NOAA Fisheries, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC), the governments of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, and the South Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Fishery Management Councils manage the US Caribbean spiny lobster fishery. Caribbean spiny lobsters are managed in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico federal exclusive economic zones (EEZ) under the Spiny Lobster in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic Fishery Management Plan (FMP) and are managed in Florida state waters under the FFWCC Commercial Regulations for Spiny Lobsters. Although the jurisdiction of the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council encompasses the EEZs along states throughout the southeastern US, the only direct commercial fishery for Caribbean spiny lobster in the continental US is in Florida. As such, management measures between the FFWCC and the federal management councils are often streamlined – with regulations in Florida state waters extending into federal waters. Among management measures in place are:
- Annual catch limits as well as bag limits for both commercial and recreational fishers
- Seasonal closures (from April 1 through August 5) to protect spawning lobsters
- Prohibiting the harvest and imports of egg-bearing females or females that have been stripped of eggs
- Minimum size limits (3" carapace length)
- Gear restrictions prohibiting the use of spears, hooks, piercing devices, explosives, or poison
- Gear modifications (all non-wooden traps must have biodegradable escape panels) to prevent ghost fishing
- Permanent closed areas off-limits to fishing
- A permit system to participate in the fishery and a Lobster Trap Certificate Program to reduce the number of traps in the fishery
- Prohibiting the import of spiny lobster tail meat that is not in whole-tail form with the exoskeleton still attached
- Regulations for the use of undersized lobsters as trap attractants
There is one Caribbean spiny lobster stock in the South Atlantic/Gulf of Mexico. According to a 2010 stock assessment, the population status of the South Atlantic/Gulf of Mexico stock is unknown. Based on 2013 catch data, the South Atlantic/Gulf of Mexico stock is not subject to overfishing.
In Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Caribbean spiny lobsters are managed under the Spiny Lobster Fishery of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands Fishery Management Plan (FMP). Under the FMP, an annual catch limit is allocated amongst the three different stocks in the region – Puerto Rico, St. John/St. Thomas, and St. Croix. The FMP shares many similarities with management measures outlined in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico FMP such as: minimum size limits, gear restrictions prohibiting the use of spears, hooks, piercing devices, explosives, and poisons, and gear modifications to prevent ghost fishing. Among other measures the FMP includes are:
- Prohibiting fishers from bringing egg-bearing females aboard a vessel (they can be kept in traps/pots until the eggs are shed)
- Requirements that lobsters be whole when brought to port
The population status of the Puerto Rico, St. John/St. Thomas, and St. Croix stocks is unknown because these three stocks have not been formally assessed. Based on 2013 catch data the three stocks are not subject to overfishing.
In Mexico, the primary agency in charge of fisheries regulation is the Secretaría de Agricultura, Ganadería, Desarrollo Rural, Pesca y Alimentación (SAGARPA). There are two agencies under SAGARPA:
- The National Fisheries Commission (CONAPESCA) – which is in charge of fisheries regulation and enforcement
- The National Institute of Fisheries (INAPESCA) – which provides the science necessary for management recommendations
CONAPESCA, as well as local fishery cooperatives, regulate the spiny lobster fishery in the Mexican Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and Baja California through a decree in the Mexican Official Norm. Among regulations covered in the law are: minimum size limits, a regulated fishing season, gear restrictions, restrictions on landing egg-bearing females, and a permit entry system – limiting the number of boats, traps, and areas where spiny lobster fishing is allowed. Management and enforcement measures in Mexico have been considered effective at maintaining a stable spiny lobster fishery in the region.
In the Bahamas, fisheries are regulated through the Department of Marine Resources. The Department of Marine Resources establishes management measures such as minimum size requirements, closed seasons, and gear restrictions. While the spiny lobster population is considered stable in the Bahamas and commercial fishing is limited to nationals, the Department of Marine Resources needs to improve regulation enforcement and catch monitoring.
Management of spiny lobsters in Belize, Brazil, Honduras, Nicaragua has not been considered effective and there is a lack of current stock and fishing mortality assessments in those regions. These countries also have difficulty enforcing fishing regulations and there is a high incident of illegal, unregulated, unreported (IUU) fishing.