South Atlantic Fishery Management Council may hike overall lobster harvest

Federal fishery managers meeting this week in Georgia hear proposals to raise the annual limit on spiny lobster harvests, the Florida Keys’ most economically important commercial species. The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council meets from Monday through Friday at the Westin resort in Jekyll Island, Ga. Permit limits in the for-hire (charter) sector in the snapper-grouper fishery also are up for discussion. The council is considering raising the annual catch numbers of spiny lobster because fishers contend that the number were based on yearly averages that include some of the worst lobster seasons on record. Twice in recent years, the harvests have exceeded the current catch limit of 7.3 million pounds. A legal sized spiny lobster weighs about 1 pound. During the bad seasons, “the historic low level of landings that were documented for the species [suggested] biological conditions had changed and that spiny lobster populations were at a new low normal,” says council staff summary. “Since landings have been much higher than anticipated, the review panel… determined that conditions for spiny lobster are likely better than they were during the 10-year period of low landings.” continue reading the story here 14:19