Spiny Lobster Regulations

Spiny Lobster

Spiny Lobster

Panulirus argus

Managed by:


Physical description:

Commonly referred to as the Florida spiny lobster, the Caribbean spiny lobster inhabits tropical and subtropical waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico. Spiny lobsters get their name from the forward-pointing spines that cover their bodies to help protect them from predators. They vary in color from almost white to dark red-orange. Two large, cream-colored spots on the top of the second segment of the tail make spiny lobsters easy to identify. They have long antennae over their eyes that they wave to scare off predators and smaller antennae-like structures called antennules that sense movement and detect chemicals in the water. (Excerpt taken from: http://myfwc.com/research/saltwater/crustaceans/lobster/facts/)

Biological description:

Adult spiny lobsters make their homes in the protected crevices and caverns of coral reefs, sponge flats, and other hard-bottomed areas. The lobsters spawn from March through August and female lobsters carry the bright orange eggs on their undersides until they turn brown and hatch. Larvae can be carried for thousands of miles by currents until they settle in shallow nearshore areas among seagrass and algae beds. They feed on small snails and crabs. The lobsters are solitary until they reach the juvenile stage, when they begin to congregate around protective habitat in nearshore areas. As they begin to mature, spiny lobsters migrate from the nursery areas to offshore reefs.

Lobsters stay in their dens during daylight hours to avoid predators, emerging a couple of hours after dark to forage for food. While lobsters will eat almost anything, their favorite diet consists mostly of snails, clams, crabs, and urchins. The lobsters return to the safety of their dens several hours before sunrise. (Excerpt taken from: http://myfwc.com/research/saltwater/crustaceans/lobster/facts/)

South Atlantic Federal Regulations

Click Here for Upcoming Regulatory Changes (effective August 30, 2019) Regarding Bully Netting and Commercial Possession Limits off Florida


  • FL Atlantic coast: OPEN
  • NC, SC, and GA: OPEN
  • Size Limit: Carapace must be more than 3", tail must be at least 5.5" with tailing permit. Divers must measure carapace while in water. Undersized lobster must be released unharmed immediately without removal from water.
  • Trip Limit:
    • A trap certificate program has been adopted in federal waters off Florida. Contact Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for information at 850-487-0554.
    • In federal waters off NC, SC, and GA, harvesting is allowed year round with a daily bag or possession limit of 2 per person per trip.
  • Season: FL Atlantic coast: Closed annually April 1 - August 5
  • Regulatory Remarks:
    • A berried (egg-bearing) spiny lobster in or from the EEZ must be returned immediately to the water unharmed.
    • Permit and vessel ID required.
    • Season closed April 1 through August 5 off east Florida.
    • Night divers restricted to 6 lobster bag limit off east Florida.
    • Allowable gear includes trap, pot, dip net, or square. There is a 5% bycatch limit by weight for incidental harvest by trawls in the EEZ.
    • No spear, hooks or piercing divices. Explosive and poisons are prohibited.
    • A degradable panel is required on non-wooden traps. Buoy and trap identification is required. Trap tending at night is prohibited.
    • Commercial spiny lobster traps may be baited and placed in the water beginning on the Saturday immediately following the recreational mini season off the Atlantic Coast of Florida.
    • Fishermen with tailing permits must land spiny lobster all whole or all tailed.
    • Fishermen may retain up to 50 Caribbean spiny lobsters less than the minimum size limit and one per trap.
  • Additional Updates:


  • FL Atlantic coast: OPEN
  • GA-NC Season: OPEN
  • FL (Atlantic) Season: Closure from April 1 - August 5
  • Two Day Recreational Sport Season In Florida: July 24 & 25, 2019
  • Size Limit: Must have carapace size of 3". Divers must measure carapace while in water.
  • Bag Limit:
    • Limit is 6 per person off Florida. No transfer at sea between boats. Cannot combine EEZ and state bag limits.
    • Limit is 2 per person per trip off NC, SC, and GA.
  • Regulatory Remarks:
    • A berried (egg-bearing) spiny lobster in or from the EEZ must be returned immediately to the water unharmed.
    • Recreational harvest of spiny lobster using traps is prohibited in the federal waters of the South Atlantic.
    • Undersized lobster must be released unharmed immediately without removal from water.
    • Season closed in Florida from April 1 to August 5. Special season off Florida is last Wednesday and successive Thursday in July.
    • Removal of tail at sea is prohibited without permit.
    • No taking of berried spiny or berried slipper lobsters
    • No spears, hooks, or piercing devices.
    • Explosives prohibited.
  • Additional Updates: A Fishery performance report is available for this species - click here!