Spiny Lobster Management Plans
The Fishery Management Plan for Spiny Lobster in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic (FMP) was implemented July 2, 1982 (47 FR 29203).
The FMP largely extended Florida's rules regulating the fishery to the EEZ throughout the range of the fishery, i.e. North Carolina to Texas. The management measures included: specifying minimum size limit and closed season, requiring degradable panels, prohibiting use of spears or hooks, limited attractant to 200 per vessel, required attractants to be held in shaded box, required trap number and color code be displayed, created special recreational 2-day season before commercial season, prohibited possession of egg-bearing lobster, and required reporting of landings.
Amendment 1 was implemented on July 15, 1987 (52 FR 22659) with certain rules deferred and implemented on May 16, 1988 (53 FR 17196) and on July 30, 1990 (55 FR 26448). This amendment updated the FMP rules to be more compatible with that of Florida (State). The management measures included: limiting attractants to 100 per vessel, requiring live wells, requiring a commercial vessel permit, provided for a recreational permit, limited recreational possession to 6 lobsters, modified the special 2-day recreational season before commercial season, modified the duration of the closed commercial season, provided a 10-day trap retrieval period, prohibited possession of egg-bearing spiny lobster, specified the minimum size limit for tails, provided for a tail separation permit, and prohibited possession of egg-bearing slipper lobster.
Amendment 2 was approved on October 27, 1989 (54 FR 48059) and provided a regulatory amendment procedure for instituting future compatible State and federal rules without amending the FMP.
Amendment 3 was implemented on March 25, 1991 (56 FR 12357) and contained provisions for adding a scientifically measurable definition of overfishing, an action plan to prevent overfishing, should it occur, as required by the Magnuson Act National Standards (50 CFR Part 602), and the requirement for collection of fees for the administrative cost of issuing permits. The FMP, as amended, provides for management of the fishery throughout its range from North Carolina through Texas. However, the commercial fishery and, to a very large extent, the recreational fishery, occur off South Florida and principally off Monroe County in the Florida Keys (96 percent of landings in 1984).
Amendment 4 allows harvest year-round for any person who is limited to a daily bag and possession limit of 2 lobsters per person in the EEZ off North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.
The regulatory amendment addressed: (1) extension of the Florida spiny lobster trap certificate system for reducing the number of traps in the commercial fishery to the EEZ off Florida; (2) revision of the FMP commercial permitting requirements; (3) limitation of the number of live undersize lobster used as attractants for baiting traps; (4) specification of gear allowed for commercial fishing in the EEZ off Florida; (5) specification of the possession limit of spiny lobsters by persons diving at night; (6) requirement of lobsters harvested by divers be measured without removing from the water; and (7) specification of uniform trap and buoy numbers for the EEZ off Florida. All of these changes were implemented through the framework procedure of the FMP as established by Amendment 2.
This regulatory amendment addressed: (1) a change in the days for the special recreational season in the EEZ off Florida; (2) a prohibition on night-time harvest off Monroe County, Florida, during that season; (3) specifies allowable gear during that season; and (4) provides for different bag limits during that season off the Florida Keys and the EEZ off other areas of Florida.
Spiny Lobster Amendment 5 & 6
Amendments 5 and 6 were the SAFMC's Generic Amendments for Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) and Sustainable Fisheries Act, respectively. For information contact the SAFMC.
Amendment 7 was the Council's Generic Amendment addressing the establishment of the Tortugas Marine Reserves.
Amendment 8 restricts imports of spiny lobster into the U.S. to minimum conservation standards in an effort to achieve an increase in the spawning biomass of the stock and increase long-term yields from the fishery.
Amendment 9 (South Atlantic Council)
Provided spatial information for EFH and EFH-Habitat Areas of Particular Concern designations for species in the Spiny Lobster FMP.
Establishes annual catch limits and accountability measures for Caribbean spiny lobster; removes other species from the fishery management unit (smoothtail spiny lobster, spotted spiny lobster, Spanish slipper lobster, ridged slipper lobster); defines maximum sustainable yield; sets annual catch limits and accountability measures; considers sector allocations; updates the protocol for enhanced cooperative management; modifies the regulations regarding the use of undersized lobster as bait as well as tailing permit requirements; and addresses the removal of abandoned traps in Florida waters.
The Endangered Species Act requires that fishing activities authorized by NOAA Fisheries Service do as little harm as possible to threatened or endangered species. A recent Biological Opinion of the Spiny Lobster fishery concluded that spiny lobster trap fishing activities put sea turtles, smalltooth sawfish, and staghorn and elkhorn corals at risk. The Biological Opinion specified ways to minimize the impact of the spiny lobster trap fishery on these protected species and set requirements for the terms and conditions under which action must be taken.
This amendment was approved during the February 2012 Council meeting and creates new closed areas to reduce the impacts of lobster traps on protected coral species. Implementation is pending.