The fishery for the western rock lobster (Panulirus cygnus) in Western Australia is Australia's largest trap-based fishery, deploying 8.8 million pot lifts, landing on average 11,000 tonnes of lobster and using approximately 14,000 tonnes of bait annually. A mass balance model was constructed to determine the potential contribution of this bait to the diet of western rock lobsters. Bait is potentially a significant subsidy given the oligotrophic nature of Western Australia's marine environment. The mass balance model was constructed on the principle that the biomass of the lobster population reflects the difference between inputs (growth, immigration) and outputs (natural and fishing mortality and emigration). Biomass calculated using this approach was within 7% of biomass calculated from independent estimates based on depletion analysis, indicating the model is robust. The food required to explain observed growth was then calculated, allowing the potential contribution of bait to lobster diet to be assessed. The abundance of natural diet items on the benthos was sufficient to explain the observed growth of lobsters, with bait contributing a maximum of 13% of lobster food requirements over the whole ecosystem. This contribution of bait will differ spatially and temporally reflecting uneven distribution of fishing effort and may be as high as 35% during some months of the fishing season, a result consistent with dietary studies based on stable isotopes. Given observed effects of organic matter addition on ecosystem processes as observed in trawl fisheries and aquaculture operations, it is likely that the effects of bait addition on ecosystem function are more widespread than lobster production.