Spiny Lobster management plan almost ready for official review

SACRAMENTO — State officials continue to flesh out a proposed Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for the California spiny lobster.

The California Fish and Game Commission reviewed an update of the Spiny Lobster FMP at its Feb. 10 meeting in Sacramento and authorized notice of intent to amend regulations to be published.

Proposed regulation amendments include allowing spiny lobster to be measured aboard a vessel, requiring hole punching or fin clipping of retained bugs, and delaying the start of the season from 12:01 a.m. to 6 a.m.

Hole punched or fin clipped bugs would not be allowed to be released back onto the water. Divers would still be required to measure spiny lobster in the water.

An adoption hearing is scheduled for April 13; the FMP could be adopted at the commission’s June 22 meeting. Public comment on the FMP will continue through April 13.

The FMP has been in development since 2012 and aims to guide future sustainable development of the fishery. An independent scientific peer review was completed in 2015.

Commissioner Eric Sklar said the development of the Spiny Lobster FMP through the consensus process serves as a model for small and large fishery management plans.

“It really is a template, not just for the individual fisheries management plans but for the master process we’re going through,” Sklar said. “It’s really encouraging we’re bringing this process into the 21st century.”

The state’s recreational spiny lobster fishery extends from central San Luis Obispo County to the U.S.-Mexico border. Commission staff stated the recreational fishery contributes at least $33 million to the California economy annually.

State officials hope the Spiny Lobster FMP will prevent the crustaceans from going extinct.

“The increase in commercial fishing effort has raised questions about the long-term sustainability of the fishery,” Department of Fish and Wildlife staff stated in a report to commissioners. “The recent rise in commercial effort is also accompanied by changes in the dynamics of the recreational fishery. The recreational sector has traditionally been dominated by divers but in the early 2000s the popularity of boat-based hoop nets began to rise.”

Susan Ashcraft, a marine advisor with the Department of Fish and Wildlife, added the Spiny Lobster FMP would help address the fishery’s needs and help maintain its long-term sustainability.

“There have been three fishery management plans adopted by this commission,” Ashcraft said. “This is a powerful tool for the department and commission to use.”

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