Volume 73

Balancing the recreational spiny lobster diver fishery with the small scale commercial lobster trap fishery in Bermuda

Pitt, J; T. M. Trott
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Date: November, 2020

Pages: 43-44

Event: Proceedings of the Seventy-Three Annual Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute

City: Virtual

Country: Virtual


In Bermuda, Caribbean spiny lobster, Panulirus argus, has traditionally been targeted by a commercial trap fishery and by recreational free-divers, with the typical conflict between commercial and recreational sectors. The Fisheries Act, 1972, legislated a fishery closure during the reproductive season and set a minimum size. The diver fishery was loosely regulated via gear restrictions and a daily bag limit, with fishing prohibited in certain inshore areas. However, amidst declining finfish catches in the 1980s, the 1984 Fisheries Management Plan sought to eliminate the diver fishery and reserve the available lobsters for the trap fishery in order to help commercial fishers. In response, an association was formed to lobby against the closure of the recreational fishery. Thus the recreational lobster diver licensing program began, facilitating tracking of diver numbers and catches. Recreational lobster divers typically caught the equivalent of 10% of the commercial catch, although ten times more fishers were involved. However, the bag limit promoted high-grading, as did tournaments. Many divers purchased licences even when they did not fish, because they feared that licences might be eliminated or capped in the future. The limits imposed by free-diving, along with prevailing autumn weather patterns, concentrate the recreational harvest close to shore, particularly off the west end of the island, fuelling conflict with commercial fishers in that area. A decline in the overall abundance of lobsters over the past 5 years has increased intersectoral conflict, and restrictions on the commercial fishery were balanced with a cap on recreational licences. The Lobster Divers’ Association represented their sector in meetings with commercial fishers, and has also facilitated expanded opportunities for biological sampling.

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