A recent haul by a Spanish fishing vessel docking in Durban, South Africa contained a number of lobsters of unknown species. Fishing in the Walters Shoals area, a high seas submerged seamount 700km off the southern tip of Madagascar, the fishermen were worried they had caught an illegal species and would not be permitted to land them. When port authorities were unable to identify the lobster, 40 individuals were donated to the University of Stellenbosch for genetic analysis, identified as a member of the well known and well fished genus Palinurus, and subsequently named Palinurus barbarae after the late wife of one of the chief scientists. It is only the fourth new lobster species to be discovered worldwide in the past 12 years.
The individuals recorded weighed up to 4 kgs and are estimated to be between 30 and 50 years old hence their large size, their isolated location preventing their discovery in previous years. The worry now is that the discovery of such large sized and palatable lobsters which will fetch large market prices will encourage fishermen to actively focus on lobster in this area. Global lobster populations are showing signs of over exploitation with biomass per individual lobster caught gradually decreasing as large size is selected against. As so little is known about this pristine population, it is unknown whether it will be able to survive the impacts of such fishing demand, and it is hugely important that fishing is monitored to prevent the rapid extinction of such a newly discovered species.
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