Spiny Lobster Regulations

Spiny Lobster

Spiny Lobster

Panulirus argus

Managed by:

SAFMC, GMFMC


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:

Commercial

Size Limit: Carapace must be greater than 3"

  • If tailing (permit required) tail must be at least 5.5".
    • Divers must measure carapace while in water.

Undersized lobster must be released unharmed immediately without removal from water.

Trip Limit:

  • North Carolina through Georgia: 2 per person per trip
    • Season: year-round

 

  • Florida: Trip limits vary by gear, see below
    • Season: August 6th to March 31st

Permit Requirements:

  • North Carolina through Georgia: federal commercial spiny lobster permit
  • Florida: licenses and certificates required by the state of Florida
    • An Saltwater Products License with a Restricted Species (RS) and Crawfish (C#) or (CD# for commercial dive harvest) or (N# for bully net harvest) endorsement is required to commercially harvest and sell any spiny lobster.
  • Tailing: federal spiny lobster tailing permit required in all South Atlantic and Gulf federal waters.

Spiny lobster commercial harvesters using bully net gear:

  • Trip Limit: 250 per day/vessel for spiny lobsters harvested by bully net in or from all federal waters off Florida,
  • Additional requirements
    • must have a bully net permit from Florida,
    • must mark boats with the harvester’s Florida bully net permit number using reflective paint or other reflective material,
    • are prohibited from having trap pullers onboard,
    • are prohibited from the simultaneous possession of a bully net and any underwater breathing apparatus (not including dive masks or snorkels) onboard a vessel used to harvest or transport spiny lobster for commercial purposes.

Spiny lobster commercial harvest by diving:

  • Trip Limit: 250 per day/vessel for spiny lobsters harvested by diving in or from federal waters only off Broward, Dade, Monroe, Collier, and Lee Counties, Florida.
    • Night divers restricted to 6 lobster bag limit off east Florida.

Spiny lobster commercial harvesters using traps:

  • 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.
    • Commercial spiny lobster traps may be baited and placed in the water beginning on the Saturday immediately following the recreational mini season.
  • A spiny lobster trap may be no larger in dimension than 3 feet by 2 feet by 2 feet or the volume equivalent
  • A degradable panel is required on non-wooden traps. Buoy and trap identification is required. Trap tending at night is prohibited.
  • Fishermen may retain up to 50 Caribbean spiny lobsters less than the minimum size limit and one per trap.
  • A spiny lobster trap may be pulled or tended during daylight hours only, that is, from 1 hour before official sunrise to 1 hour after official sunset.

Regulatory Remarks:

  • A berried (egg-bearing) spiny lobster in or from the EEZ must be returned immediately to the water unharmed.
  • Vessel identification requirements in place for vessels harvesting lobster in South Atlantic federal waters.
  • Allowable gear includes trap, pot, dip net, or square.
    • There is a 5% bycatch limit by weight (1.6% for lobster tails) for incidental harvest by trawls in federal waters off Florida during the spiny lobster season for vessels with the appropriate permit(s).
  • No spears, hooks or piercing devices. Explosive and poisons are prohibited.
  • Fishermen with tailing permits must land spiny lobster all whole or all tailed.

Additional Information:

  • Guide to Spiny Lobster Closed Areas for Commercial Trap Fishing – click here!
  • Area Closures for the Commercial Spiny Lobster Fishery in the Florida Keys to help protect corals – click here!
  • A Fishery Performance Report is available for this species - click here!

Recreational

Size Limit: Carapace must be greater than 3"

  • Divers must measure carapace while in water.
  • Undersized lobster must be released unharmed immediately without removal from water.

Bag Limit:

  • North Carolina through Georgia: 2 per person per trip
    • Season: year-round.

 

  • Florida: Trip limits vary by season, see below.
    • Special Recreational Season: last Wednesday and Thursday of July
      • Monroe County: 6 lobster per person
      • Other than Monroe County: 12 lobster per person
    • Regular Season: August 6th to March 31st
      • 6 lobster per person
  • No transfer at sea between boats.

Cannot combine federal and state bag limits.

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.
  • Removal of tail at sea is prohibited
  • No spears, hooks or piercing devices. Explosive and poisons are prohibited.

Additional Information: 

  • A Fishery Performance Report is available for this species - click here!