The Ministry of Home Affairs wishes to advise the public that the 2022-23 lobster season opens today, September 1st, and will run until March 31st, 2023.
This season will see fewer participants in the commercial spiny lobster trap fishery and the recreational lobster diver fishery due to a decline in the numbers of the local Caribbean spiny lobster in recent years. This decline is possibly due in part to the reduction of seagrass habitats available for juvenile lobsters to seek shelter and refuge from predators.
For the 2022-23 season, 23 commercial spiny lobster trap fishery licences have been approved. Each fisher will be allowed 12 traps, for a total of 276 traps in the fishery. In comparison, last season, there were 26 licences with 11 traps per licence holder and a total of 286 traps in the fishery. It must be noted that between 2011 and 2016, there were 348 traps used in the lobster fishery. This reduction is yet another step to ensure the sustainable harvesting of lobsters from Bermuda’s waters.
Licence holders were permitted to set their traps from Sunday, August 28th, with the first haul made on Thursday, September 1st, with lobsters available for purchase that day.
The recreational lobster diver fishery has also seen a cap on the number of licences issued in recent years. This season, the number of lobster diver licences will be reduced to 340, down from the 375 licences issued over the past two seasons.
These steps are also necessary to ensure the sustainability of Bermuda’s lobster fishery while efforts to restore important seagrass nursery habitats are underway.
Additionally, September 1st also marks the opening of the commercial Guinea Chick lobster fishery. Guinea chicks are a slightly smaller species from the same biological family as the Caribbean spiny lobster. They are caught in smaller traps and fished in shallower waters closer to shore.
The commercial fishery for Guinea chicks has remained relatively consistent since 2009, with 8 participants who fish 18 traps each. Guinea chicks are known to shelter primarily in rocky habitats during their juvenile phase, and their population has not been affected by the recent overgrazing of seagrass beds.
As a reminder, lobster diving licences allow for the harvest of Guinea chick, slipper lobsters, and spiny lobsters; however, all lobster species count towards the daily bag limit of two lobsters per licence holder. You must also have a valid lobster diver licence to take Guinea chicks and slipper lobsters this season.
Boaters are advised that all Spiny lobster traps must have a surface buoy with a flag that makes the gear more visible to boaters. Boaters should keep an eye out for these flags and steer clear of them to avoid getting caught in the haul ropes.
It is also important to remember that locally caught seafood should only be purchased from licensed commercial fishers. Commercial fishers also in the lobster fishery are issued a special licence card from DENR. Prospective purchasers should ask to see this card before buying to confirm that the seller is permitted to sell either spiny lobsters or Guinea chicks.
For more information on recreational lobster fishing licences, visit https://www.gov.bm/online-services/apply-recreational-lobster-diving-licence.
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