized a workshop in December 2009 to discuss the lobster disease issue and formulate a coordinated response. It was not possible at the time to have Australian ACIAR personnel attend that workshop. Nevertheless, given the coordinated approach to lobster disease from within Vietnam it was deemed unnecessary to hold a second ACIAR sponsored workshop as per this projects objective. We recommend that the lobster disease situation be monitored with a view to future ACIAR response.

In Australia the field program at Pacific Reef Fisheries has been initiated with preliminary assessment of raceway system using juveniles lobsters. The first full replicated experiment will examine shelter and will begin in late May using sub­adult lobsters.

For the scoping study for indigenous lobster aquaculture development, Jaragun Pty Ltd have been engaged, and attempts were made to leverage ACIAR funds to broaden the study. These were unsuccessful and consequently the scope of the assessment was reduced to five communities close to Cairns. Subsequent discussion of the terms of reference for the assessment indicated that proximity to Cairns and particularly to the necessary support from research personnel would be the most significant factor. It was decided therefore to focus the scoping study to Yarrabah where several potential sites for lobster grow-out are available. These sites are to be assessed in June. The subsequent phase for a lobster pilot grow-out will be a business planning exercise which is not yet funded. Additional ACIAR funds will be necessary to implement this phase, with a view to use ACIAR funds to leverage additional funds from other stakeholders including the Indigenous units within DAF and DEEWR.

A variation should be considered in the near term for this project to enable:

more effective engagement, training and capacity building in Indonesia, particularly at BBLL Lombokexpansion of the assessment of pond-based lobster production in Vietnamprogress to phase 2 of the Australian Indigenous lobster pilot grow-out.

The project was initiated on 1st January 2010, and this report represents progress for the first full year of operation. The project is making good progress against all objectives and all milestones are being met.

An annual project meeting was held in Lombok Indonesia on 25th of January 2011 including participation of project team members from Vietnam, Indonesia and Australia. This provided an opportunity to review the past year's progress, discuss issues and plan the activities for 2011. Much of the information reported here has been compiled by the project collaborators based on that presented at the workshop.

Attendant to the project meeting, an industry development workshop was held in Lombok on January 26, 2011 to communicate project objectives and results to industry and prospective lobster farmers. This workshop will be an annual event in Indonesia, supported by the project, with a view to its running being progressively taken on by industry. DGA were well represented at the workshop and have committed to supporting it in future.

Dr. Le Lan Huong (Institute of Oceanography, Vietnam), Dr. Le Anh Tuan (Nha Trang University, Vietnam), Bayu Priyambodo (BBLL, Indonesia) and Dr. Clive Jones (project leader) will all attend the Ninth International Conference and Workshop on Lobster Biology and Management (ICWL9) in Bergen, Norway from June 19-24. Five papers from project work have been accepted for presentation.

A project variation was approved to improve the experimental program and facilitate increased capacity building / training at Balai Budidaya Laut Lombok (BBLL), the Marine Aquaculture Development Centre in Lombok. Additional funds will enable Australian project staff to travel to Lombok more frequently and for longer duration to assist in experiments and undertake the training. The variation also supports a continuation and expansion of the Indigenous lobster project at Yarrabah in north Queensland.

The project was initiated on 1st January 2010, and this report represents progress for the second full year of operation. The project is making good progress against all objectives and all milestones are being met.

An annual project meeting was held in NhaTrang, Vietnam on April 11, 2012 including participation of project team members from Vietnam, Indonesia and Australia. This provided an opportunity to review the past years progress, discuss issues and plan the activities for 2012 and through to project completion due 28 February 2013. Much of the information reported here has been compiled by the project collaborators based on that presented at the meeting.

In addition to the project meeting, an industry development workshop was held in Lombok on 24 April 2012 to communicate project results and provide practical information to industry and prospective lobster farmers. This workshop was first held in January 2011 as a project initiative, and will likely now be an annual event in Indonesia, supported by the Directorate General Aquaculture (DGA).

In April 2012 the project was subject to a mid­term review, which was primarily informed by the two meetings specified above and which the review team attended. The review report provides a further detailed summary of the project and its progress to supplement this annual report.

A project variation approved in 2011 has enabled significant improvements to the experiment program and facilitated increased capacity building/training at Balai Budidaya Laut Lombok (BBLL), the Marine Aquaculture Development Centre in Lombok. The variation also enabled completion of a Business Case for the Indigenous lobster project at Yarrabah.

The project was initiated on 1st January 2010, and this report represents progress for the third full year of operation. The project is making good progress against all objectives and all milestones are being met.

The most significant issue in the past 12 months has been the transfer of the projects'commissioned agency' from Queensland Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) to James Cook University (JCU). This was necessary after DAFF closed the tropical rock lobster aquaculture program as part of the Queensland Government Public Service cuts announced in September 2012. Both DAFF and JCU were supportive of the transfer and it has been administered successfully. The project leader Dr Clive Jones has also transferred to JCU, and the process has had minimal disruption to the projects performance.

The projects mid-term review reported in June 2012, recommending a 12 month extension (Variation #2) to the projects end date to 28 February 2014 to enable four new activities to be performed: i) hold an international lobster aquaculture symposium in Indonesia, ii) conduct a study tour by Indonesian farmers to Vietnam, iii) publication of a lobster aquaculture production manual in Bahasa Indonesian, Vietnamese and English and iv) preparation of a new lobster aquaculture project to begin in 2014. Given the addition of new activities and reduction in budget available, several existing activities were scaled back or ceased. The variation was approved.

A subsequent variation (Variation #3) was submitted to facilitate the novation of the project from DAFF to JCU and to enable an extension of end date to 30 June 2014, including salary support. This third variation has now been approved and will enable the planned symposium to be held in April (as preferred by Indonesian collaborators) and for project continuity to a proposed new project to begin on 1 July 2014, as recommended by the mid-term review.

The project was initiated on 1st January 2010, and this report presents progress for the fifth and final full year of operation. Based on a third project variation, the project will end on 30 June 2014. The project has made good progress against all objectives and all milestones have been met.

Activities enabled through Variation #2 have been conducted, although progress on the third specified activity, the publication of a lobster aquaculture production manual in Bahasa Indonesian, Vietnamese and English, is on-going, and will not be completed by the project end date. It is proposed that the project leader will continue to work on the manual to achieve publication later in 2014.

The extension to project end date to 30 June 2014 (variation 3) also enabled the planned lobster aquaculture symposium to be held in April 2014 as preferred by Indonesian collaborators. The symposium was held from April 22-25 in Lombok with great success.

An SRA (FIS/20014/019) was approved in February 2014 to provide continuity to core project activities from SMAR/2008/021 through to 30 June 2015, after which it is proposed that a new large project focused on the further development and expansion of lobster aquaculture in Indonesia will begin.


In Lombok, lobster farming continues to evolve, with the most significant development being in the catch of lobster seed which has more than quadrupled in the past 12 months. This increase can be attributed in large part to the study tour of Indonesian lobster farmers to Vietnam conducted in March 2013, which resulted in improved fishing techniques, increased catch rate and concomitant expansion of the sector. While this should provide great opportunity for expansion of lobster grow-out in Indonesia, a negative development has been an increasing export of seed to other south-east Asian countries and reduction in grow-out farming.

The Lombok small-holders involved in the lobster farming industry are particularly poor and highly risk averse. The prospect of making a good income with no risk and minimal outlay of capital from lobster seed fishing and immediate sale to dealers is too strong to compete with that of holding the seed for grow-out. Income from sale of seed has increased in the past 12 months based on improving price which has risen from around $A0.20 per piece in early 2013 to over $A1.50 per piece in May 2014, coupled with increased catch rate per unit effort.

The factors driving seed price up are not entirely clear, but they appear to be associated with a significant increase in demand from lobster farmers in other countries, particularly Vietnam, but also China, Philippines and Malaysia. The price of seed in Vietnam has been consistently much higher than that of Indonesia, reflecting the more established basis of the lobster farming industry there and generally higher profitability.

A wholesale sector has established in Lombok comprising 'dealers' or 'middlemen' who buy off multiple fishers and then on-sell the seed to farmers elsewhere, coordinating the packaging and freight of the seed via international flights. Lobster seed are around 0.012 grams each, so a large quantity can be packed in a small volume (eg. 1,000 pieces in 5L) of cooled sea-water and air-freighted over considerable distances for relatively little cost and by all accounts with high survival.

The reduction in lobster grow out is in part due to farmers exiting grow-out in favor of just fishing for seed, or for those outside the fishing areas, due to the high price of the seed which they can no longer afford. Clearly, those buying the Lombok lobster seed are doing so to grow them to market size, and are prepared to pay the price including freight costs to do so. The challenge then is to demonstrate to Lombok farmers that there is a greater financial benefit in keeping the seed and growing them out.

Seed assessment activities have continued in Southern Sulawesi and Aceh over the past 12 months and in both cases exploitable seed resources appear to be available, although at this stage not of the magnitude of that in Lombok. Lobster seed fishers / farmers from both locations were part of the study tour to Vietnam, and their improved knowledge and enthusiasm is driving local developments. It appears likely that lobster farming will establish in both locations.

A field-based trial to manufacture lobster pellet feed on farm was performed in August 2013 with Pak Werry who operates a lobster farm in the village of Telong Elong. The trial was successful, with a high quality lobster feed being produced with local ingredients and equipment at the farm. Information and training on the formulation, methodology and feeding strategy were communicated at the village level. The successful use of pellet feeds at this farm has great potential to increase the uptake of pellet feeds in Lombok and the elsewhere in Indonesia. Feedback from the farm over subsequent months suggests the pellets are not being consumed as readily as is required for adequate nutrition, although parallel assessment of the same pellets with lobsters in tanks indicated good consumption. It would appear that the pellet attractiveness is sub-optimal in a sea-cage setting, and further adjustment of the formulation will be required.

Milky disease continues to be a problem in Indonesia causing losses in both nursery and grow- out phases. Some application of antibiotic to treat diseased stock, with positive outcomes, however, the longer term management of disease must focus on prevention.


Lobster farming in Vietnam is well established with stability in productivity, production and seed catch. The projects aim in Vietnam is to provide sustainability in regard to seed catch and grow-out, and the most effective means of doing so is through improved survival from catch of seed through nursery and grow-out to market. It is unlikely that more seed will be caught, as the geographic extent of the catching zone and the methods applied appear to be fully developed.

The project and its predecessor have supported an annual seed census over 8 consecutive seasons. However, project budget was not available to support the census for the past 3 seasons, since 2011/12. Data accumulated to date are comprehensive and may form the basis for some management framework, however, continued collection of census data is crucial to achieve this. This need for long-term monitoring has been communicated to the Institute of Oceanography who have administered the seed census since its inception, with suggestion that the Ministry responsible (VAST) provide the necessary budget. There is no indication that IO or VAST will respond to this suggestion.

Anecdotal evidence for seed catch over the 2013/14 season suggests it was a good season with catch exceeding 2 million pieces. Price per individual puerulus has continued to trend up, and particularly for the secondary species Panulirus homarus which is increasingly used as a viable substitute for preferred P. ornatus. Price for P ornatus seed was around $15 and for P homarus $5 each for the 2013/14 season.

A workshop was held at Institute of Oceanography on 11 November 2013 to present all results of the project research activities conducted by IO collaborators through the life of the project. Nine papers were presented on discrete parts of research conducted, arising from the annual seed census and two field experiments; (i) Evaluation of production and environmental effects of pelleted diets in sea-cage aquaculture of tropical lobster Panulirus homarus, and (ii) Assessment of pellet shape and size on aquaculture production of tropical lobster Panulirus homarus. Four of these papers were subsequently presented at the International Lobster Aquaculture Symposium in April 2014.

The primary constraints evident if the Vietnam lobster aquaculture industry are:     (i) milky haemolymph disease, (ii) mortality of seed through the nursery phase, (iii) negative impacts of trash-fish feeding practices and (iv)limitations on availability of sites for expansion of sea-cage farming. The first three of these will all be countered by uptake of pelleted diets and the last by establishment of land-based tank production of lobsters, both of which are proposed priorities for the new lobster project.

A field experiment was conducted with project support by JAF Candidate Dr Do Huu Hoang from Institute of Oceanography as part of a Post-JAF Project. The experiment examined effects of dietary mannan oligosaccharide (MOS) supplementation on production and health of Panulirushomarus juveniles. The research was written up and has been accepted (9/5/2014) for publication by 'Aquaculture'.


In Australia the project was tasked with assessing land-based production of lobsters and exploring opportunity of developing lobster farming in Indigenous communities.

These activities were completed in 2013 and since the transfer of the project to JCU no further specific research activities have been conducted in Australia. Discussions with various stakeholders have however continued, to explore the opportunity for Indigenous lobster aquaculture and for viable lobster grow-out in Australia.

For indigenous lobster aquaculture the preferred proposal is for sea-cage based grow-out production using legal-size but sub-premium lobsters, which can be on-grown to optimum market size. Constraints on achieving this include identification of sites where sea-cages will be permitted, and effective training of the indigenous participants.

The development of lobster aquaculture involving full grow-out frompuerulus to market size in Australia will necessarily involve intensive tank systems, whose productivity may compensate the high labor, capital and compliance costs. Research and development of such intensive systems is a priority for the future research project.

Additional Activities

As part of Variation # 3, an International Lobster Aquaculture Symposium was held in Lombok from April 22 to 25, to report on the findings and outcomes of the project since inception, and to plan for future industry development and ACIAR support.

Lobster Aquaculture Symposium

An international lobster aquaculture symposium was held in Lombok from April 22 to 25, 2014 at the Santosa Resort. Two days of oral papers were delivered, then a field trip was to conducted to the lobster farming village of Awang, followed by an industry development workshop on the final day. Thirty-one oral papers were delivered representing all research conducted through the life of the project, and perspectives on industry development constraints and opportunities. There were 91 registered participants representing Indonesia, Vietnam, Australia, New Caledonia and USA, including the current and 2 past Directors General Aquaculture. A Proceedings as an ACIAR monograph with summaries of all papers was published.

Production manual

The preparation of a practical lobster farming production manual, aimed at farmers, is well advanced, although in an early draft form only. Existing extension materials generated by project associates in Vietnam and Indonesia were used as a foundation and they are being revised and expanded. The transfer of the projects from Queensland DAFF to JCU impacted significantly on the manuals preparation, and it is now proposed to have the manual completed by late April 2014.

Acknowledgement: The information has come from Dr Clive Jones of James Cook University from research supported by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).


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