Catriona has a crustacean craving and has gone in search of the world’s biggest lobster!
Tasmania's north-west coast is a prosperous farming area and popular tourist destination. It has rich, volcanic soil perfect for major agricultural activities. Burnie, the state's fourth-largest city, is on the shores of Emu Bay, a deepwater port, important for cargo shipping.
The Emu Bay Railway linked the port to the rich silver fields of Zeehan and Rosebery in the 1900s. The train still transports ore from the west coast, through wild and impressive country.
Burnie has lovely parks and gardens (rhododendrons thrive there), an animal sanctuary and the Burnie Inn, which was built in 1847. There are waterfalls, Roundhill Lookout and Fern Glade.
Todd (known as the Lobster Man) and Donna Walsh run a wildlife tour with a difference. Tasmania's giant freshwater lobster is the world's largest freshwater invertebrate. They can grow up to a metre long.
Todd and Donna are the only people in the world carrying out a giant freshwater lobster-population monitoring program. Their tours not only let you see the mysterious creature, but give you the added experience of visiting remote areas of Tasmania rarely seen by visitors.
The lobster is a very shy creature, slow growing and with a low reproductive rate. It is estimated they can live beyond 40 years, but steady disturbance of their habitat, along with fishing, has caused a decline in numbers.
The lobster was listed as vulnerable on the Tasmanian Threatened Species Protection Act and Commonwealth Endangered Species Protection Act in 1995. In 1998 it became a protected fish under the Inland Fisheries Act, signalling the immediate end of recreational fishery. The maximum fine for taking lobsters is $10,000. They must not be disturbed, killed, injured, caught, damaged, destroyed or collected, deliberately or accidentally. Hopefully, all of that will see their numbers increase.
Eco-tours start with a walk into the prehistoric north-west Tasmanian forest. There are enormous tree ferns and myrtle giants. Towering canopies of blackwoods, sassafras and eucalypts keep the sun from penetrating the forest, keeping it moist and cool and allowing moss, small ferns and native shrubs to carpet the floor.
Clear, cold tannin-stained creeks cascade over rocks which hide teeming macro-invertebrate life and juvenile lobsters. You will learn about the eco-system, large fish species and small unknowns such as caddis flies and water pennies.
Tours are around two hours and suit all fitness levels and ages, but no one, including Todd, can touch the animals under any circumstances.
If you prefer a more hands-on experience, the population survey would be suitable. You join in by helping catch, tag, measure and release the giant freshwater lobster to its unique habitat. You can walk through the shallows to capture tiny juveniles as they hide from predators. No two surveys are the same. They are a full day's work, sometimes involving walking through difficult terrain.
The surveys are scientific and carried out under strict guidelines from the Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment. Names of acting assistants must be lodged with the department 48 hours prior to the commencement of the survey.