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CA Spiny Lobster Fishery

Current Classification on the 2017 LOF

Category II
Estimated Number of Participants 194
Target Species Spiny lobster
Applicable Take Reduction Plans None
Observer Coverage None
Marine Mammal Species/Stocks Killed or Injured Bottlenose dolphin, CA/OR/WA offshore
Gray whale, Eastern North Pacific
Humpback whale, CA/OR/WA

^ Number of participants estimates are based on state and federal fisheries permit data.  The estimated number of participants is expressed in terms of the number of active participants in the fishery, when possible.  If this information is not available, the estimated number of vessels or persons licensed for a particular fishery is provided.  If no recent information is available on the number of participants, then the number from the most recent LOF is used.  NMFS acknowledges that, in some cases, these estimations may be inflating actual effort.
*Observer coverage levels include the latest information reported in the most current final Stock Assessment Report (SAR)
(1) Indicates the stock or species is driving the classification of the fishery 
Note: Current classification based on final LOF, no proposed changes are reflected in this table.

Basis for Current Classification

Category II classification for this fishery is driven by takes of the CA/OR/WA offshore stock of bottlenose dolphin.  Based on the average annual fishery-related mortality and serious injury of the CA/OR/WA offshore stock of bottlenose dolphin, which is 3.6% of the PBR of 5.5.  NMFS evaluated the 2008 bottlenose dolphin, CA/OR/WA offshore stock, entanglement during the proposed 2010 LOF process.  At that time, the entanglement was characterized as a non-serious injury in the NMFS stranding database, as the animal had been disentangled, and the incident was not included in the 2010 SAR.  Following NMFS’ 2012 policy on distinguishing serious from non-serious injury, the bottlenose dolphin entanglement was determined to be a serious injury and was included in the 2013 SAR.


The spiny lobster fishery is only present in the Southern California Bight, from Point Conception to the U.S.-Mexico border, including some areas surrounding the offshore Channel Islands.  The fishing season runs from early October to mid-March each year.  Fishing effort is highest and closest to shore at the first half of lobster season in October to December, where fishermen generally set their traps from 0 to 10 fathoms.  As the season progresses, the water cools nearshore and winter storms cause lobster to move offshore.  The fishermen respond to this movement by setting their traps in deeper water, reaching 17 fathoms and occasionally deeper out to 40 fathoms.  Since 80% of the season’s total landings are usually made before the end of January, some fishermen pull their traps and stop fishing at that time.    

Gear Description

Rectangular traps made of wire or plastic mesh (2"x 4" inch) ranging from 28"x 36"x 14" to 36"'x 48" x 20" tall.  Traps are individually fished and have their own buoy(s).  Destruction devices and escape rings required.  


The buoy must be marked with the fisherman’s commercial license number, followed by the letter “P” to signify that it is a spiny lobster trap.  Currently there is no limitation on the number of traps that may be used.  A formal Fishery Management Plan is currently under development by California Department of Fish and Wildlife.


Historical Information

Original Category (Year added to the LOF) III (1996)
Original Number of Participants 225
Basis for Original Classification Limited entanglement stranding record did not point to mortalities of marine mammal stocks.
Past Names CA spiny lobster, coonstripe shrimp, rock crab, tanner crab pot or trap, until 2010;
CA lobster, prawn, shrimp, rock crab, fish pot, 1996 until 2009.  
Species/stocks historically documented as killed or injured (but not currently on the list) N/A


Timeline of Changes

  • Reclassified from Category III to Category II based on takes of the CA/OR/WA offshore stock of bottlenose dolphin.
  • Added bottlenose dolphin (CA/OR/WA offshore) and humpback whale (CA/OR/WA)
  • Updated estimated number of vessels/persons from 198 to 194.


Updated February 7, 2017