Lobster licences cut as season gets under way
The wait is over for lovers of local lobsters, as the 2022-23 season opens from tomorrow until the end of next March.
But a decline in numbers of the local Caribbean spiny lobster, whose population has been hit by the loss of seagrass habitats, means fewer takers permitted for the lobster trap and diver fishery.
A spokesman for the home affairs ministry said 23 commercial lobster trap licences had been approved for 2022-23.
Each fisher is permitted a dozen traps, allowing 276 in the fishery.
Last season saw 286 traps approved, compared with 348 in the seasons from 2011 to 2016.
The cut in numbers was a move to safeguard the harvests in Bermuda waters.
Licensed traps were allowed to be set on Sunday, and the first haul is approved for purchase from tomorrow.
Recreational lobster divers have been subject to a cap since 2017, when a limit of 500 was set — followed by 450 in the subsequent year.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources cited concerns about the health of the lobster population, particularly in shallow areas close to shore
The spokesman said this season’s quota of lobster diver licences would 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 under way,” he added.
Tomorrow also marks the opening of the season for the commercial Guinea chick lobster fishery.
The smaller variety is collected in smaller traps, and fished in shallower waters closer to shore.
The Guinea chick fishery has held steady since 2009, with eight fishers deploying 18 traps each.
Guinea chicks prefer to shelter in rocky habitats as juveniles, meaning their numbers have not been harmed by the recent overgrazing of seagrass beds.
Lobster diving licences permit the harvest of Guinea chicks, slipper lobsters and spiny lobsters.
But all species count towards the daily bag limit of two per licence holder.
Spiny lobster traps are required to have a surface buoy marked with a flag to alert boaters.
Boat operators should steer clear to avoid getting caught in the haul ropes.
The spokesman reminded the public that locally caught seafood should come only from licensed commercial fishers.
Licence cards from DENR are issued, and prospective buyers should check before buying to confirm that the seller is permitted to sell either spiny lobsters or Guinea chicks.
More information on recreational lobster fishing licences is available online at the Government’s website.