The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has completed analyzing the most recent lobster report card data submitted by recreational lobster fishermen. In 2013, CDFW changed the timing of the lobster report cards to match the fishing season. Prior to the transition, lobster report cards were issued per calendar year and were valid for two halves of different fishing seasons. Now the report cards are valid from the last weekend of September through mid-March of the following year. The new program is designed to make it easier for lobster fishermen to report their activity in a more timely and efficient manner.
Data collected from the lobster report cards allow CDFW to analyze the recreational catch and any changes in the fishery. This information is vital for managing California’s lobster population so that fishing opportunities can be maximized without harming the resource. Prior to the lobster report card’s inception in 2008, CDFW had limited knowledge of the magnitude of the recreational lobster fishing sector. In contrast, the commercial fishery has submitted detailed data regarding lobster catch, effort and sales for many decades.
Approximately 14,500 calendar year lobster report cards were purchased in early 2013. These cards could be used for the end of the 2012-2013 lobster fishing season and remained valid for the beginning of the 2013-2014 season. After the transition to a full season lobster report card later in the year, approximately 33,700 of the new type of cards were purchased. Over 5,000 fishermen purchased both types of cards. While the first few years of the lobster report card program saw return rates as low as 12 percent, for calendar year 2013 and the 2013-2014 full season, 49 percent and 48 percent of cards were returned, respectively. This improvement in reporting harvest has resulted in CDFW obtaining better fishing catch and effort data.
Recent data shows that 71,000 and 88,400 lobster fishing trips were taken based on calendar year cards and full season cards, respectively, and catch rates were 2.1 lobsters per trip and 1.6 lobsters per trip, based on calendar year cards and full season cards, respectively. Top catch locations included Catalina Island, San Diego Bay, Long Beach/Middle Breakwater, and the several locations that comprise Santa Monica Bay. These four places accounted for nearly 60 percent of the total recreational catch.
Combining 2013 calendar year and 2013-2014 full season lobster report card data allows CDFW to make estimates of total catch for the 2013-2014 lobster fishing season. For the 2013-2014 lobster fishing season, recreational hoop netters and divers landed an estimated 312,600 pounds of lobster, while the commercial lobster fishery landed 810,500 pounds.
Lobster report cards go on sale August 1 for the 2014-2015 recreational lobster fishing season, which opens Saturday, September 27, 2014 and runs through Wednesday, March 18, 2015. The CDFW thanks lobster fishermen for filling out their lobster report cards completely and accurately, and for submitting their harvest reports on time. Reports can be submitted online or cards can be mailed to: Lobster Report Card, CDFW, 3883 Ruffin Road, San Diego, CA 92123.
For more information about spiny lobster, visit the Invertebrate Management Project’s California spiny lobster webpage.
Post by Travis Buck, CDFW Environmental Scientist