Hairy lobster caught off WA coast

SARAH QUINTON

Covered in coarse hair and sporting a pair of crab-like pincers, the first known live specimen of a red reef lobster was caught off the WA coast last week.

Thousands of kilometres from its normal breeding grounds of South Africa, Madagascar, Hawaii and Java the creature was pulled in a rock lobster pot at the Abrolhos Islands about ten days ago and caused a flurry of excitement in WA fishing circles.

For 29-year-old Dongara fishermen Clay Bass it was just another day fishing when he pulled what he described as a cross between a lobster, prawn and scampi in his pot.

"It was about 5.30am and we pulled a pot which had an unusual small lobster in it, at first I thought it was a scampi so I brought it back to a friend's place in Port Denison, who recently studied biology in Queensland and who passed it on to the Department of Fisheries," he said.

"The interesting to part of it was no other sample has been caught in WA before so this is the first live specimen caught in WA."

Mr Clay said the hairy lobster was 12-15cm in length - which is their full length - and unlike WA lobsters it has claws like a crab.

Department of Fisheries senior research scientist for rock lobster Simon de Lestang said the lobster has been identified as a male and could come from a naturally occurring habitat in WA.

"I think they live there, I don't think it's come from anywhere else, they are commonly found in Hawaii because people look for them, but I would say there is a naturally occurring population in our waters," he said.

"It is relatively elusive and that is why we haven't seen it before and because it is nocturnal that reduces its chances of being seen."

The lobster which has not yet been named will be put on display in the Marine Discovery Centre at Hillary's Boat Harbour.