The Endangered Species Act requires that fishing activities authorized by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Service do as little harm as possible to threatened or endangered species. A recent Biological Opinion of the Spiny Lobster fishery concluded that spiny lobster trap fishing activities put sea turtles, smalltooth sawfish, and staghorn and elkhorn corals at risk. The Biological Opinion specified ways to minimize the impact of the spiny lobster trap fishery on these protected species and set requirements for the terms and conditions under which action must be taken.
This amendment was approved during the February 2012 Council meeting and creates new closed areas to reduce the impacts of lobster traps on protected coral species.
The purpose of this amendment is to implement conservation measures to help protect threatened and endangered species in a manner that complies with measures established in the 2009 biological opinion on the spiny lobster fishery. The need for the proposed actions is to aid in the protection and recovery of endangered and threatened species.
Establishes annual catch limits and accountability measures for Caribbean spiny lobster; removes other species from the fishery management unit (smoothtail spiny lobster, spotted spiny lobster, Spanish slipper lobster, ridged slipper lobster); defines maximum sustainable yield; sets annual catch limits and accountability measures; considers sector allocations; updates the protocol for enhanced cooperative management; modifies the regulations regarding the use of undersized lobster as bait as well as tailing permit requirements; and addresses the removal of abandoned traps in Florida waters.
Amendment 9 (South Atlantic Council)
Provided spatial information for Essential Fish Habibtat (EFH) and EFH-Habitat Areas of Particular Concern (HAPC) designations for species in the Spiny Lobster fishery managment plan (FMP).
Amendment 8 restricts imports of spiny lobster into the U.S. to minimum conservation standards in an effort to achieve an increase in the spawning biomass of the stock and increase long-term yields from the fishery.
Implemented in October 2002, this regulatory amendment increases the number of undersized lobster that are allowed to be transported in aerated live wells aboard commercial vessels to 50 per boat and 1 per trap aboard each boat. In the commercial fishery, undersized lobster are used as decoys to attract non-captive lobster into traps.
Amendment 7 was the Council’s Generic Amendment addressing the establishment of the Tortugas Marine Reserves.
Spiny Lobster Amendment 5 & 6 (South Atlantic Council)
Amendments 5 and 6 were the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s (SAFMC) Generic Amendments for Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) and Sustainable Fisheries Act, respectively.
Implemented in March 1993, this regulatory amendment addressed: (1) a change in the days for the special recreational season in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) off Florida; (2) a prohibition on night-time harvest off Monroe County, Florida, during that season; (3) specifies allowable gear during that season; and (4) provides for different bag limits during that season off the Florida Keys and the EEZ off other areas of Florida.
Implemented in May 1992, this regulatory amendment addressed: (1) extension of the Florida spiny lobster trap certificate system for reducing the number of traps in the commercial fishery to the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) off Florida; (2) revision of the fishery mangament plan (FMP) commercial permitting requirements; (3) limitation of the number of live undersize lobster used as attractants for baiting traps; (4) specification of gear allowed for commercial fishing in the EEZ off Florida; (5) specification of the possession limit of spiny lobsters by persons diving at night; (6) requirement of lobsters harvested by divers be measured without removing from the water; and (7) specification of uniform trap and buoy numbers for the EEZ off Florida. All of these changes were implemented through the framework procedure of the FMP as established by Amendment 2.
Amendment 4 allows harvest year-round for any person who is limited to a daily bag and possession limit of 2 lobsters per person in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) off North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.
Amendment 3 was implemented on March 25, 1991 (56 FR 12357) and contained provisions for adding a scientifically measurable definition of overfishing, an action plan to prevent overfishing, should it occur, as required by the Magnuson Act National Standards (50 CFR Part 602), and the requirement for collection of fees for the administrative cost of issuing permits. The fishery managment plan (FMP), as amended, provides for management of the fishery throughout its range from North Carolina through Texas. However, the commercial fishery and, to a very large extent, the recreational fishery, occur off South Florida and principally off Monroe County in the Florida Keys (96 percent of landings in 1984).
Amendment 2 was approved on October 27, 1989 (54 FR 48059) and provided a regulatory amendment procedure for instituting future compatible State and federal rules without amending the fishery mangament plan (FMP).
Amendment 1 was implemented on July 15, 1987 (52 FR 22659) with certain rules deferred and implemented on May 16, 1988 (53 FR 17196) and on July 30, 1990 (55 FR 26448). This amendment updated the fisheyr mangament plan (FMP) rules to be more compatible with that of Florida (State). The management measures included: limiting attractants to 100 per vessel, requiring live wells, requiring a commercial vessel permit, provided for a recreational permit, limited recreational possession to 6 lobsters, modified the special 2-day recreational season before commercial season, modified the duration of the closed commercial season, provided a 10-day trap retrieval period, prohibited possession of egg-bearing spiny lobster, specified the minimum size limit for tails, provided for a tail separation permit, and prohibited possession of egg-bearing slipper lobster.
The Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for Spiny Lobster in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic was implemented July 2, 1982 (47 FR 29203).
The FMP largely extended Florida’s rules regulating the fishery to the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) throughout the range of the fishery, i.e. North Carolina to Texas. The management measures included: specifying minimum size limit and closed season, requiring degradable panels, prohibiting use of spears or hooks, limited attractant to 200 per vessel, required attractants to be held in shaded box, required trap number and color code be displayed, created special recreational 2-day season before commercial season, prohibited possession of egg-bearing lobster, and required reporting of landings.