Tag Archives: lobster

Recreational Spiny Lobster Season to Open Oct. 3

Thousands of lobster fishermen are eagerly awaiting the start of the sport season for California’s spiny lobster, which opens Saturday, Oct. 3 and continues through March 16, 2016.

There is currently a strong El Niño event occurring in the eastern Pacific, with above-average water temperatures expected to continue into the months ahead in Southern California.

“Lobster catches have historically been considerable during El Niño events, so it’s looking to be a plentiful season,” said Travis Buck, a marine environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).

The California spiny lobster is common from Point Conception, California to Magdalena Bay on the west coast of Baja California, Mexico. A typical legal-size lobster will average over one pound in weight. Recreational divers and hoop netters will occasionally find lobsters over five pounds (considered trophy size) in California waters.

Regulations governing the sport take of spiny lobster have helped to preserve the tradition of lobster diving and hoop netting in Southern California. The 2015-16 spiny lobster season regulations include:

  • All persons age 16 or older who are taking or attempting to take lobster must possess a valid sport fishing license, ocean enhancement stamp and a lobster report card in order to take lobster south of Point Arguello. Children who are under 16 and fishing for lobster do not need a license, but must possess a lobster report card.
  • The daily bag and possession limit is seven lobsters.
  • Spiny lobster taken must measure at least 3 1/4 inches in length, and are measured in a straight line on the mid-line of the back from the rear edge of the eye socket to the rear edge of the body shell (carapace).
  • Any lobster may be brought to the surface for the purpose of measuring, but undersized lobsters may not be held in a game bag or brought aboard a boat and must be immediately released.
  • Harvesters may use hoop nets or bare (gloved) hands when skin or scuba diving for lobster. No appliance (such as fish spears or poles) may be used to assist.
  • No more than five hoop nets may be possessed by a person when taking spiny lobster or crab (or two hoop nets on piers, jetties and other shore-based structures). No more than 10 hoop nets may be possessed aboard a vessel, regardless of how many fishermen or persons are onboard.

Spiny lobster are nocturnal scavengers that feed on fishes, sea urchins and a variety of other marine life. During the day, they shelter in caves and crevices. Rocky reefs and other hard-bottom substrates are their preferred habitat, but they may also favor manmade habitats such as jetties, piers, breakwaters and artificial reefs. Surfgrass and eelgrass beds can also be productive lobster hunting grounds. At night, when they are out foraging, lobsters can sometimes be found on exposed sand or mud bottoms.

For hoopnetters, CDFW marine biologists suggest using an oily or aromatic bait to dispense a scent trail that nearby lobsters will follow back to the net. Squid, Pacific mackerel, bonito, anchovies and sardines may serve as good bait. A wire mesh bait container will help prevent the loss of bait to fish or other large predators such as seals and sea lions.

Because lobsters are strong and have hair-trigger responses when they sense predators, the best strategy for divers is usually to pin the lobster to the bottom instead of grabbing legs or antennae which could be ripped off, particularly since the lobster will have to be released if it undersized. Although lobsters can regenerate lost limbs, research has found that these lobsters ultimately produce fewer offspring because of the energy requirements for limb regeneration.

Prior to beginning fishing activity, the date, location and gear code must be recorded on the lobster report card. When finished fishing or changing locations or gear types, persons taking or attempting to take lobster must immediately record the number of lobster taken from that location, even if no lobster were retained. Lobster report cards must be returned to CDFW by April 30 following the end of the fishing season, regardless of whether the card was used or any lobster were caught. Persons who fill up a report card can turn in their card and purchase another.

Lobster report card data is very important for CDFW’s marine biologists to manage California’s lobster fishery. More than 19,000 report cards were received by the April 30 deadline last year. Pursuant to the California Code of Regulations, a $20 non-return fee will be levied for unreturned report cards or those that are returned after the deadline. Anglers may sit out one lobster season in lieu of paying the fee. CDFW reminds lobster report card holders to report every card — including cards that were lost — to avoid the fee, and also recommends reporting online and saving your confirmation number.

The complete set of spiny lobster regulations are contained in the 2015-16 Ocean Sport Fishing regulations booklet, found on CDFW’s website and wherever fishing licenses are sold. More information specific to California’s spiny lobster can also be found on the website.

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Media Contacts:
Travis Buck, CDFW Marine Region, (858) 467-4214
Tom Mason, CDFW Marine Region, (562) 342-7107
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988

2013-2014 Full Season Spiny Lobster Report Cards Due by April 30, 2014

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) reminds 2013-2014 Full Season Spiny Lobster Report Card holders to return their cards by April 30, 2014 as required by law. Cardholders should review their cards carefully and check that the information recorded is complete and accurate. Information collected from the cards provides CDFW with data necessary to monitor and manage California’s spiny lobster fishery.

One orange spiny lobster on a sand and rock seabed
California’s spiny lobster. CDFW photo

Please Note: Any 2013-2014 Full Season Spiny Lobster Report Card holder who fails to return their card by April 30, 2014 will be charged a non-return fee of $20 upon issuance of a Spiny Lobster Report Card in the subsequent fishing season, or they may choose to skip one fishing season to be able to purchase a lobster card the following season at no extra cost.

Past lobster report card return rates have been too low to accurately estimate catch for the fishery but the Automated License Data System (ALDS) has greatly increased CDFW’s ability to remind card purchasers of the need to return report cards. ALDS was used to mail reminder notices to all cardholders last year to return their report cards through the mail or submit their harvest data online. If you receive a reminder notice but have already submitted your card or reported online, CDFW thanks you!

The cards need to be returned even if no lobsters were taken or no attempts were made to take lobsters. Spiny Lobster Report Card data can be submitted online at www.dfg.ca.gov/licensing/harvestreporting. Report cards also can be submitted by mail to:

CDFW – Lobster Report Card
3883 Ruffin Rd.
San Diego, CA 92123

Additional information and a list of frequently asked questions about this program can be found on CDFW’s Ocean Sport Fishing webpage, w

ww.dfg.ca.gov/marine/invertebrate/lobster.asp.

Media Contacts:
Kai Lampson, CDFW Marine Region, (805) 965-7216
Travis Buck, CDFW Marine Region, (858) 467-4214
Carrie Wilson, CDFW Communications, (831) 649-7191

California Spiny Lobster Season Opens Sept. 28 with Improved Lobster Report Card System

Spiny LobstersMedia Contacts:
Kai Lampson, CDFW Marine Region, (805) 965-7216
Travis Buck, CDFW Marine Region, (858) 467-4214
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988

Fishing for California’s spiny lobster is one of the most highly anticipated angling activities of the year. Beginning Saturday, Sept. 28, hundreds of divers and fishermen equipped with lobster hoop nets will descend upon the ocean waters of Southern California in pursuit of this tasty crustacean. Lobsters may be taken only by hand or hoop nets.

Everyone diving or fishing for lobsters must have a valid California fishing license, a spiny lobster report card and must carry a measuring gauge to ensure their lobsters are of legal size. Daily bag and possession limits are seven lobsters per person and each lobster must measure a minimum of three and one-fourth inches measured in a straight line on the mid-line of the back. For a diagram and instructions, please see page 101 in the 2013-2014 Ocean Fishing Sport Fishing Regulations, available online at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/regulations.asp or wherever licenses are sold.

New this year, recreational lobster fishermen may purchase a spiny lobster report card that will run the entire fishing season, from Sept. 28, 2013 through March 19, 2014. Lobster report cards must be returned to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) by April 30, 2014, following the closure of the lobster fishing season on March 20. Fishermen may record report cards online at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/licensing/ols anytime between the end of the lobster season until the April 30 deadline, or return report cards by mail as has been done in the past.

CDFW staff anticipates a higher return rate with the new seasonal program. Last year, just 32 percent of the 37,000 lobster report cards purchased were returned.

“We depend on the recreational lobster fishermen to provide CDFW with data to help us better manage the fishery,” said Senior Marine Biologist Kristine Barsky. “Low return rates result in increased costs for CDFW, such as conducting additional data collection to fill data gaps, managing without adequate data, increasing outreach efforts to remind anglers to return report cards, and enforcement.”

Report card holders who fail to return their 2013-2014 seasonal lobster report card by the April 30, 2014 deadline will be assessed a $20 non-return fee when they purchase a 2014-2015 lobster report card. The non-return fee can be avoided by returning lobster report cards by the deadline, or by sitting out the entire next fishing season.

“The lobster report card is the primary means of collecting data from the recreational lobster fishery,” Barsky said. “The number of report cards being purchased suggests a sizeable population of people targeting lobster in Southern California. Data collected from report cards allows CDFW to detect changes in the fishery, whether it’s a trend in harvest success or a change in gear type. This information is vital for managing California’s lobster resource.”

Fishermen who have already purchased a 2013 calendar year lobster report card can rest assured that the card is still valid through Dec. 31, 2013, and due back to CDFW by Jan. 31, 2014. If 2013 calendar year cardholders wish to continue fishing for lobster from Jan. 1 through March 19, 2014, they will need to purchase the new seasonal lobster report card. CDFW notified all 2012 and 2013 lobster report cardholders by mail with a letter and new brochure detailing the changes affecting the lobster report card. The brochure includes new protocols for reporting a lost card in order to avoid the non-return fee.

For more information about the Spiny Lobster Fishery Management planning process currently underway, or to download a copy of the new lobster report card brochure, please visit http://www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/lobsterfmp.

DFG Wardens Cite Lobster Stealing Suspect

Department of Fish and Game (DFG) wardens cited a man for allegedly taking lobsters from others’ traps and returned the lobsters, including undersized lobsters, to the sea.

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Two wardens on a small boat patrol off Dana Point harbor Saturday night observed a small boat with no lights pulling commercial lobster traps out of the water. When the wardens approached the 12-foot boat with four men aboard and announced themselves as law enforcement, one man threw a line with a commercial lobster buoy back into the water.

After an investigation wardens cited 42-year old Yanwu Li from Rowland Heights (Los Angeles County) with four Fish and Game violations: disturbing a commercial lobster trap belonging to another person, fishing for lobster without a lobster report card in possession, possession of undersize lobster and fishing without a valid fishing license. The three other men are still suspects and may be charged at a later date.

“The California Department of Fish and Game will aggressively pursue and arrest any individuals stealing from commercial lobster traps,” said DFG Lt. Eric Kord. “Theft from these traps directly takes from the salaries of commercial fishermen, and puts the lobster fishery at further risk since many trap robbers take anything they find from the traps, including undersized lobsters.”

DFG has forwarded the citation to the Orange County District Attorney to file charges. Each count carries penalties of up to a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail.

“Commercial fishermen spend thousands of dollars on vessels, permits, trap gear, and bait to try and make a living off the lobster fishery each season,” said Rodger Healy, a commercial lobster fisherman and president of the California Lobster and Trap Fishermen’s Association. “Those stealing from lobster traps completely circumvent the lobster fishery management system and involve themselves in the illegal take of a valuable resource.”

California spiny lobsters are crustaceans that are common from Point Conception to Baja California. Lobster season generally opens the first Saturday in October through about March 15 and is carefully monitored and regulated. California spiny lobsters are slow-growing animals that biologists estimate take as long as seven years to grow to legal size. Fishermen must have a valid California fishing license with an ocean stamp, a lobster report card and a lobster gauge to measure for proper size.

DFG and Orange County Successfully Prosecute First MPA Violation

Media Contacts:
Paul Hamdorf, DFG Law Enforcement, (562) 342-7210
Andrew Hughan, DFG Communications, (916) 322-8944

A Riverside County man was fined more than $20,000 and sentenced to a week in jail for poaching lobsters inside a marine protected area (MPA). This is the first resource crime conviction since the MPAs off the Southern California coast went into effect on Jan. 1, 2012. 

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Marbel A. Para, 30, of Romoland pled guilty in Orange County Court on May 4 for violating Fish and Game Code 12013, which stipulates a minimum $5,000 fine for anyone who takes or possesses more than three times the daily bag limit of lobsters.

“This diver intentionally took a huge overlimit of lobster with no regard for the current laws,” said Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Assistant Chief Paul Hamdorf. “He didn’t follow any fish and game laws, including the take restrictions within an MPA.”

After midnight on Jan. 15, DFG wardens found Para and a companion with 47 California spiny lobsters in their possession. In addition to illegally taking the lobsters from an MPA, the divers were well over the legal possession limit of seven lobsters per diver, and all but five of the lobsters were undersize. Para claimed that all the lobsters were his and his companion was not cited.

“This was a big case, but unfortunately it wasn’t the biggest even in the last 12 months. Any time you have something that has significant monetary value, there will be a small group that will exploit it, regardless of what the law says,” said Hamdorf.

DFG has been working closely with the Orange County District Attorney’s Office to combat resource crimes in the county. Para was ultimately sentenced to three years probation, seven days in Orange County jail and a $5,000 fine for the DFG violation. Additional fees and penalties pushed the total fines to more than $20,000. He also had to forfeit all his SCUBA equipment and was given a “stay away” order from the Laguna Beach State Marine Reserve.

The MPAs were created through the Marine Life Protection Act in order to simplify and strengthen existing marine reserves and fishing regulations to allow recovery of fish populations that have been in severe decline.