Florida Keys

Commercial lobster harvest catch down slightly

This is a haul of Florida Keys lobster.
This is a haul of Florida Keys lobster. Keynoter file

Florida fishery analyst says this year’s lobster season indicates “recreational and commercial lobster fishermen worked a little harder this year to catch slightly fewer lobsters.”

By December, commercial lobster landings were reported at 4.45 million pounds, said Tom Matthews, research administrator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Marathon office.

The eight-month lobster season closed Friday. Based on historical numbers for the final few months of the season, the final catch can be estimated to wind up being just over 5 million pounds, he said.

“Which is about 10 percent lower than the average for recent years,” Matthews noted, calling it “a relatively average year for commercial fishermen.”

The final four months of the season, December through March, typically account for only 10 percent of the final catch, he said. Many of the Florida Keys boats started removing traps from the water weeks ago, with fishers reporting that the overall harvest seemed lower than in recent good seasons.

The commercial harvest in 2015-16 was put at 6 million pounds, one of the better seasons in recent years. After a 4 million-pound catch in 2012-13, the next two seasons saw takes of 5.9 million pounds and 6.4 million pounds.

Wholesale prices also were reported to be somewhat lower this year, due to a slightly decreased demand from the Asian market for live lobster.

Florida law limits the lobster-trap industry to 475,000 traps, most of which are used in the Keys and off Miami-Dade County. All legal traps carry a numbered registration tag. The state has issued 625 commercial lobster permits for Keys operations.

Florida Keys boats bring in about 90 percent of Florida’s statewide lobster harvest.

Kevin Wadlow: 305-440-3206